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Entries about hoi an

Leaving Hoi An, and onto Nha Trang

sunny 35 °C

Last night we finally left Hoi An on one of our beloved night buses, we spent 8 nights there in total. We are now in Nha Trang and have been since 4.30am this morning, even though we were told we would not arrive until 6am. You can imagine how thrilled we were stood at the bus station in the dark at 4.30am wondering where we were.

After completing our diving course we spent our last full day in Hoi An, Friday, on the beach. We had a much needed lay in after getting up early for several days in a row for all our courses, after all are supposed to be on holiday. After breakfast we rented a couple of bicycles and cycled the 3km to the beach. We had picked a good day to come to beach as it was really hot. When we arrived at the beach we were taken aback by several women shouting at us to park our bicycles in there spaces. We ignored them and explored a little further to see if we could get out of paying, but there was no luck. We were not happy about paying just to park up our bicycles, it was only 5000 dong each which is literally about 20p but its not the point, you are charged for everything over here.

The beach itself was very nice, if a little crowded, clean sandy beach and clear water with restaurants running along the back and we soon found a couple of beds to hunker down on. The beds seem to be owned by the restaurants and we were told that if we eat here the beds are free, would have been nice to know before we paid for breakfast. If we did not eat the beds would have cost 60000 dong for two. We got settled, spent a while relaxing and Liam bought some new sunglasses as he as managed to lose yet another pair by leaving them on the diving boat. We then had an issue. Liam bought the glasses because he needed them an assumed that like always Chelsea had brought money, she had not, and Liam had just spent the last of his on the glasses. We could not pay for the beds. After being shouted at, Liam went to see if an ATM was near but had no luck. We decided rather than cycling back into town to ask the restaurant if they accepted card and eat there, covering the beds. We were not really hungry but it saved a 6km bike ride to the ATM and back. The woman at the restaurant said yes they accept card. No problem.

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We passed another couple of hours, relaxing, swimming in the sea and sitting in the sun. At one point Liam dove head first into a wave with his new sunglasses on and lost them..... he had owned them for about half an hour. He searched the sea for about half an hour looking for them and Chelsea was amazed when he actually found them! We played in the sea until we got a little peckish and decided to eat and get a drink. We ordered a couple of beers and some water, sat in the restaurant and Chelsea ate a fruit salad, Liam had fried rice. The food was really expensive but we thought it would be being next to the beach. What we did not expect was how truly dire it was. It was the worse rice Liam had ever had, normal boiled rice that had been fried with nothing else, and a omelette cut up and placed on top. The only bit of flavour must have come from the three hairs he found within it. Needless to say he left most of it. They do not have a culture here of refunds or sending anything back, if it is no good then tough, We were annoyed at paying way more than we normally would, and way more than the food was worth but at least we did not have to cycle back into town. Or so we thought. When offered the lady at the restaurant our visa card and she held it in her hand looking at it like we had just spat in her hand. We told her that we had asked and she said she accepted card, it was now apparent she was lying. We should know better by now. Not only was the meal the worst we have ever eaten, it was expensive and now Liam had to cycle 6km to town and back to go to an ATM. We know we should have taken money, but we should not have been conned into eating here, if we had to cycle anyway we would have just paid for the beds rather than five times as much for the food.

When Liam got back he was seriously angry and did not want anything to do with the woman at the restaurant. He told Chelsea to go pay her, handed her his wallet and went to wait by the bikes to leave the beach as soon as possible. We almost got lucky when Chelsea went to pay and no one was there. She looked around for ages and the restaurant had been packed up so she just left but she was chased down the street two minutes later.

After cycling back to town (again), dumping the bikes, and showering we went to the dive shop. We had to meet our instructor to finish off our certification and apply for our PADI divers card. This cheered us up somewhat and we forgot about our drama at the beach. Our last night was spent at one of favourite restaurants, drinking the cheap beer and sharing platefuls of our favourite Hoi An food, wontons, white rose dumplings and spring rolls. We also ordered a fish salad to share for a change and it was incredible.

We booked the night bus for the following night so had another full day more or less to kill. We packed our stuff up in the morning, making the most of the noon check out time and went for breakfast. We treated ourselves to a rare full English, which even though it is no near as good as the real thing we always enjoy. After we had a stroll and past the rest of the afternoon in a café, our favourite past time of drinking, talking and occasional snack. On the way back to our guesthouse to get the bus we called at a Lantern shop as Chelsea has being saying since we left England that she was going to buy a lantern in Hoi An. She bargained it down to 80000 dong and has bought a beautiful white lantern, decorated by a hand painted tree.

