Street food in Hoi An, Vietnam. Lunch consisted of grilled meat that you would then roll into rice paper with cucumbers and lettuce. The meat was brushed with a coconut curry. So good.
“Hellooooo! Where you from?”
Such was the call that greeted us the moment we stepped out of our hotel in Hoi An, Vietnam first thing in the morning.
We came the day before, taking the bus from Hue. Drove past China Beach. Envision streets full of green U.S. army jeeps, marching soldiers.
We arrive in the late afternoon, take a cab, check in and sit out on our balcony staring at houses with red clay tile roofs, walls of blue and yellow. The sun set by 530 and we went for a walk in the quiet night. The streets were well lit and, surprisingly, closed to motos. Their sound is replaced by classical music played over loudspeakers.
Walking through Hoi An we are astounded by the sheer number of tailor shops, each full of mannequins wearing modern and elegant fashion attire. Piles and piles of fabric sit inside.
We go for dinner and order shrimp that is baked inside a coconut. We add some vegetables and a type of light shrimp dumpling. The meal is one of our best of the trip. We would return here days later for Thanksgiving adding some spare ribs and a bottle of wine as a treat.
After dinner on our first night we walk back to our hotel. Sara spots a suit style she likes. She quickly tries it on. It looks perfect.
Returning to the introduction, after finishing a breakfast of pineapple pancakes with chocolate sauce and thick Vietnamese coffee, we face the day. The quiet Hoi An of the night before is replaced with shopkeepers calling for us whether we show interest in their wares or not.
We briefly browse then head to the suit shop from the night before. Two or three hours later and I’ve ordered a full suit, a jacket and two dress shirts. I can’t remember what Sara ordered.
We then walk to a shoe store and order tailor-made shoes. All for a cost far lower than anything back home.
Lunch at delicious Café 96 where we eat papaya salad and spring rolls and decide to take a cooking class the next day.
The next two days would be shopping, bargaining, drinking fresh fruit juices and mixed shakes. Our clothes were ready to be tried on 24 hours after we sized up and our shoes were completely finished, although I really didn’t like the colour of mine too much in the end.
Sara in the shopping hub of Vietnam. Beyond the tailor-made clothes we managed to finish most of our Christmas shopping. Hopefully it arrives in time...
Throughout the first three days in Hoi An, the weather was absolutely stunning. Super hot and blue skies, moon and stars at night.
Yet, such things are fickle as many store owners in this town know only too well.
We ended night three back at Café 96 where we came for a cooking class. In Vietnam it seems a family restaurant really is a family restaurant. Bup, the friendly owner took us through the steps of preparing spring rolls, prawn papaya salad, grilled spicy eggplant and seasoned fish wrapped in banana leaf.
As I was cutting and chopping, his three-year-old daughter stood beside me, watching intensely, yelling continuously.
“Do you want to see where the fish is baked? Go outside and to the right,” said Bup.
Sure enough, there’s grandpa grilling the fish over an open flame in a barrel.
The meal was amazing and he gave us the recipes to take home. I would definitely recommend Café 96 as a fun and inexpensive cooking lesson in Hoi An.
Nine members of Bup’s family worked in Café 96. He lived in the second floor of the building. Almost every fall they were usually forced to shut down the restaurant as Hoi An’s notorious floods had a nasty habit of filling the entire downtown with water. Bup’s restaurant has a marker on the wall over six feet high from the water level in 2009.
On our fourth day in Hoi An, we decided to book a tour to the My Son Chumpa temples about an hour and a half north of the city. A bus there and a delightful boat ride back.
Unfortunately, it rained. Although dressed for the weather, we were still pretty soggy. The temples were neat to walk around, however it was sad to learn many were destroyed by American bombing. Some statues had bullet-sized dimples scattered throughout. What a shame.
The intense rain had knocked out the power for most of the afternoon in Hoi An. We sat in our room reading, heading out twice in the downpour to pick up suits and go for a delicious Thanksgiving meal.
With the power back on we called our families for Thanksgiving. This ended at 2 a.m. when the hotel’s power went out and our room went black.