MEKONG BLOG 04

Wednesday March 12, 2014

As I’m sure you can appreciate, being a tourist is hard work. Really hard work. Exhausting, even. And far from envying us (like some people do), I imagine you feel SORRY for us – right? Yes, it’s a tough life this travel, but (as I keep saying) somebody’s gotta do it, eh. Which is why, every now and then, we deserve a break – don’t you agree?

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve finally got one! Yesterday and today, after being on the road for four or five days (phew!), we’ve been enjoying one of the loveliest, prettiest, most tranquil places in all Vietnam – the charming old riverside town of Hoi An. And, for a bonus-reward, we’ve been staying in the pinch-me-please-it’s-gorgeous Palm Garden Beach Resort – with gardens for Africa, a pool to die for, and a white-sandy beach with palm-trees, rolling surf and (yes, it’s true) SUNSHINE!

Yesterday morning, we made our way to Hanoi airport, flew south to Danang (one-time fishing village, now Vietnam’s 4th-largest city), and got taxied to Hoi An – once a major Asian trading port, now a bustling tourist hotspot and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we enjoyed a walking tour through the ancient town centre … greeting the laidback locals in their colourful stalls, eyeballing a Hokkien temple (for the Fukien Chinese Congregation), stepping out on a 400 year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, drinking green tea in the elegant old wooden home of a former merchant, and learning how farmers raise wriggly silkworms for the textile industry.

Before the day was out, several Mad Midlifers had chosen dresses/jackets/shirts/trousers/suits to be tailor-made overnight by Hoi An’s famous garment industry. Overnight? Yep, that’s what they specialise in here – with fashion and quality to match!

This morning we got to sleep in, walk the beach, splash in the pool, or do some more shop-shop-shopping in the Old Town. Then, after lunch, we were off with staff from the Red Bridge Restaurant for a quick walk-through of Hoi An’s Farmers’ Market … where we were introduced to vegetables, fruits, concoctions and aromas (some familiar, others strange and foreign) that were gonna form part of our dinner tonight.

Next, we boarded a water-taxi for a leisurely 25-minute glide along the Tu Bon River – and were treated en route to a fishing-net-throwing demo by a couple of local boaties. Arriving at the legendary Red Bridge Cooking School, we were greeted enthusiastically by the Vietnamese chef-cum-comedian, then shown – with lots of hooting, laughing and guffawing – how to prepare specialty Hoi An dishes (like fresh rice-paper … shrimp spring rolls … seafood salad … Vietnamese eggplant casserole … plus a variety of sauces). And we tried our hand (without much success) at food decoration – on poor, unsuspecting cucumbers and tomatoes.

Finally, we sat down (in the balmy outdoors, with bats flying around us in the dark) to a hearty dinner, where we ate our own creations. YUM!

There were some tired Kiwis tonight, by the time we got back to the resort. But hungry? Not a chance!

PEOPLE NEWS: No new Yellow Duckies to award – but a hearty three-cheers (Mot, Hai, Ba Yo!” as they say it in Vietnam) for Wendy, who bravely survived a bite from a 20-centimetre-long centipede while on the riverboat today! Wendy’s fine … and the centipede regrets the whole affair.

TOMORROW: After some more relaxing hours in our palm-smothered piece of heaven on Cua Dai Beach, we get airborne again. Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (or as you probably know it, Saigon). So stay tuned …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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