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We just don't agree with night buses and last nights was no different. When we got on we were treated to what looked like Vientamese stand up, which no one was laughing at and even though we did not understand a word of what was being said, even we could tell it was awful. Then unusually a film in English was put on. We put down our books and were enjoying the first ten minutes of this rare treat until the driver changed the language to Vietnamese. This was really annoying, as we could just about make out the English words that had been quietened down but over the top was one monotone woman speak Vietnamese really loudly for EVERY actor on screen. We went back to our books.

We slept on and off as usual but had come prepared with eye masks and ear plugs. We stopped a couple of times and then finally arrived at half four in the morning. We did not expect to arrive until six. We got a taxi to the guesthouses we had researched but being so early they were all shut. We went and sat in a park which overlooks the beach and sea and waited for them to open. We got some very unexpected entertainment whilst we waited. It seems a lot of people get up at 5am to come to the park to exercise. We assume this is because it is obviously too hot in the day but while some people come and run, and work out, most just come to do stretches. These people stand around, bending over, thrusting, squatting, flailing their arms, it is hilarious. We have no idea why they do not do this in their homes as they never move more than 2 feet, we assume they come to do it at 5am as it is dark and no one can see them while they flail around. We got to the point where we had to leave because we were struggling to control ourselves with our silent chuckles, we had never seen anything like it.

Our guesthouse was still not open so we had a sandwich and coffee at a street stall that opened at 5.30am, we passed an hour sat here until finally the rest of the city seemed to wake up. We managed to find a nice guesthouse, for $10 a night and although yet again we do not have a window, it is clean and has all the mod cons we need. We then went straight to sleep.

Once refreshed we went for a stroll to get our bearings and some lunch, Coming from Hoi An, Nha Trang is a bit dull but the beach and sea look nice and are only a stones throw from our guesthouse. There seems to be plenty of places to eat and drink a couple of streets away and we called into one of the cafes for lunch. After walking the streets we bought an ice cream and walked along the beach back to our guesthouse. We hope with it being Monday tomorrow it will be a little less busy.

We are going to stay here a couple of days and enjoy some much needed beach time. After leaving Hoi An we are a little underwhelmed but we loved it there and we know that no where else will be like that. We are looking forward to relaxing on the beach and planning the rest of our time in Vietnam.

Posted by Chelsandliam 02:31 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hoi_an nha_trang Comments (2)

Diving in Hoi An... Now we are certified open water divers!!

all seasons in one day 35 °C

Over the last few days we have been busy completing our PADI open water dives. We booked this with Cham Island Dive Centre for $350 each and the whole experience has been fantastic. The first day we arrived at the dive centre at 9am. The first morning was spent going through the theory and safety associated with diving. We watched videos, did quizzes and read our information book. We were the only students so we had the full attention of our instructor Raphael and he was great. Really relaxed but informative and we really enjoyed learning about something new. Once we had learned all the basics we had lunch and then went to a lush four star resort on the beach to put it into practice.

We learned how to set up all our gear, check the safety of it and put it on. The equipment on the surface is really heavy, there is the wetsuit, a buoyancy jacket, a tank and weights. We then slipped into the pool and breathed under water for the first time. The first time was quite scary and we didn't quite know if we should trust it. We learned all afternoon different skills we might need in different situations. We learned to swap between our snorkels and regulators, share air in case we run out, we learned the different hand signals and to take off and clear our masks of water under the surface. It was really good but it was more difficult than we imagined. Raphael assured us that it is easier in the ocean as people are more buoyant in the sea than in fresh water.

After a nervous night of revising and test completing we were picked up from our hotel the next day at 8am for day 2 of diving. Chelsea was really nervous and when we arrived at the boat and it was full of people she was even more nervous as we had picked Cham Dive Centre as we didn't want to dive in a big group to learn. Our minds were put at ease by Raphael; we were only diving with two other people, Raphael’s friends who were experienced. He briefed us on the boat that we were not going to do any exercises on our first dive because he just wanted us to experience what it is like and to get a feel for diving. He said we would swim to around 9 metres and go through a cave. Chelsea face must have looked alarmed so he reassured her that if she didn't want to go when we got there she could just tell him and we didn't have to go.

