Viet Nam Map
Viet Nam
Welcome to Da Nang!
A Delicious Site!
Get in my Belly!
Breakfast Cooked to Order
Rose Petals in the Bathroom
Hectic Streets of Hoi An
Japanese Covered Bridge
Bridge From the Side
Fabric Everywhere!
The Hoi An Cloth Market

Beautiful Dresses
Tailored to perfection!

I am Man!
My adopted look. Fresh, no?
The kid in this photo was hilarious.

Vietnam 2006
Part 3: Paradise and Everything Nice (11/24/2006 – 11/29/2006)

And finally, just in time for me to go off on another adventure, here is the last entry in my Vietnam write-up! The first and second entries are below. For a visual tour of my trip, visit my flickr stream or watch the YouTube videos (here, here and here ). There was a really funny video that Jon shot of an old man singing at a Bia Hoi, but I’m not sure when we’ll get that video posted…

The previous episode had us sweating it out in Buon Ma Thuot in the Central Highlands, riding elephants, being bombarded with propaganda and avoiding eating some gnarly Forest Animals. We all agreed that the Central Highlands, while very interesting, was the low-point of the trip. That actually made the final leg of the trip in Hoi An even more splendid than it otherwise would have been.

Hoi An

We left Buon Ma Thuot aboard a small little twin prop plane and landed an hour later in Da Nang, where we were met by our driver and taken down the coast to the town of Hoi An. The town itself has been there for centuries. It’s been a trading post since at least the 16th century and in 1999 was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO. I’ll spare you an historical sketch of the city. If you are curious, read the Wikipedia entry on Hoi An.

Our driver navigated the hectic streets of Hoi An and pulled up in front of a hotel that was so beautiful, I was certain we were in the wrong place. The hotel itself was built during the colonial period, so the architecture was very reminiscent of the French style. The lawn was manicured and cut by hand (no mower, just a guy with sheers, crouching and cutting, all day).  There was a large main house, and along one side there were the suites where Jon, Darrell, David, Rebecca and I stayed. Luke, who is the cheapest man I’ve ever met, managed to get a room inside the main house. To his credit, Luke paid pennies on the dollar to what we paid, and his room wasn’t half bad.

When we stepped out of the van, our luggage was taken straight away and we were directed by the hotel manager (who was wearing beautiful traditional Vietnamese dress, like most the young women in Hoi An) to a table set and prepared for our arrival. Some snacks were already laid out, and we nibbled and ordered drinks. I can’t possibly express how great this was! Everything in Buon Ma Thuot was just a little off, but here we had all the luxuries we could ever want.

Our First Meal

The beer was ice cold, the mixed drinks were perfectly prepared, and when the food started coming out, it was as though we were in an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Divine, I say!

I don’t recall all the dishes in that first meal, but I do remember the shrimp salad (called banana salad, I think). It was a side dish (on the right in the second meal photograph), but it was so tasty I ordered it at every meal afterward. When we finished that meal, we were led to our rooms, which were equally wonderful. Rose petals adorned the sheets and bathroom, the AC was crisp and cool, and the fridge was stocked with water, beer and snacks. We all took a rest and met up to walk the town.

Walking Hoi An

The town of Hoi An is very small, so walking it was easy. I had heard that it was possible to have clothes tailored here, but I was totally unprepared for how big an industry tailoring was. Nearly every shop was a tailor, and one could have any thing they imagined tailored from the most lovely fabrics available. I went kind of crazy having clothes made. I think the only person who had more stuff made than me was Rebecca. My travel mates were calling me a big girl (among other things I won’t repeat here) by the end of the week. I think they were just jealous.

I actually only had a few things made for myself: four shirts, two suits, two pairs of pants, and a couple of short sleeve shirts. I also had a few dresses made for my adorable girlfriend, which she’ll be wearing in the Bahamas in just a few days. Probably the coolest thing anyone bought were the pair of shoes that Jon bought. I wish I had pictures. They were multi-colored Pumas (or Nikes?), where each stripe was a different color. Bad ass…

The Beach

When we exhausted ourselves at the tailor shops, we all hopped on our scooters and headed down to the beach to relax, joke with the people who sell stuff on the beach, swim in the wonderful South China Sea, and drink copious amounts of beer. The beach was it’s own experience altogether. I wish I had more photos of all the people there. There are these people that walk the particular stretch of beach that we used, selling everything from pedicures to trinkets to fruit and snacks. It sounds like they might be annoying, but they were actually very funny and entertaining. Some were old women who spoke no English and would try to guilt you into buying something by just being enormously cute and old. They would sit next to you and plead with you until you bought something. Others were young, fluent in English, and had adopted some very funny phrases and jokes. They would joke and cajole, leave you alone and return an hour later until you finally caved and bought something.

For some reason we attracted many of these folks, so they would eventually give up the act, sit down next to us and just hang out. Rebecca usually had about 5 women working on different parts of her – massage, manicure, pedicure, trinkets for her friends, fruit, beer, etc. She was a big hit. Luke somehow got the nickname “Man” which is actually quit fitting and stuck with him (unbeknownst to him, apparently). I didn’t get a nickname, but the kids were fascinated by my tattoos (as usual), and would touch and caress them. It seems like that would be uncomfortable or rude, but it was fine. The physicality of these Vietnamese was comforting somehow.

In brief, our days in Hoi An were rich and relaxing and completely awesome. It was a great way to round out the trip. I’m a little hesitant to even write about how great that town is, because I want to keep it secret. Fortunately there aren’t too many readers passing by here!

My impressions of Vietnam generally: The food is amazing. The architecture is beautiful. The poverty is sad and striking. The people are so kind, curious, beautiful, and fierce. I still can’t believe that the US would ever want to or try to control this country. They should have learned from the French and the Chinese and all the other people who tried and failed to control the Vietnamese. They are fiercely independent and resourceful.

If I had another 3 weeks to keep traveling through the country, I would have followed the coast Southward through Nha Trang and the other famous beaches there. I’d then head to Pho Quoc, dive and relax in the Gulf of Thailand. Maybe next year! In the mean time, I’m off to the Bahamas on Friday, so check back in in a couple of weeks for more pix and stories!