Archives for posts with tag: Hoi An

I arrived by bus from Hoi An and set out to find the guesthouse my friend Garth had recommended to me. Bit of a mess as my moto taxi driver didn’t know where it was and it took us forever to find but find it we did, eventually. Hoa’s Guesthouse, about 4kms outside of Danang, sits about 30 meters up a dirt road from China Beach (famous for having been a R n’ R spot for GI’s during the war), and about a 10 minute walk from the Marble Mountains. It’s a beautiful beach, super wide, mostly clean and virtually empty. Hoa’s is a blast. I meet a few lovely people and we formed a very nice group. I’d planned to spend only a couple days in Danang but it ended up being about 10 and could have been much longer.


One of these lovely people that I met was named Jack, a (then) 18 year old from England and who celebrated his 19th birthday just a few days after I met him. That bakery I found in Hoi An came in handy as we drove the half hour (by motorbike) into Hoi An and picked him up 5 pieces of cake, each one different, and surprised him with them. Pretty happy kid.

My friend Garth took me out on a tour by moto one day, we visited the beautiful “Lady Buddha” that is so big she can be seen from all around Danang. I call her the “Lady Buddha” because I think she is just so stunning but perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps she’s a he?


He also took me deep into a jungle trail to a shrine which had been built around a really old tree. I don’t know what these trees are called but they grow slowly and intertwine with each other and take over anything that surrounds them, making it a part of themselves. Smaller trees grow up from the ground around and join with the main tree, creating an almost veil like effect. There was a feeling around this tree that is indescribable, an aura of calm, an oasis….


Four of our group went to Hue on motorbikes for an overnight visit, Jack and I stayed behind as both of planned to head that way anyways, eventually, when we could tear ourselves away from Danang. But we arranged to meet up with the gang at a National Park. We rented a motorbike and had a blast getting lost and then eventually finding our way there, we met some cute little oinkers at a restaurant high in the hills,


We did actually manage to meet up with the others, had a hike and found a sweet swimming spot to cool us down and clean the road dust and sweat off. Made it back in one piece to Danang and I finally decided it was time for me learn to ride my own motorbike, I was tired of having to get people to double me. So the next day I rented a bike and took a Jack and Roger into Hoi An for the day. I was so nervous at first, but I did it and it’s so much better then being on the back of one, my thanks to the boys for coaching me along!



Eventually you have leave and keep moving, Jack and I both wanted to head into Laos soon but we had a couple more stops in Vietnam first and a German guy named Tobi was going to join us for those.

Hoa….after a few beers.


After 2 months in Mui Ne, I’m done my contract and ready to get a move on. I’ve been restless and ready for a while so the same day that I teach my last class I book a night bus to Saigon. I don’t have a plan yet and figured I’d go to a big city so as to take advantage of greater options.

I spend a single day in Saigon and then get on a bus for Hoi An. It was supposed to be a direct bus but instead it drops me off in Nha Trang, not my favorite city and I have to wait 3 hours until my connecting bus shows up. Pretty displeased about that. The bus I ends up on takes about 12 hours to get to Hoi An (instead of the 6 they told me) and wanting to drop me off at the side of highway in the middle of the night about 5 kms outside of town. I refuse to get off the bus until they call me a taxi and pay for it to take me into town. This doesn’t make me very popular but I am sick of being shuffled around and lied to by this company, I’ve also been on buses for about 24 hours at this point, without proper food or a clean bathroom.They get me a cab, it’s paid for and takes me into town where I find a hotel and get some much needed sleep. I’m in a pretty bad mood to be honest so the mental oblivion of sleep in a comfy bed is fantastic, as well as the shower. I wake up the next (late) morning feeling revived.

I spend about 5 days in Hoi An, I get some clothes made, copies of things I have with me, see some sights, go to a nearby beach, meet some lovely people and take a Vietnamese cooking class with one of them. We learn how to make a soup with shrimp dumplings in it, fresh spring rolls, green mango salad, 12 spice bbq, and my favorite, Vietnamese pancakes (Bahn Xeo). I also find a great bakery which will come in handy in about a week.