It took around an hour on the boat to reach the island and it was lovely.

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The dive centre provides free coffee, tea and water, breakfast muffins and bananas and the journey was smooth. Once it was our turn to dive Liam was excited but Chelsea was really nervous. We put all our gear on and Liam jumped in. Chelsea stood on the edge and the Vietnamese boat crew said 'step off', she hesitates so they said 'step off' again and pushed her in. They don't give you a second to think about it and get scared which is good. In the water Raphael signalled for us to go under and everyone did, Chelsea had trouble, it seems she is really buoyant. She let all her air out of her buoyancy vest but was still rising up so Raphael put big rocks in her pockets.

Under the water was beautiful and much more amazing than we thought. We had read a lot about the visibility in Vietnam being bad and the life being damaged and over fished but it was gorgeous. There were hundreds of different types of bright colourful coral and all different type of fish swimming amongst it. We could see up to 8 metres and saw all sorts of different fish, really bright colours. The highlight was the cave. As we approached Raphael asked Chelsea if she wanted to go and Chelsea decided yes. She was enjoying it a lot more than she thought and her nerves had gone. The cave was amazing it was big huge rocks that had fallen on each other to form a cave that we swam through. It had natural light and all the walls and floor were covered in coral with little fish hiding amongst them. We dove for around 50 minutes on the first dive and the only problems we had was Liam’s pressure in his ears. As you descend or ascend when you dive you have to equalise your ears by popping them so the pressure inside is the same as outside. Liam had a problem equalising his every time he reached 3 metres or 9 metres so he had to go up a bit and keep trying until it worked.

When we came out on our first dive we were really happy and had loved every minute of it.

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The boat set off for the second dive sight so we thought we would have a while but within twenty minutes we had stopped and were at the next sight. We were not nervous for the second one and Chelsea had to have adjustments to her weight belt. Before we were both wearing 6 kilos but Chelsea is really buoyant and she had to wear 7.5 kilos. We jumped in and descended and under the water were totally different. It was like an alien planet with weird colourful, oversized mushrooms covering the floor that had long luminous antennas coming out of them. It was amazing and we swam around looking at all the corals. There were a lot more fish on our second dive and they are beautiful, really bright colours and patterns. Chelsea went down to 20 metres with the instructor as she had no problems but Liam had to wait at 12 metres as he was having trouble with his right ear again. At 20 metres it changes, it gets a lot darker, colder and the visibility it a lot worse. It was the only part of the dive that Chelsea says she got scared on. After the dive had finished we did some exercises in the water, clearing our mask of water, taking off our equipment and putting it back on and sharing our air. We really enjoyed both dives a lot more than we expected.

Everybody then got on the boat and it took us to Cham Island, to a beach for lunch. Lunch was great, grilled fish and meat, noodles, seafood, rice, salad and fruit. Unfortunately it had started to rain so we sat and had lunch and then came back into town. All evening Liam researched information on equalising and practiced as he said it was the only thing stopping him from enjoying the diving fully.

The next morning we were up bright and early ready to be picked up for our last day but the hotel received a call from the dive centre saying they had cancelled as there was a storm at sea. We were a bit disappointed but spent the day relaxing, walking around town and drinking in cafes.

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For our lunch we went to a lady we had seen set up in a few places in the town.

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She serves BBQ pork skewers served with salad, rice paper wraps, herbs and spicy sauce. It was delicious and we sat on the tiny chairs in the street making our own wraps, it was delicious. It was nice but we were eager to do our last dives.

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On our last day we were picked up at 8am and taken to the boat. Raphael was not on our boat so we were instantly nervous. To add to this the sea was horrifically choppy. The boat kept leaving the water and slamming back in. Chelsea did not take this well, she was really nervous and for some unknown reason as she has never before got sea sick, was the first to vom over the side of the boat. A nice diving instructor came over and gave her a motion sickness tablet and said to lie on your back with your eyes closed to stop it so she did and it worked. She was ok for the rest of the hour journey. The rest of the boat however was not. Chelsea had started a vom extravaganza and loads of people then started to be sick over the sides of the boat. The worst one being someone from the top deck being sick over and it splashing next to Chelsea so she got someone else’s sick on her shoulder….. It’s safe to say she was not happy. Everyone was briefed by their instructor apart from us so Liam went to check the board and ask. Raphael was meeting us at the site as he had stayed on Cham Island so we were relieved.

