A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Hoi An

Cooking up a storm in Vietnam's most beautiful town.

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Hot on the tails of our new friends, we followed them next to Hoi An, a town to fall in love with.
After a gruelling 12 hour night bus we brushed the sleep from our eyes and set off to explore the old-town: small streets lining the riverside with ornate buildings made of dark timber and a pastel yellow plaster, decorated with chinese symbols and red silk lanterns. Ahhhh, beautiful.

We got to work instantly on what Hoi An is famous for, commissioning some tailor-made clothing: a daunting process for us, with, it turned out, mixed results. We returned the next day to find all seven of our items ready to try on! Quick work. I loved my new dress, skirt and shorts though was undecided about my final dress. Jo, on the other hand, decided she disliked all three of her items and has since vowed never to wear them.

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The real highlight of our Hoi An stay, however, was our cooking class at the Java Minute restaurant. We had a private class with our three travel buddies: Jess, Oli and James, accompanied by beer and music. Our menu: fresh summer rolls, green papaya salad, bun xao (vietnamese savoury pancakes), catfish grilled in banana leaves and beef pho, was as much fun to make as it was to eat at the end of the class! Whether we'll remember what we learned on our return home remains to be seen, we hope so. Anyone know where to buy green papaya and peanut oil in London?

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Posted by aspindi 21:33 Archived in Vietnam Tagged cooking class hoi_an pho Comments (0)

Nha Trang

Jaeger bombs & mud baths

sunny 24 °C

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When we finally rocked up at the beach resort of Nah Trang the floods were gone but so were most of the travellers. Our merry band of friends however, (Schnitzel, James, Jess and Paul), had all arrived the day before and were waiting for us to arrive so we could have dinner together. Ahhh.

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We had a garlic-filled meal at some joint across from our hotel Blue Star and then checked out the Nha Trang nightlife. Cocktails on the beach, Jaeger Bombs at the Why Not Bar, song requests and hookah pipes with a guest appearance from Jethro Tull (India on one leg clutching the hookah pipe), a visit to the local kareoke bar and a couple of games of connect four all resulted in one of our best nights out yet and our gang's very own theme tune: http://vimeo.com/15337353

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Nha Trang's other highlight was the nearby mud spa. We hired a couple of Easy Riders who took us on the back of their motorbikes and had a heavenly day of pampering ourselves in hot springs and mud. Our 20 minute mud bath was divine and smelt of cinnamon and eucalyptus. Afterwards we dried the mud in the sun before washing off and jumping in a hot mineral pool. The rest of the spa had a large hot mineral pool, a large cold mineral pool and jacuzzis. Mom - we thought of you, you would have loved it!

-- more photos to come --

Posted by aspindi 01:45 Archived in Vietnam Tagged party mud drinking spa cocktails Comments (1)

Mui Ne..... again.

Backtracking to the beach.

all seasons in one day

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Our plan to continue on the the beach resort of Nha Trang failed miserably. From the moment we arrived in Dalat we heard rumours of blocked & broken mountain roads and met travellers who had spent a few days trying to get a bus out of there. After two nights we were miraculously informed that our bus to Nah Trang would be running, so we got up at 7am and hopped on our miracle bus! ..... 5 minutes later the driver got a call saying the road was once again closed and our choice was simple: Cold Wet Dalat or Mui Ne.

We all chose Mui Ne.

So we were heading in the wrong direction - but at least we were moving!
After about 20 mins the skies started to clear and the sun came out! Then a few hours into the journey the bus stopped. In front of us was a lorry in the middle of the road, a lot of crates and bags, and 15 or so people milling around. We jumped out of the bus to see what the hold up was and saw another truck on its side, halfway down the steep bamboo-lined hillside. Relieved to here the driver had survived the accident, we realised that our road was blocked by the relief truck, here to rescue the lorry's contents (300 boxes and bags of vegetables).

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While it was a shame to be travelling in the wrong direction, we were glad to back in a sunny beach resort and arrived with a new set of friends from our bus journey, James (an Aussie we met in Saigon), Oli (German yah?) and Jess, a fellow Londoner. We recovered from the cold by walking on the beach, swimming in the sea and filling up once again on seafood at Bo Ke, (the owner now seemed like an old friend).

