Vietnam – Soggy Hoi An

[Editor’s note – I’m told that my embedded links aren’t working… I think I’ve corrected that so please let me know if you have trouble linking to the photos and references in today’s post]

Here it’s Tuesday December 13th – our birthday – so I call my twin sister Nancy across the international date line where my “Happy Birthday!” arrives on the 12th.  Are we still twins if our birthdays aren’t on the same day?  In this age of GPS, 24-hour news and instantaneous communications, time zones are an anachronism, and there’s a movement to abolish them in favor of Universal Time… makes sense to me, except it should be called “Earth Time”.  Sure, we West Coasters would have to get used to the idea that kids go to school at ~4PM, come home at midnight and dinner’s at 2AM.  But scheduling long distance calls and travels would be a lot easier, and Nancy and I would still be twins.

img_4834Mid morning we taxi into town for a cooking class with Vina – the singing chef.  She’s img_4865a tiny, flamboyant woman, quick to tease and smile it off.  Vina walks us through the market, sharing the sights and smells of the produce, and opining on how certain herbs can whiten teeth, reduce wrinkles, reduce blood pressure and ward off mosquitos.  We buy lemongrass, garlic, eggs, spring onion, turmeric powder, bean sprouts, mint, fish and chicken.  We didn’t buy the grubs.
Her Gioan Family Cookery School is just a few steps away, img_4868and she immediately hands us our personalized cookbook and sets us chopping, mixing and pounding ingredients.  We set up some marinades for the Chili Lemongrass Chicken and Beef grilled with Sesame Seed, then turn our attention to the 17-ingredient Hoi An Fried Rice and Country Pancake… which upon completion we wrap in rice paper and eat as a crunchy spring roll… delicious!

img_4919After lunch with Vina we dead-reckon our way to a sporting goods store where I pick up some swim goggles, then we return for some pool and down time.  I’m writing and researching when Ben calls me downstairs to a nice surprise – a beautiful birthday cake… we devour half and return to a lazy eve of reading and a few games of Exploding Kittens – perfect for boys.

Wednesday morning the weather holds, so using our downloaded Tripadvisor Destination Guide and Google Map, we bike north to the Cua Dai peninsula.  img_1955Just east of our hotel the lane is flooded so detour and find a dry paths to the beach.  The full moon is pulling waves high up to the shore, which is reinforced with large sandbags here and a cement breakwater further south… yeah, climate change is a hoax.   Our timing isn’t great, and the grey of the day makes the place feel a bit sad… with wet days here and in Krabi we’re glad our resort segments are just stopovers and not destination beach trips.  Hoping to catch a ferry across the Thu Bon river, we bike south along the peninsula and veer away from the big beachfront resorts east into the narrow side streets to catch local flavor.

img_4939Homes here are bungalow-sized, with common, mildewed cement walls supporting corrugated tin or thatched roofs.  Scooters and bikes share the alleys with a few thonged pedestrians, but it’s relaxed.  After a few dead-ends we find the boat launch, but it’s military and there’s no one willing to take us across the river, so we reverse course and bike along the breakwater.  To break up the ride we stop for a coke, and consider a local spa.  I find a route back through the tranquil rice paddies which proves to be a fun
adventure… children riding home from school offer friendly “Hello’s”; water buffalo smile at our passing and egrets take wing.  Back on our Villa’s lane the water’s a bit higher, but we can bike through it slowly without getting wet.  A little pool and chill time, and it’s time to venture back into town for dinner.

Uh oh… now the street in front of our Villa is totally flooded; the taxi won’t enter our lane, img_4941so we have to gingerly wade 100 yards upstream through a 6” river (which must now contain some sewage runoff) to the waiting taxi.  Good thing we have Crocs.  He can’t enter narrow old town, so there we walk towards our chosen restaurant… but the streets are now flooded and we decide that dining in a flooded restaurant can’t be a great idea.  A few Tripadvisor recommendations and menu checks later we settle on Baba’s Kitchen, and the samosas, pakora, masalas, tikka, curries and naan are fantastic… especially with a cold Tiger beer.

Leaving the restaurant, it’s now close to high tide, and there are literally children netting fish in the flooded street… we can only imagine that our Villa’s lane is now a canal.  The locals take it in stride, with many scooters paused at the waters’ edge, some braving the waters and throwing a low wake, a few stall.  Taxiing back home, even our driver is surprised by the water’s height; he has to reverse course at one point and find an alternative route to the end of our lane, where he abandons us to what is indeed now a canal.   Wading downstream through the dark, mucky water, we imagine the crocodiles and snakes laying in wait… but make it home safe and soggy, memories made.

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