Once we had arrived the sea had calmed and Raphael briefed us on the dive. We couldn't wait to get of the horrific boat and into the sea. We were diving with four other people as one of the instructors had being ill on the boat over and we were going to be diving to 15 metres. We were paired off as it is always essential you dive with a buddy in case you have any problems and in we went. The sea was very cloudy and you could only see to around 5 metres. In the shallower depth of around 5 to 7 metres it was ok but the deeper we go the harder it was to see. At one point we lost one of our group as they had not stayed together with their buddies and Raphael had to surface to find them. There were a lot of good things to see on the third dive and even though it was cloudy it was different again to our other dives. There were so many clown fish nestled in their sea corals and they came out to see what was going on. We saw lots of big barracudas and really colourful small barnacles on rocks that sucked themselves in as you swam over them, it was great. Liam’s practice must have paid off as he didn’t have any problems with his ears.

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The fourth and final dive of the course was soon after. We dove with the same group and went down to 18 metres. Down at 18 metres the visibility was less than 5 metres and extremely murky, you could see the small organisms and silt in the water as you swam. It is colder down at 18 metres and darker, a lot different to swimming around the shallower corals. We went through another cave that was enclosed and you had to make sure your buoyancy was constant so you didn’t hit the roof. As we came out of the cave we came across a big group of sardines. After diving for an hour Raphael sent the group up to the boat and we practiced our final skill. We learnt how to swim to a compass bearing and then go back under the water. We took it in turns and it was hard to control your buoyancy while you were constantly looking at your compass but we did ok.

On the boat we were really happy and the sun was shining. We went to the beach and had lunch and sat relaxing on a beautiful beach for an hour.

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On the way home we went through our final exam with Raphael and got 100%, we were qualified divers!! We have to go to the office tomorrow to pay and fill in our paperwork to get our certificate, and our PADI diving card delivered.

We have enjoyed the whole experience so much and have loved every dive we have done. We picked Cham Island Diving because Chelsea was nervous and it had such good reviews on the quality of its assessors and we are glad we have done it here. It was a quiet spot to do it, rather than the packed islands of Thailand and even though the underwater world may not be as vivid we think it is a perfect place to learn. We were the only people on the course and had full support from our assessor who tried to push our limits all the time but was one hundred per cent supportive and fun.

Posted by Chelsandliam 04:37 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hoi_an Comments (3)

Cooking School in Hoi An.... Hello Shrimp

sunny 36 °C

Had a great day today, it's cooking course day! :)

We were up nice and early as we needed to search out an ATM before our class to pay for it. After visiting three cash points and them saying there was a problem the last one said our PIN was incorrect. We knew it wasn't but went back to our room to check our details. They weren't wrong, we managed to find a fourth cash point and get some money. The maximum withdrawal on most cash points is 2 million dong, only about £62, which is annoying because some cash points charge you and so you have to make several withdrawals. Anyway, after a stress and panic about our bank cards and money we headed to the harbour for a quick drink before the class. We sat and had a coffee and waited for our class to start at 10am.

The cooking course we have booked on to is Gioan, it has cost us around £24 each, including a market trip and five different dishes that we chose ourselves yesterday.

The first part of the trip was a market visit. Our lovely instructor, Vina walked with us to the market to buy some ingredients for the class and handed us a shopping bag each. We strolled around the local market and she pointed things out to us and explained about different ingredients.

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We tasted different and unusual things, like tapioca and banana flower and smelled different herbs. We walked around the meat section, where slabs of meat, offal and bones were laid out on wooden tables and through the fish market. These had small local fish, big tunas, huge tiger prawns, crabs and ladies sat making fresh fish cakes. Everything was on wooden tables piled on ice so the floor was extrmely soggy and fishy but it was good fun looking at all the different unusual fish. We walked around the noodle stalls where huge baskets of fresh noodles, all varying sizes and colours were explained.

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It was great and we saw some weird and wonderful fruits and vegetables we have never seen before.

We made a short walk back and had some cold drinks at the school before getting started. Aprons on and hands washed our first task was spring rolls.