Next step, Danang. It’s not actually that far away but I never made it there on my last trip through and I have a friend that I haven’t seen in ages who has been living there for a couple years teaching English.

Originally published on facebook –  October 28, 2010 at 3:48am ·

Hue – day 19

We tried to get up early with the idea of renting motorbikes to get to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) for the day. On the road by 9am, I’m on the back of Anders bike and he was a superstar making me feel very comfortable there. I’ve been nervous about motorbikes since a tumble I took in Greece back when I was 19. We made it out of the city easily and took a couple rest stops on the way, Saw a thermometer at some point which read 39 degrees, HOT! We needed to travel about 100km to get to the Vihn Moc tunnels, our first goal. We stopped for lunch at a small town, not even a town really, near where we thought the tunnels would be. Some roadside cafe/foo place where the specialty was Beef Pho. It took some work but we managed to get it made without beef (even though the broth was pork) I think the guy who cooked for us thought we were a little weird to not want beef though. He gave us Vietnamese tea which was excellent, very refreshing. The food was pretty tasty though my mouth felt greasy for a few hours afterward, my stomach didn’t feel great either but handled it ok. the best part was that 3 guys came in while we were eating, friends of the chef come to gawk at the crazy travelers I think. Though we couldn’t really speak with them we did manage to communicate a bit through smiles. One man showed me how he was missing the tips of all his fingers on one hand, “bomb” he told me. I said “fucking war” and he laughed like crazy agreeing with me I think. He had a tattoo on his arm of 2 doves intertwined, I touched it and told him I liked it, flashed the peace sign. Got big smiles for that. We asked for and got perfect directions for the last few km to the tunnels, with many smiles and handshakes all round we set off.


We found the tunnels and paid the entrance fee, we were directed to an entrance but without a guide. As soon as I saw the entrance I got a feeling of dread up my spine. we went in and right away I felt really uncomfortable. It was very narrow and low and hot and I felt the weight of the earth above me keenly. I felt really jumpy and uneasy and it got hard to breathe really quickly. After about a dozen meters there were stairs carved out of the rock leading down and my brain just shut down, no way. I needed to get out, NOW. I told the boys I couldn’t do it, didn’t even wait for their response just turned around and got the hell out as fast as I could. Back outside my heart started to calm down and the air felt wonderful. I went into the museum and saw the displays of what life was like for the Vietnamese who lived and died in the tunnels during the war. There was a guest-book I read through it and the few entries that were in English praised the ingenuity, resourcefulness, courage and heart shown by the Vietnamese people. I wandered around the site outside, seeing the entrances to a few more tunnels, the trails that are dug deep and lined with concrete and quite a few bomb craters. I felt disappointed with myself for not going on in the tunnels and yet relived that I wasn’t down there at that moment. I was so surprised by the way I felt in there, I didn’t even know what to do with it, I never anticipated feeling uneasy, have never felt claustrophobic in my life and was so surprised by the reaction of my body and mind. I hope this prepared me so that when I am in Saigon I can try to go to the other tunnels that are there, they are not as good apparently, having been altered from their original form a bit but I will try anyways.

I met up with the guys after a bit and they told me about it and showed me some pictures. It was 3pm already and we had another 100km drive to get home so we got back on the bikes to get to it. We thought about making a detour to the National Cemetery on the way back to Hue but by the time we got to the turn off we could tell rain was threatening so we pressed on. About an hour outside of Hue the rain hit and it started to get dark we decided to stop for a break and pulled over at a small street cafe. A lot of these cafes are family run and it’s actually the porch in front of their house that is the cafe, that was the situation here. A woman and her young son  were there and we tried to order coffee without condensed milk, tricky. She obviously didn’t get a lot of travelers and I had to come into the kitchen with her to help her make it, I thought she had it too but she somehow snuck a bunch of sugar into the cups when I wasn’t looking. Back at the table Anders raised the question of whether the coffee was made with safe water, I figure it would be ok, Alex did too and we toasted each other and downed it, Anders soon followed suit. The sweet lady offered us some Vietnamese tea, which is really what we should have gone for in the first place, and we all heartily accepted. As we were drinking our tea her young daughter rode in on her bicycle. Soon after the little boy came up and placed a folded piece of paper in front of me on the table. I opened it and in perfect penmanship it said “Hello, what is your name?” I scrawled back in my less then perfect writing, “Laila, what is your name?” I never got a response and I didn’t get to keep the paper either. But I did get to say goodbye to the girl as we left, I shook her hand, her mothers and the little boys too, incredibly sweet.

