Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Two days in the gorgeous Hoi An

Hoi An was a stunner. All of our's favourite destination on this trip. Yes, Hoi An is becoming a tourist trap and was packed with tourists but, you know what? We were tourists. And we enjoyed it. It was amazing.
Hoi An is a World Heritage Sight and “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century” (says wikipedia). It is most well-known for its gorgeous old town and its lanterns at night time.

Our two days in Hoi An included:

  • Sightseeing the Old Town at day.

The famous bridge of Hoi An, also stars on the 20,000 dong note
The centre of the town was meant to be walking and cycling only. It was reality depending on the amount of police around.

Riverside path

As mentioned in the previous entry, these fanciest photos are courtesy of Steffy
Near our hostel. The old town is over the river.

  • Sightseeing the Old Town at night. 
Lanterns are Hoi An's trademark

On the way to Why Not?
Mary on her bicycle (the most traditional way of getting around)

  • Visiting the tailor. Hoi An is Vietnam-renowned (if not world-renowned) for its cheap tailors, so it was a must for me. After a long, long debate and contemplation, I settled on a casual turquoise dress (a copy of my polka dot one), a white top (a copy of my ancient, manky, stretched, ex-white one) and matching dresses for Hayzybobzykins and I. :)                                                                                                                                                          
         We went in at about 11am, and at 7pm we had our first fitting. Impressively fast work.

  • Lovely meals at lovely quaint restaurants
Wonton soup for lunch

Cao Lau - Best Food of Hoi An
White Rose - another speciality of Hoi An

Mary tried this street snack - basically softened crab. She says it was very srcumptious. I'll take her word for it.
The best meal, in all of our opinions, was one at Hong Phúc II-restaurant, a set traditional meal with all sorts of scrumptiousnesses, absolutely stunning. Very, very highly recommended! 

Hong Phuc <3

The starter platter of Hong Phuc - spring rolls, white rose, cao lau and crispy pancakey stuff

  • Buying a hat. I literally (well ok not literally, but quasi-literally) buy a hat on every holiday I go. One from Saigon, one from Thailand, two from Malaysia, and now one from Hoi An. I don't intentionally collect hats – I just always forget them, or just figure out it's less of a hassle to buy a new one than carry an old one about everywhere... But this hat buying was special, due to the special Hats Saleslady.

Quiz time! What is the best marketing method to selling a hat?
    a. Smacking your customer's bum multiple times
    b. Attempting to force a wetwipe down your customers shirt
    c. Squeezing your customer's nose
    d. All of the above
    Trying on hats
Aaaaaaand the result iiiiis, yes, d. All of the above. 

She was actually a nice lady, and I didn't feel pressurised into buying the hat, though her persuasion methods were not the ones I would recommend all people. I did feel a mix of smugness and embarrassment though when she squeezed my nose (seems a habit of the Vietnamese, I guess I have a special nose) which was, thanks to Dalat, very full of snot.

  • Visiting some cool old houses and temples. 

Courtesy of Steffy: Entering some fancy place

  • Visiting the ancient jungle ruins of My Son
In bus
My Son means beautiful mountain, and it was beautiful and the ruins were fascinating, however the HEAT was unbelievable. 

On the road to My Son
Usually they have 'elecic cars', ie. sort of golf-cart type thingies to take you up to the ruins from where the bus stops, but today all the other tourists had bagged them, so we got to walk twenty minutes to the ruins. I managed that quite happily, but, well, it was hot.
Them elecic car stealers
I can't think of many words that describe a situation as well as our My Son-visit could be described with the word stifling. There were momentary claustrophobic moments where you literally felt you couldn't breathe due to the H_E_A_T. So, I must say My Son was not my favourite moment, just because it was impossible to enjoy it properly due to this slightly tropical climate...
Even picture were a little bit of a forced ordeal at the end. "I guess we should take pictures while we're here..."

When I was lying on the grass dying and this dude was taking pics of me, highly amused
Stefan managed some cool pics tho:

  • People-watching.

Look closely... the little boy has a T-shirt of himself 
Motorbike taxi or taxi?
Those dudes I found interesting - a xeom (motorbike taxi) and taxi driver chatting but also both scouting out for customers... I needn't but look in their direction and I got both a "motobike, motobike!" and a "taxi?"-offer.
Canalside salespeople
Where motorbikes are not allowed...
  • Going on an evening boat cruise

 We were walking down the canalside, and decided none of us would mind saying yes to one of the mirriad boaters offering their services. We chose a very cute old man, who offered a decent price, and we were helped down onto the rickety boat which nearly capsized at each step we took on it.

Once we'd all got on it, we realised there was a bundle next to Mary – a bundle that moved. It was a baby. 

As we started moving, the baby became less happy, so after a few minutes of poor Mary being very confused if she should somehow attempt to help/entertain the baby, our gondola driver gave up the paddling of the boat, and picked up the baby. Next thing we knew, he had the baby peeing over the side of the boat. A surreal moment and we weren't quite sure where to look.
Happy post-pee baby on lap

But, all in all, a lovely scenic boat trip. We got our own lanterns as well due to my quality bargaining skills (hrm) which we then put into the water to join all them other lanterns. :)


Summary: A very lovely two days. I <3 Hoi An and I am definitely going to go back.

Next, we hopped into our rented car with rented driver, off to go over the Hai Van Pass towards Hue...