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We picked these to learn as we have had so many delicious spring rolls in Vietnam, they are in a different league to the rest of Southeast Asia. We prepped, carrot, turnip, peas and onion and rolled the ingredients as well as a huge shrimp in the rice paper.

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As we had not eaten breakfast we fried them for three minutes on each side and ate them straight away. Vina taught us how to check the heat of the oil and we used cooking chop sticks for all the pan work.

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They were yummy, fresh and were rolled in salad and herbs and dipped in a sweet chilli sauce.

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Next we made crispy wontons, a Hoi An speciality. We chopped pineapple, tomato, garlic, spring onion, carrot, turnip and cooked this with chopped pork, chilli, stock powder and oil. The fresh wonton skin was deep fried and then the mixture was placed on top, sort of like a huge nacho. It was yummy, sweet and sour, spicy and crunchy.

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By this point Chelsea was starting to fill up with three more dishes to go so she got told off by Vina for having a soft drink which must have filled her up.

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Next we made Cao Lau, another Hoi An speciality but this time a noodle dish. We had to marinade pork in garlic, five spice and soy sauce. We then added bean sprouts and noodles, blanched first, into our bowls and cooked the pork with paprika and more garlic. The sauce and pork is then poured over the noodles and served with fresh herbs as a warm salad. We have had it before a few times but eating our own was so much better and it tasted gorgeous, firm noddles with a rich pork sauce and fresh herbs.

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The last two dishes we did simultaneously. We made fish BBQ'd in a banana leaf and chilli and lemongrass chicken. The fish in banana leaf was marinated in a paste made of lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, spring onion, oyster sauce, fish sauce, soya sauce, sesame oil, sugar, chilli and oil. It was wrapped in the banana leaf like a present and then put on a grill over a flame for ten minutes. It was devine, our favourite dish and the blue fin tuna was a really firm and meaty fish. The chicken was great too, a really garlicky, spicy and lemony chicken fried and served with rice.

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By the end we were totally full to the top and could not have eaten anything else. The course was brilliant, the food was really good and the instructor was funny and informative. She made little songs up while we cooked and laughed and told us off if we didn't listen properly or did anything wrong. She asked us to sing on demand and introduced ingredients with a hello. 'Say hello shrimp' she would demand, 'say hello stock powder', 'hello stock powder' Chelsea repeated. It seems Chelsea and Vina are as mad as each other. At several points customers walked in enquiring about booking and watched us. We must have looked like we were having fun as several people booked on. The class is in a beautiful old colonial building right in the harbour front. She gave us a personalised recipe book with everything we had cooked in and Liam bought an apron and Chelsea bought a shopping bag as a memento.

Afterward we walked to the harbour for a cold drink as today has been scorching. We sat and people watched and then decided to go back to our rooms to relax as we were so full. On the way back we decided to book our diving course. We have enrolled onto a PADI Open Water course starting tomorrow with Cham Island Diving. It has cost $350 each and in three days time we will be qualified to dive up to 18 metres. Tomorrow is a theory day, we have been given the PADI course book which we have to learn and then in the afternoon we will get used to the equipment in a four star resort pool. Then we will do two days of diving in open water and will be tested at the end before becoming qualified. We are very excited and a bit nervous but Chelsea spoke to one of the instructors who put her mind at ease. We start at 9am tomorrow.

We then thought we better go back to our room before we spontaneously enrol on anymore expensive courses! We read our diving book all afternoon in preparation for tomorrow but had to be out and at the shoe shop for 5pm for Chelsea fitting. She is really happy with her made to measure leather sandals but the angle straps were a little high so they are going to alter them and we can pick them up tomorrow. They are amazing to say they were made in one day.

For the evening we went back to our harbour spot and had a drink.

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Chelsea had a happy hour cocktail as she can't face any more beer and Liam obviously had a 13p beer. We shared a pizza as we couldn't eat a full meal and it was homemade and thin, we savoured it.

We are really excited about tomorrow and excited to learn something new. Hoi An so far has been such a great place. Not only is it beautiful and just walking around the streets is a sight in itself but there is so much to do. We just can't fit everything in we want to do..... We will have to stay a while longer :)

Posted by Chelsandliam 07:36 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hoi_an Comments (4)

Day dreaming in Hoi An

sunny 33 °C

Our day today started with an unexpected power cut throughout the city. What made the power outage particularly bad for us was that our room has no windows. We managed to get ready aided only by a small torch and made our way out for breakfast.