Posted by aspindi 21:19 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus dalat muine bo_ke Comments (0)

Dalat - Vietnam's City of Love

Or an Asian San Francisco?

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The weather took a turn for the worse and after 24 hours of non-stop drizzle and storms we took a noisy minibus (the drivers sound their horn at any opportunity here) up into the hills to the city of Dalat.

Kitsch and colourful buildings, flower filled landscaping, and a replica Eiffel Tower have all turned the city into a local honeymooners getaway and Dalat reminded us a lot of San Francisco with it's pastel-coloured houses, hills and misty, foggy climate. We took a lovely cable car ride across the pine-covered hills to a lovely lake and pagoda (home of the best windchimes of all time).

Sadly, as the rainfall increased our love of Dalat decreased; we fell out of love with Dalat, it was freezing cold, I (Jo) got a cold, and it failed to stop raining for the whole two nights we were there.

We had hoped to take an Easy Rider motorbike tour on our second day but it was too wet so instead we braved the weather in a minibus with Vicky and Benjy, an English couple we met in Mui Ne, two Swedish girls and our amazingly smiley happy tour guide Fuk.

First stop - Crazy House. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Designed by a Russian trained Vietnamese architect, this lady is the Gaudi of 'Nam. Stepping inside the house we converted to children and, despite the rain, ran around up and down staircases snapping photos.

We visited a pretty flower farm and a coffee plantation – although at this point we we're all distracted by a road rage fight involving two men on motorbikes, an umbrella, a rock and a lot of shouting. After that we took a wet and dangerous clamber across rocks to see a huge waterfall, probably the most forceful I’d ever seen (although it was fairly brown, so not as picturesque as usual). Following a trip to a pagoda to see a big fat laughing Buddha, and a spot of pho at a local cafe we moved on to a silk farm and factory. Finally, the last stop on the trip, we were introduced to the oh-so-hygienic (not!) process of rice wine fabrication.

How to make rice wine (Vietnamese village style):

Step 1: Some old rice sits at the back of someones house on the ground for a week or two, exposed to the elements, a filthy bird cage suspended above, and featuring regular visits from the family dog when it fancies a sniff/pee/bite to eat.

Step 2: After a spell fermenting in a giant plastic barrel, where it takes on a pungent banana-like aroma, Granny tips the rice into a large vat of water and cooks it for several hours until the alcohol evaporates.

Step 3: The distilled liquor is piped away and Granny then grabs the leftover hot rice slop and gives it to the pigs. To achieve a real vintage, the rice alcohol is then put into the ground for six or so months to mature.

Step 4: Once ready, it is the custom to add some sort of animal/random matter to the wine – snake, silk worm, cockroach, toad, dead bird, bark – whatever is readily available will suffice.

Hmmm – tastes like rotten vodka. We've been politely declining it since our enlightenment.

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Posted by aspindi 21:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged dalat silk rice_wine crazy_house Comments (0)

Massive Mui Ne

Vietnam's longest beach resort?

zbeach.jpgWe spent four glorious days at the kite surfing beach capital of Vietnam – Mui Ne. This is the longest beach resort I think I have ever seen. We spent our days zipping up and down on motorbikes (mainly on the back as, although we did try to rent our own, we we're hopeless and gave up) and eating and drinking.

We met some sporty Canadians - Erin and Jordan - and biked up to the red sand dunes in convoy along with the Westwick sisters and Kiwi Paul.

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We discovered a brilliant outdoor seafood restaurant Bo Ke where you choose your fish (still alive!) and have it barbecued in front of you at the beach. India has not stopped talking about the scallops which were served up in shells and cooked with spring onions and a sweet soy sauce. A whole plate will set you back less than a quid!

Our guesthouse owners (Hai Yen) were not the friendliest but they did keep their coconuts in the freezer creating the perfect breakfast drink of ice cold coconut juice!

z-boke.jpgOur evenings were spent at Pogo's beach bar, Wax nightclub and then on night four, after the weather took a turn for the worst, we checked ourselves into the local salon for a 60min full body massage and watched Transformers (the film) in our room.

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Next stop, Vietnam's city of love - Dalat.

Posted by aspindi 20:32 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach seafood Comments (0)

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