A bientot mes chérs,

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Crazy, cold, colourful, canyony Dalat

Our first stop on our 10-day whizz-tour through Vietnam was Dalat City, about 300 km from Ho Chi Minh City. A pretty, hilly town, with a stunning lake and surroundings, many cute cafés and restaurants, Dalat is a get-away for many Saigonese and an increasing amount of foreign visitors who want to escape the eternal heat of the rest of Vietnam.

What I knew about Dalat: It is cold. In the mountains, it is a substantially cooler town than any of its surroundings. It is also stunning and has a lot of opportunities to do outdoor sports.
Courtesy of Stef
What I learnt about Dalat: Yes, it is cold. Well, cold and cold. Let's say: I was walking around in my cardigan at about 11pm, and I was slightly chilly. I also, to my great shock haha, caught myself thinking, in all sincerity, 'I like Dalat but I don't think I could live here, it's too cold...' 

Also, it rained. Buckets. No. Reservoirs. 

What we did in Dalat: So, we did some of the musts, the main one (at least at our hostel) seeming to be canyoning. Basically a variety of crazy activities you can do whilst gradually making your down a water-filled canyon. We were a group of ten with two friendly and enthusiastic tour guides - “Don't be lazy, be crazy!” was their motto which they frequently reminded us of. (Except when we got back to the bus after the trip, they encouraged us “Don't be crazy, be lazy!”)

The activities included three abseilings, two water slides, one jump and a lot of trekking in the woods/paddling/swimming/climbing. In gorgeous scenery.
Group stream crossing
It's sufficient to say that abseiling down this waterfall was one of the most terrified I've been in my life:

It wasn't actually dangerous – worst that could happen (unless you had exceptionally exceptionally bad luck) was that you slipped and fell into the water which, ultimately, was the aim anyways.

After the first, 'nice' bit, you started your verticaly descent on very, very slippery rocks. Our tour guides reminded us multiple times to, at this point, keep your head down and keep looking at the guide at the bottom of the fall at your right (as I am doing in the pic, note ;)), whose hand gestures (usually motioning “two/three/four steps to the left”) you had to be careful to follow. They taught us what to do if you slipped and went 'in' the fall, but I did not understand that part so hoped very much I wouldn't be slipping. So, I think, I can't say for sure because terrification (yes new word that) is blocking my memory, when I did slip, I sort of happily let myself drop in the water. Somehow a many-metred jump doesn't seem so bad when the alternative is so scary... 

Also, in the pic you can see someone else very, very close to me - I was not aware of this at all during my descent, and I'm quite happy of that - apparently the girl next to me fell nearly straight into me at some point... 

Other than that...

The waterslides were fun, the first abseiling pretty straightforward, and I regret to say (and quickly blame my cold) I skipped the last two – I hate jumping into water from high places, so I didn't even try and force myself to do it. (Lower one was 7m, higher one was 11m and dangerous with a serious risk of, er, unhappiness, since you had to run and jump – if you just jumped you'd crash into the ledge directly underneath the jumping point.)
Not me 
After canyoning we went to explore the Crazy House. Most aptly described as 'Gaudi meets Disneyland', it's a half-built hotel by a daughter of someone important (hence why she was able to get away with building this type of eccentricity), which stars in a number of 'weirdest hotels in the world' -lists. Not that I actually realised people stay here until Hayzybobzykins pointed it out. There's not many rooms available, and in all fairness this 'topsy-turvy piece of work' is probably not the best place to stay as it is essentially a tourist site.
Triple photo bomb pic feat. my first ever take-away HOT coffee (yes twas indeedos that cold!!)
But, SO COOL. Like, one day I will go back and organise a MASSIVE GAME of hide n seek/capture the flag/tag/spying...
Courtesy of Stef
Courtesy of Stef

Courtesy of Stef
Courtesy of Stef
Courtesy of Stef
Courtesy of Stef
Courtesy of Hayzy: Hanging out with some pals
The rest of the time in Dalat we basically spent wandering. Around the lake, sampling foods...
and maybe the best surprise was this huge, packed night market, full of people, but none of them treating you any different just because of your skin colour! It was a holiday day for the Vietnamese, so I think people were more focused on getting these hoards of local holidaymakers buying their stuff than trying to rip off foreign tourists. 
Courtesy of Stef

AND I had a VERY proud moment of Vietnamese Linguistic Advancement (VLA): I asked a lady how much her cute little knitted keyrings were. “Ba cái muoi nghin,” the lady told me happily, not questioning either my pronunciation of “Bao nhieu?” ('How much?' in Vietnamese) or my ability to understand her reply. Which I did understand, after a moment of brainstorming, because it did not sound like any number I knew: “Three (pieces) (for) ten thousand.” The happiness I felt from this miniscule comprehension... :) :) :)

The final morning we had an amazing brekkie, I bought an amazing dress and then it was time to say bye bye. 

Om nom 
I very much enjoyed Dalat, and a significant reason for that was the climate. I loved my first ever take-away hot coffee, as well as multiple hot mugs of tea. Nearly like being back in the UK... Canyoning was awesome, the Crazy House was excellent. If I come back, I will do more exploring in the countryside, like the famous Elephant Falls...

But now, off to Hoi An...



PS. Throughout these posts we will have some pics Courtesy of Stef or Hayzy ie. pics off their cameras. My camera has reached its zimmerframe days and no longer wants to utilise the assistance of a zoom, therefore my picture repertoire is somewhat lacking for this trip... :(