We didn't have anywhere to be or anything to do today so we just planned on wandering the streets similar to yesterday and getting our bearings. We grabbed a breakfast sandwich from a small cart in the streets, filled with pate, pork, a kind of meatloaf sausage, herby salad an chilli sauce. For 20000 dong each (70p) they were cheap and delicious.

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We ate them sat on a bench by the river before calling into a café behind us to wash it down with coffee. We may have mentioned this before but Vietnam coffee is in a different league to any other coffee we have had on our travels. Ice or hot, it is really strong and mixed with sweet thick condensed milk, that sits on the bottom until stirred, it is amazing,

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After our coffee we wandered on the opposite side of the river that we visited at night. It was equally as charming at night, even then generators buzzing in the background as the restaurants tried to power up there kitchens didn't ruin the atmosphere. The heat was steadily increasing so we dipped into another café for a drink and sat there passing an hour or so talking.

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Chelsea decided she wanted to continue the shopping spree she started yesterday so we went back on the look for shoes, We called in a tailors on the main road and before we knew it, Chelsea had flicked through a catalogue (which is actually a selection of pages from western catalogues like Next, which the tailors then copy exactly to your specifications), chosen a style she liked, picked a colour of leather from a huge pile of samples, had her feet measured and drawn around and paid a deposit. The whole process snow balled and we now have to return tomorrow evening for any adjustments that may need making to the finished product. Needless to say Chelsea is a happy bunny with a pair of bespoke, maid to measure sandals on the way.

Liam had had enough shopping after this so we went in search of a tea house we had spotted yesterday. Ever since Melaka 8 months ago Chelsea had wanted to go in a proper Chinese tea house, and this has been our first chance. It is a beautiful, silent room, elegantly decorated with intricate tea pots and tea sets and expensive furniture. We learnt on arrival that it is run by a charity for adults and the tea shop is run by deaf and mute. Your table is provided with blocks with terms like Thank you, bill and Hot Water, and the menu has a slip for you to complete to put in your order. Chelsea ordered green tea and Liam jasmine tea. Each came as an individual set with tea pot, cup, and a sugary treat that we did not particularly care for. The tea however was incredible and we sat there for a good while slowly sipping our tea, had a hot water refill and left when we were finally all tea'd out. It was one of the most beautiful cafes we have been in and the atmosphere was just lovely.

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We continued to walk the streets and then came across a scuba diving company shop. Just out of curiosity we called into ask about a price for the Open Water course that Liam has wanted to do since arriving in Asia. The original plan was to visit Koh Tao, a Thai island that is well know for good quality and cheap diving. The price quoted by the diving company in Hoi An however for this course was $370 dollars or £240, only around £40 more than a good diving operator on Ko Tao according to the internet. After learning this we decided to look into it further online and, over another drink in a café, learnt that this particular dive operator has amazing customer reviews, especially for its instructors. This appealed to us as neither of us has scuba dived before and although the waters off Vietnam are apparently not as amazing as Ko Tao, feeling confident with our instructors is important. Further research showed the diving spot looked good with plenty of fish and coral to see. Liams dad, when he was here, generously offered to pay for this as his birthday present, and after our research Chelsea feels confident enough to also do it so we are going to look into booking it this week, we are very excited.

We are also excited for tomorrow as we have today booked onto cooking course that looks great (another generous gift from Chelsea's parents, we are spoilt). We are hoping that Liam does not become ill between now and then and he can do it this time. The course is on the riverfront, and will just be the two of us. We are to do five dishes that we have already chosen, and do a market trip, we have to be at the course for 10am tomorrow.

in the evening we ventured back to the harbour and ate at a cheap street stall. After we sat overlooking the water with a beer and cocktail and talked. The atmosphere of the town is relaxed and charming and we have had a great day enjoying it.

We are really enjoying Hoi An, it is a beautiful place, has cheap and incredible food, cheap drinks, and amazing quality courses and shops that are all reasonable prices. We have no plans to move on yet and are determined to make the most of our time here. It is already one of our favourite places we have been on our trip.

