Touristy little town

March 7, 2007 - Hoi An, Vietnam

We took a plane from Saigon to Da Nang and drove 45 minutes to Hoi An. A fellow traveler, Brian, had a disposable camera stolen from his bag sometime after we checked in and before the bags came out on the conveyer belt. So we guess, probably by the handling crew. He had the zipper pulls locked but there was a just enough room to separate the zipper and get a hand into the backpack. My backpack has this problem too. Even worst my zipper pulls are knotted nylon ties so they can be untied given enough time. I always put my bag in a plastic bag to protect the straps. I even joked that it was extra protection because one more hassle to get into the bag. But they tore Brian’s plastic bag open. So my temporary solution is to shorten the knots in the ties so a hand will not fit into the bag. We always carry our cameras and electronic on the plane so our luggage is mostly clothes.

Hoi An boasts a full moon festival on the 14th lunar day of each month, but our timing was not right. We walked around a bit enjoying the smallness of the town. For the optional group dinner we went to a Western-style restaurant with tables and chair outside on the patio. The desserts looked great and I imagined sitting on the patio enjoying coffee while watching the locals go about the daily rituals. Our group walked past the cozy patio upstairs to a plain room with no view of the street, the only area a group of 12 could be seated. I was having flashbacks of my first China tour. The menu was definitely geared for tourists. After dinner Terry and I went downstairs to the patio across the street and had coffee and dessert. Then we decided to skip all remaining group dinners. Hoi An is small and quiet compared with Saigon. I was hoping to rent a motorbike and drive to the beach and rice fields in search of the next Pulitzer price-winning photo. The next day when I woke at 6 am it was pouring rain, so I walked to the market to take some photos. Every time I asked if I could take a photo, I was met with the same response, “One dollar!”. My plea of, “No dollar, just photo” was answered again with, “One dollar”. I gestured, “No” and moved on. Hoi An is way too touristy for my taste. The main draw is shopping and the locals are very use to tourists.

Later when the streets dried up a little, a fellow traveler Dave and I did rent motorbikes and explored the area. Dave has the same camera as I do, Nikon D80, and so we are often chatting about photos and camera stuff on the bus. Getting away from the crowds and having some freedom was exactly what I needed. We came upon a small bamboo bridge crossing a river. We debated whether we should cross. A local said it was fine, so we drove our motorbikes over the creaking bamboo bridge and continued on the small path through a corn field. We returned to the hotel to get the girls. Terry hopped on back and the four of us headed for the beach where we ate lunch and hung out.

For dinner we went to a Vietnamese cooking class and had the greatest time. Well after the beach, I still wanted to ride around on the motorbike so I took off at about 5:30 pm. We were suppose to meet at 6 pm in the lobby to leave for the cooking class. I forgot my watch and rode about 10 minutes to a neighboring city. After taking photos of a man working in the rice fields with his buffalo, I tore back to the hotel doing top speed of 55 mph. I got there 10 minutes late and everyone had left. Terry was waiting with a map and said, “They went here” (pointing). I said “No problem, I know where that is, hop on.” and we sped away. I planned on bypassing the extremely narrow passage ways of main market but turned down the market street out of habit. We rode the motorbike through the market, not unlike the Tokyo Tsukiji fish market for those of you that know it. It was so much fun! Partly because Terry was like, “Mark are you crazy?” The cooking class itself was great. We learned to make Vietnamese fried spring rolls, Spinach with garlic, Fish wrapped in banana leaves, Tofu with lemon grass, and Vietnamese pumpkin soup. The best part is we got to eat it too!

[Terry: Mark rented the motorbike for the day. I was not interested in riding it since it seemed so dangerous in this traffic. Then Dave and Namita were headed to the beach on a motorbike and Mark came back with his morning riding confident that we would not get hurt. The ride to the beach, both of us with helmets on, was beautiful. Once we got to the beach, I missed the isolated beaches of Kauai. No comparison. Mark gave me a knowing look; we both knew I was taking Kauai beaches for granted. There were vendors on the beach too and they were even more aggressive. They sat on the beach next to us just staring until we bought something from them.

Mark is right about the town being too touristy, but the town itself was very quaint and charming. I am planning to coax my shopaholic friend, Ly, here for a week. Hoi An is known for their silk and tailoring. Some of our group had bought suits that would cost about $1000 in the states for $100 to 200. First the taylors take measurements and make the suit, then the next day the customers come back in the morning for the first fittings then again in the afternoon for the final fitting. All done in one to two days. I paid $15 for a pants that look just like Mark’s pants that zips off to shorts. Mark gave me a hard time for copying his style, but I lost my only long pants I brought. I turned it in for laundry along with Mark’s clothes at a hotel and my pants were never returned. When Mark was buying the pants for our trip at REI (Mark’s favorite clothing shop), I was bummed that none of the pant sizes fit me right. So I was excited that I could have this pants made in moss green that I love.

The highlight of Hoi An was the cooking class. I was already in a good mood for making it to the class alive riding behind Mark on his new beloved moto. He has chosen the narrowest and busiest street of the market to get to our cooking class. I was beyond scared and this seemed to appease Mark for some reason. The cooking class was a 10 minute walk away and our group had left about 10 minutes ago. Mark is never late and he used to give me a hard time for being late on our first few dates when I got lost. So it is pretty safe to assume that it was Mark’s ploy all along to be 10 minutes late so we would have to ride his bike instead of waking. Mark exclaimed that he rides like the locals now; this means a lot of beeping and driving around wherever there is space, i.e. left or right side of the street. While sitting behind Mark, I saw sheer horror from vendors’ faces when they saw Mark, a tourist, riding on their narrow street. They quickly recognize tourists because only tourists wear helmets. It was a blur, partly because I closed my eyes from being scared, but I did see a local mom snatching her kid into her arms away from Mark’s way. He almost ran the kid over! Okay, so Mark did stop in time, but still! Mark asked me if I got that on video. I told him, “Are you crazy? I was too scared!” But I wished I had. Needless to say, we made it 30 seconds before the rest of the group who started on their way 10 minutes ago. Mark was psyched! Later after the cooking class, Mark and I agreed we need to throw a party with foods from round the world. Mark and I want to take more cooking classes too. Too much to do on our wish list!]


Typical shop
Kids returning from school
Morning market 1
Morning market 2

1 Comment

March 13, 2007
The commentary is even better that the great photos. I am laughing the whole time I am reading it.
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