I haven’t gone into hiding but have enjoyed two weeks chilling in central Vietnam – a place I have been coming back to for over 15 years.
On this visit my friend Jo – who has visited many times with her daughter Hannah – joined me for part of the visit. She proved to be an excellent food guide and a good shopper too!!
On the food front – it is just not possible to ever get bored with Vietnamese food which is fresh and healthy – mostly! Below is just from one of our favourite restaurants in Hoi An – Morning Glory. Ban xeo pancakes (a Hoi An speciality); chicken, bean sprout and mint salad; eggplant with garlic and chilli and caramelised pork belly. Divine. Go hungry!
This time we went to Danang for a day. It is very close by so worth a visit but has none of the charm of Hoi An (see below). It is a commercial centre so busy and bustle with a food and flower market and a riverside walk which allows you to take in a lot of colourfully lit bridges (not to mention dried sea horses!).
Glad we went but no particular hurry to get back – I am a Hoi An and local beach girl when over here.
So why do I love Hoi An so much? Although it is much busier than when I first visited it still retains its charm and I remain impressed by how much of the old town (which is conveniently pedestrianised) has been preserved in line with its UNESCO status. For history buffs there are many old house and shops now part of a “museum” you can wander in and out of to get a feel for how people lived here not that long ago.
Or you can just drink cocktails and people watch….
Or wander down by the river and check out the boats plying their trade…..
Or appreciate why this town is known as the City of Lanterns …..
Or head to a spa in the quiet rice paddies – only 10 minutes away but an oasis of calm (I recommend Calm Spa if you are visiting) – great value and venue…..
Or just hang out at the beach which is where I keep coming back to every year. Can you see why?
Finally thanks to Jo for visiting and making it even more fun (and for excellent gin and tonic making too)
Following on from some ideas I got via the Wanderlustplusone blog I was now in search of a real bamboo bridge across the rice paddies. These are easier said than found and my helpful taxi driver took me to the middle of nowhere – into the centre of the rice paddies after which we walked for ten minutes and I found my bridge. True it was broken and so didn’t actually go anywhere but it is an impressive piece of design and it was stable enough for me to walk out to the point at which it disappeared. My taxi driver came too as he had never seen one of these either – at least that’s what I think he said!
Firstly a drive through the rice paddies – to some astonished looks from the workers and everyone else who was on a bike or scooter.
And then the bridge
Then we made our way to the memorial for the heroic Vietnamese mother. Although I’d seen some photographs of it I was not prepared for the size of the memorial – which has the faces of women carved into it like Mount Rushmore (well except for the fact it is women only – yay!) or the lovely grounds in which it stood. Unfortunately the sun was in the wrong spot so it is hard to see the grandeur clearly – for best pics go in the morning.
When you go inside – it is free – you see various exhibits about women in Vietnam – unfortunately nothing in English yet but I thought these reliefs spoke for themselves about the variety of lives mothers in Vietnam have lived
One of my favourite travel blogs is wanderlustplusone.wordpress.com. I was perusing her site when I came across a few places she and her son had recently visited near Hoi An and so I decided to find them for myself. She had a number of ideas and the first one I sought out was the mural village – which is south of Hoi An and is called Tam Kay – xa Tam Thanh. It is about 45 minutes south of Hoi An on the coast and in a joint venture with Korea (not sure why them except that there are a lot of Korean visitors to this part of Vietnam) they decided to turn this village into a Centre for all kinds of murals. It is still virtually unknown – I only saw about 4 other western faces – which makes it even more interesting and it took the taxi driver a while to find it – but luckily al the people in the villages along the way proved very helpful in guiding us there.
The first things they started paining was the underside of the traditional fishing boats
Then they brightened up the actual houses in the village
And finally onto the murals
I love initiatives like this one – makes everyone who sees it smile and I suspect it won’t be so unknown for long
A few years ago I was lucky to be able to stay at the Nam Hai in Hoi An Vietnam. I went back to visit this week. The hotel is now owned by the Four Seasons and consists of villa only accommodation in 35 acres of understated but beautifully maintained grounds. It has its own Vietnamese cooking school and runs gravity defying yoga classes (think you hang from silk loops that fall from the ceiling?) – as you can see it is truly stunning (even on a cloudy day) and only 10 minutes from downtown Hoi An.
Nice to dream:)
One of the best things about being at the Hyatt in Danang is breakfast. While they have all the usual British, American and European options it is the traditional Pho soup that I have every day. By the time I have added the Susie touch it is a meal that keeps me full for the rest of the day. So here is how the dish starts – very simply with noodles and chicken (sometimes beef) to which is added a fresh broth.
Then comes the fun part – adding all the things that make it unique every day – this is because there are different things each day so it never tastes exactly the same – but it always has a good sprinkling of fresh chilies, chilli powder and chilli sauce so good for detox too. And no I don’t always know what I am adding but if it looks and tastes good – that’s all I need to know.
Then I take the bowl back to my table, add the belly of port and a squish of lime juice and I’m ready to tuck in.
Happy to be back at my lovely pad and guaranteed relaxation spot by the beach near Hoi An at the Hyatt Regency, Danang. It started off quite chilly and miserable but over 36 hours you can see how the view from my balcony has improved! Ahhhh…..
Final days inn Vietnam and Hoi An is always a must do whether by day or night. It is traditional, kitsch, charming and historically interesting and have I mentioned the food?? When you visit during the day you can buy a pack of 5 tickets which lets you into any five of about 20 places of historical interest – houses, temples, shrines and museums and the best thing is the tickets are valid for as long as you like so you can split the five you choose over a number of days or get another set if you want to see more. Here is a link to a couple of very short videos showing a bit more of the coracle boats below and my friend Trudy playing and winning local game. Both quite amusing.
Scenes from Hoi An – day time
And now Hoi An at night when the lanterns and lights makes it extra enjoyable
Next stop Kyoto, Japan
Did my best to learn to cook Vietnamese dishes on the EcoCoconut tour. First we went to the central Market and bought some of the ingredients and then we went on a short cruise down the river to the cooking school to learn how to cook – rice paper rolls, crispy Danang pancake, papaya and pork salad and beef clay pot. The food at the market turned into the food on our plates are shown below – do I see drooling out there? I learned it is all about the prep and chopping skills and then quick cooking to plate to mouth!
The ladies at the bottom right hand side are tired market workers taking a well deserved break at the end of the day. The person on the bottom left hand side is trying to pretend to be both Vietnamese and a person who can fish for their own dinner – not really very convincing and no I didn’t catch a thing.
Selection of fresh items from the Central Market, Hoi An
And here are the finished results – Ta Da!
It’s all in the chopping to make rice paper spring rolls, papaya salad and crispy pancakes
The header picture is a sand dollar I found on the beach.
Some of you will know that I am very lucky to have an apartment in Vietnam on the beach between Danang and Hoi An. Here are some pictures of it including the grounds and the sea views. Extra special visit this time as my friends Trudy and Alan were with me and I always enjoy it when my friends can experience this lovely place – with or without me being there. This set shows the sunrise and other beach views from my balcony, the pools and spa area as well as some scenes from the Vietnamese food night held every week.
Prepare for many more food shots when I learn how to cook a few Vietnamese dishes!
Hyatt Danang apartment, beach views, grounds, spa and food