Posted by Chelsandliam 07:09 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hoi_an Comments (1)

Hue to Hoi An

rain 33 °C

This morning we were up really early to eat breakfast and get our 8am bus to Hoi An. We paid 100,000 dong for the bus and the coach picked us up from our hotel. We were bossed around by the drivers friend, Chelsea was allowed to put her bag in the storage, Liam had to take his on board. Many buses in Southeast Asia also act as a courier service, transporting all sorts of things onto different towns so there was no room for half the passenger’s luggage which was just pilled in the aisle. We were instructed to sit near the back and we were seated right above the noisy and vibrating engine, another joyous bus journey to endure. The journey took around 4 hours with one café break and one stop at a city called Danang and wasn’t too bad.

Once we arrived in Hoi An we were shocked as we were not ambushed by pushy taxi drivers. There was a big map in the station so we located where we were and started to walk towards the guest houses. It soon became clear the map was totally wrong as we were lost, walking around Hoi An with our bags in the rain. We carried on walking and came to the old town. The street names on our map didn’t seem to match the ones we were on so we asked a taxi driver to take us. Luckily he was a nice person and knew we were close so just directed us where we needed to go, shockingly he didn’t drive us around for twenty minutes and charge us. We had researched some guest houses and had picked a couple that looked ok. Our first choice was booked up so we thought we would try next door on the off chance it was nice. We are staying at Nguyen Phoung in a nice double room for $14. It has an en-suite, air-on and a fridge. The accommodation in Hoi An is more expensive that the rest of the towns as it is so popular.

After getting settled in we couldn’t wait to go out and explore and get some lunch. The town is stunning. We made the short walk to the old quarter and wandered around the beautiful streets in the drizzling rain. It is like nowhere else we have been, by far the most picturesque town of our whole eight months of Southeast Asia. The streets are narrow and the shops are small, old colonial buildings. Painted and crumbling plaster adorns the shop houses which are covered in gorgeous flowering bougainvillea plants.

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There are a lot of people here but we can see why and there are hundreds of tailor shops selling bespoke shoes and clothing made to order. We found a little café and had a drink and some sandwiches and walked towards the harbour calling in more than a few shoe shops as Chelsea has managed to break both pairs of her sandals. The only annoying thing is the pushy sales people, as soon as you enter any shop or look at a street stall the owners are on to you, pressuring you to look and buy. It is annoying especially if you have a genuine interest in something in the shop but just want to quietly browse.

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We called into a café which had a selection of deserts on display that looked amazing and had some Vietnamese coffees and shared a piece of chocolate and almond tart. It was really good. After a wander around in awe at the lovely architecture, shops and harbour we headed back to shower and wait until it got dark before we came out for tea. We decided to seek out the street food vendors across the river and visit the night market. At night time the town is so beautiful. All the shop houses and restaurants hang lanterns outside which light up the streets. The harbour is stunning, both sides lined with romantic paces to linger and take in the views. We found a row of street vendors and ordered a selection of Hoi An specialities to try. We had crispy shrimp wontons, which is a sort of friend flat wonton pancake topped with a filling of vegetables and shrimp. It was delicious but Chelsea managed to ungracefully throw hers down herself. We also ordered white rose, a steamed wonton filled with pork and topped with crispy pork scratching’s. We had Cao Lao, a sort of warm noodle salad which was amazing. It comes in a bowl with egg noodles and loads of salad and herbs, roast pork and crispy pork scratching’s. You mix it all up and dig in…. it is one of the best things we have tried, really yummy! Obviously as well as all this we had some duck spring rolls, obligatory but delicious.

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Afterwards we had a walk down the harbour and admired the lovely views. Locals sell floating lanterns that you light and float down the river.

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We sat in a bar and had a beer over the harbour for 4000 dong (13p). We still can’t get used to beer being cheaper than water, it’s just not right. On the way back we had a wander down the night market. Some of the things for sale are beautiful, especially the hand painted ink art and the lanterns.

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As well as this they sold jewellery and the normal souvenirs you can find on any night market in Southeast Asia. We browsed the stalls but were put off ninety per cent of them by pushy owners who think it is ok to poke and pressure. The whole area however is worth a visit just for the beauty of it; the lanterns lit up are enchanting.

After a great first day we are glad not to be disappointed by Hoi An’s charm and beauty. We can’t wait to explore further and have some days doing different things, a cooking class, a beach day and of course a cycling day. We might also rent a motorbike to visit the My Son ruins.

Posted by Chelsandliam 20:29 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hoi_an Comments (2)

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