We are into our second full day in Hoi An. This is by far my favorite town. it is smaller than the other cities with more bikes and less motorbikes. There are 300 tailor shops here as well as many cobblers. They sell tons of lanterns and the town is on a river, so bright colors glow at night and reflect on the river.
We took a cooking class yesterday from a darling Vietnamese woman who was only 20 but a wonderful teacher and spoke excellent English. We got to make 5 courses (tuna in banana leaf, vegetable spring rolls, morning glory (like Spinach) with garlic, sweet and sour chicken soup, and a pork salad with a squash like veggie (nothing like our salads). The food was delicious and very healthy and relatively easy to make. I very excited to go home and try to make a Vietnamese spread, but I’ll have to buy lots of new ingredients like oyster and fish sauces, rice paper and seaseme seeds. She also took us the local market before hand to teach us how to choose different fruits, vegetables and seafood. Markets in Vietnam (like much of the world I think) are giant tents with tons of venders sitting underneath, each selling whatever they can grow or catch. The local people come by and bargain for the price of their food that night.
Before and after the cooking class, we all went to tailor shop. It was a little bit like heaven. They have books and books of designs and bolt after bolt of fabrics (mostly silk, cotton and linen) to choose from. You pick what you want, get measured and then haggle for a price. My guide book described Hoi An as: “Southeast Asia is packed with would-be Buddhist, travelers on a real spiritual mission espusing lives of detachment from material desires. These folks usually walk away with just the “one suit, two shirts, trousers, and a tie package” when they leave Hoi An.”
I am walking away with only 3 dresses, one pair of pants, and 4 pairs of shoes. In the shoe shops, they have rows of different types of shoes, sandals and flats. Then they have hundreds of swatches of leather and other types of materials. You choose, your heel, sole and stitching color. It was a very exciting adventure.
In the afternoon, we took a beautiful bike ride through the country to the beach. There is something about the clouds here. They are unlike any I have seen before. It’s like the sky always looks like the sun is about to set. It is gorgeous and serene. We got millions of waves and shouts of “hello” from the local children and many adults as well. I climbed a “monkey bridge” (which our guide says is because it is better for monkeys than humans, which was pretty much one piece of bamboo bent across a small river with a handle, also from one piece of bamboo. We rode through a heard of 6 buffalo on a relatively narrow path (a little unnerving) and past many chickens and ducks. The beach was beautiful although the wind made the waves incredibly choppy. There were very few hawkers, and the ocean felt like warm bath water.
Last night our guide took us to a local restaurant far off the beaten path. We had a “hot pot” which is like a fire lit crock pot of broth and a WHOLE fish (fins, eyes and all). We then put fresh vegetables and noodles in it. It was good but much too spicy, so I couldn’t eat much. I didn’t realize you could eat the fins, but our guide sucked them right of the bones (not something that I am going to try!).
Today we are going to My Son (like “me sun”) to look at ruins of a Hindu temple from the the 7th to 12th centuries. Much of it was bombed by the Americans because the VietCong used it as a fort, but it is supposed to be very impressive still. And then back to pick up my dresses and shoes!