Sunday, December 14, 2008

Up the spine of Vietnam

We started out in Ho Chi Minh City in the south, which was a great way to dive straight into the country. It's the biggest city, at about 6 million people, and is always interesting. Just walking around the streets is entertainment enough.

Our next stop was Hoi An, halfway up Vietnam, which is famous for tailors and its old town. Sarah took advantage of this by ordering some custom-made suits which they whipped up in a couple of days. Despite a noisy hotel room which was effectively located on a traffic island, and which had a strange water pump which throbbed and banged every time someone on our floor flushed the toilet, Hoi An was a pretty relaxing place to wander around. The old town reminded us of Venice in the sense that it is architecturally beautiful and heritage listed, but dominated by tourists, and shops selling things for tourists. If you manage to look past the shops and tourists there are some lovely buildings, and like Venice, there is a lot less traffic, so you can amble the streets without quite as much fear of being knocked over.

There are some great places to eat as well. As with most of the food in Vietnam it is really fresh and tasty. There is a dish which originates in Hoi An called Cau Lau, which are noodles made with water from a local well (reputedly). Most meals are served with a big plate of fresh herbs or lettuce, and often some kind of broth. Salads are popular as well, with green papaya or banana flower, often served with shredded meat. We had better meals in Hoi An than Sydney, and it was quite sad coming back to all the proccessed food we have here.

So while Hoi An might not always be the 'real' Vietnam, we enjoyed the food and relaxing by the river with a cocktail at night.

I also had my birthday in Hoi An, and the fantastic Mango Rooms. It was a very inventive menu and well cooked (can't remember for the life of me what we ate now, but I did have a few cocktails under my belt). Sarah also organized a Vietnamese birthday cake by asking one of her tailors where she could get one. Rather than tell her where to get it, the tailor just hopped on her scooter and fetched one herself. It was damn tasty, all cream and sugar and light sponge. More please.

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