Back on the bikes for the final stretch, we arrive at the hotel filthy,wet and sunburned, great day. After showers we got out for dinner, drinks and some pool, turns into a late night, tons of fun.

Hue to Hoi An – day 20


Got a morning bus to Hoi An, great bus with beds side by side , nice and big and long and we all stretch out and nap most of the way. Got a great room in Hoi An, wandered a little bit in town and had dinner. At dinner we tried one of the specialties of the region, White Rose. They are kinda like Ha Gow, shrimp wrapped in white rice noodle and steamed with a dipping sauce, we all love it. We get convinced by a bar tout to try out the Sun Bar, he promises it is 100% excellent. Once we are on the motorbikes for the free ride to the bar he backpedals and says, well, maybe 99% excellent…uh oh. At the bar it’s super loud and only tourists, we stay because there is a pool table and free vodka shots, lots and lots of free vodka shots. I “discover” the “baby bucket” a mixture of vodka, coke and lemon in a jar with a lid and a straw sticking out of it. I decide it is the perfect drunks drink as it is virtually unspillable. Another late late night, I’m beginning to think that traveling with two 24 year old guys might be the death of my liver.


Hoi An – days 21, 22, 23 & 24.

Day 21 is a bit of a write off for all of us, I try to get some shopping done but am too hungover and end up with the boys lounging in our room watching stupid movies on tv, we only venture out to eat.


Day 22 it’s raining we go wandering through town, Anders orders 5 pairs of custom made running shoes, Alex orders 1 and I order a bunch of stuff I can’t tell you about because they are Christmas gifts. At some point Alex and I lose Anders. We look for him where we think he might be but he’s not so we decide to hang out by the river and eat some late lunch. We have Cao Lo, another specialty of the region, it’s only made here because the noodles are made with water from the Bai Lo well, located nearby. It’s noodles with herbs and veg and seafood, the sauce is superb, kinda cinnamony or something, we are not sure but ti is so good. We hang out here for quite some time, hiding from the rain and we start to drink beer (I know, me, drink beer, it really happened, 5 beers actually, a record for me). We are joined at some point by a guy I met on Cat Ba, Pawel from Poland. He joins in the beer drinking and we get hungry again so we order some White Rose and a Seafood Hot Pot for us all to share, yum. We sit and talk about everything under the sun, politics, religion, love, human nature, etc. It’s lovely. Before Alex and I know it we’ve spent 5 hours in this restaurant and figure we should go and find Anders. We pay up the bill and start to walk beside the river to go back to the hotel, we’ve gone about 3 stores down and we see Anders sitting in a restaurant. We join him for a couple beers and then Alex and I are restless, we want to go out, Anders says he’ll join us in a bit so Alex and I head back to Sun Bar. It sucks as badly as it did the other night but I chat with people anyways. We enjoy a few free shots, a couple baby buckets and some pool and then catch a motorbike taxi back to our hotel, Anders never joined us.


Day 23 is the boys last day in Hoi An they are heading down to Nha Trang a day ahead of me, I’ll meet up with them there. The weather is still crap but we run chores picking up our custom stuff, doing a little more shopping and sitting and eating an awful lot. The boys catch a bus at 6:30pm and I take myself out for a lovely dinner where I try Vietnamese pancakes for the first time (not the last). It’s a rice flour pancake fried with shrimp and beansprouts inside. It comes served with rice paper wraps,fresh herbs and satay sauce, I ask my server how to eat it and he shows me. I cut the pancake in half, wrap it up inside the rice paper with some of the fresh herbs and then dip in the satay sauce, incredible! The pancake is rather small and I start wishing I had ordered more when mama-san comes running out of the kitchen with another pancake on her spatula, she slides it onto my plate and winks at me. after the second one I’m feeling pretty good, and then she comes out with one more, heaven, I’m stuffed silly.

Day 24 I sleep late, pick up my final items and spend a ridiculous amount of money to ship them home, must stop doing this. On the bus at 6:30pm for an overnighter to Nha Trang. Top bunk of course but at least my other pair of Havianas didn’t get stolen this time.

Nha Trang – day 25

Arriving at 6am is not nice. I shake off the hotel touts and head out to find some food before I get a hotel. That taken care of I know the area the guys are in so I find a beautiful room on the 4th floor of a building 1/2  block from the beach, I have a massive bathroom and a stunning view. Pleased. I nap for a couple hours and meetup with the boys for lunch. Anders heads off on a motorbike for the day and Alex and I laze around on the beach. In the late afternoon we go far a little walk through town. It’s actually a fairly large city, I don’t like it very much, it seems to be pretty much a party town for tourists. we discover baguette sandwich carts and fall in love with them. Alex tries 2 different carts, at one he gets the meatwich and at the second he follows my lead and gets the egg. It’s a freshly scrambled egg stuffed inside a warmed baguette with cucumber, tomato, and fresh herbs. The baguette is liberally squirted with soy sauce and chili sauce and it is delicious, I’m grinning from ear to ear eating it and Alex laughs at me a lot. Back to the beach I read a bit while Alex joins in a soccer game with some locals. It gets dark and we head back to the hotels to freshen up and meet Anders so we can go for dinner.

We pick a street stall where we can point at what we want to eat, it’s decent and super cheap. Later we head out for just a “couple” drinks and some pool as we have to be up early the next morning for the bus to Mui Ne. Of course it ends up being more then just a couple drinks and we are all happy and starving as we head back to the hotel. Luckily we stumble across another baguette stall, the boys have 2 each, I only need the one and it’s soooo tasty. We need this in Vancouver instead of greasy pizza at 3 am.

Nah Trang to Mui Ne – day 26

Up at 6:30 am for a 7:30m bus we grab a quick breakfast of (you guessed it) egg baguettes and coffee. We eat it waiting for the bus and when we get on are practically the only passengers, we commandeer a row of seats each and sleep our way through the next 5 hours to Mui Ne. We find a great hotel/bungalow. It not on the beach because those are quite expensive but it’s brand spanking new, there are still stickers on the toilet, sink and fridge. Mui Ne is really just a stretch of road about 20km long with large resorts on the beach side and smaller guest houses and restaurants on the other. Right now is just the very beginning of the busy season so it’s slow and lazy, I can see that it will be pretty busy during the high season. Kite surfing is huge here and lots of places are offering to teach it, something I will definitely NOT try when I come back (I have had a job offer).

Mui Ne – day 27 to 36

We spend the next couple days being quite lazy. There is a typhoon up north right now and the weather is rainy a lot of the time. When it’s nice we hang on the beach and when it’s not we hang in restaurants, the guys eat like it’s going out of style. We play lots of cards and read, update journals etc. I meet a guy who runs a yoga studio here and he offers me a job. The guys leave after a couple days, they are heading to Saigon briefly before moving into Cambodia because their visas are running out. I’ve had my visa renewed so figure I will hang out here for a bit. Big hugs to the boys, it’s been fun.


I’ve been taking yoga classes and even taught one to give Lex (the boss) and idea of what I do, he likes it and renews his job offer so I figure to come back here at the end of January 2011 to stay for a minimum of 2 months, cool. I’ve meet a few great people and the weather has improved. It’s been all too easy to loose whole days here, lovely town. I’ve eaten snake (it’s rubbery and kinda tasteless, but it was a small snake so maybe the big ones are better, will give it another try for sure) I’ve drank rice wine (Vietnamese vodka) with snake blood in it. Discovered lots of good restaurants, read some books and generally had a very relaxing fun time. I’m leaving here tomorrow to go to Saigon where I will be for Halloween. A couple of the people I’ve met here are going as well and we already have a party invite, should be good, just need to find a costume now.