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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Vietnam | Mui Ne & Hoi An

Mui Ne & Journey Northbound to Hoi An

Jan. 19 & 20, 2010

We enjoyed our day at the beach in Mui Ne, until the second day when it rained. It's funny being in a beach town on a rainy day because all the tourists look a little depressed. We were planning on going to the Sand dunes that day but due to the continuous rain we decided to just start our journey northward earlier than we had planned. We decided to take an overnight train because the trip up to Hoi An would be about 14+ hours on either the train or the bus; and the train would be a bit more comfortable and left at more convenient times. We boarded the No. 1 Bus to Phan Thiet and accidentally got off too early. However, we had a very helpful Vietnamese man that stood with us at the bus stop in the rain to make sure that we got the right bus to the train station.

We got to the bus station to then transfer to the next bus to the train station in Muong Man. As we boarded the bus to the train station it was only us and the locals and they tried to communicate with us. We communicated through broken Vietnamese words in the Lonely Planet Vietnam guide and when they found out we were going to the train station they thought that it was pretty funny, so we didn't know what to expect. However, everything turned out alright and the train was decent. When we tried to order our tickets we found out that the next train was going to arrive and depart in about 10 minutes. We had been planning on getting some food, so we made a mad dash to the little shop nearby and lined-up to board the train just in time. For two tickets the cost was about $1 million VD, which had been our most expensive form of transportation so far (besides plane tickets); but when you think about it $30 for a 14 hour train trip with hard sleeping beds is not bad at all. ;-)

While riding the train we shared a hard sleeper compartment with Sara and Michal, who were traveling with us. We tried to be locals and even ordered some of the food service from the train since we didn't have time to get a lot beforehand. The train ride gave us some good views of the landscape though. We saw several rice fields and some foothill mountains in the background.

We had boarded the train at 3:45 p.m. and arrived in our destination of Da Nang at 5:30 a.m. However, the time table on the train said we were scheduled to arrive at 4:20 a.m. so we had set our alarms for 4:00 a.m. so we wouldn't miss our stop; really we wish we could have gotten an extra hour of sleep. We were able to catch the first bus from Da Nang to Hoi An for 50,000 VD at around 6 a.m. and our bus driver was going full force in order to get all the workers and students to their destinations. He was constantly laying on the horn, just like all the rest of the drivers, but his horn had this annoying squeak that was not pleasant to the ear that early in the morning. He did have to slow down though when we passed a huge accident on the main road. A mini-bus had a crushed front end and windshield, while a motor bike was lying on the road with a pool of blood and the sandals scattered a few meters from there. Although we didn't see the victim, it looked bad. When we got to the bus station in Hoi An we didn't know how far our hotel was, so we decided to take a motorbike to get there...a little ironic after we just saw that accident. However, we got safely to our hotel with each of us on the back of the motorbike, hanging on with our backpacks strapped to our back and a helmet on the head. Because of the extra weight in the backpack, we had to lean forward especially as we were turning the curves.

Hoi An Hostel

We settled into our hostel room and rested a bit since we had an early morning. However, because there was a tropical depression moving through the southern part of Vietnam it was still raining, and continued to do so throughout most of the day. We headed out later to eat at a cafe that offered a variety of Hoi An specialty food so that we could try some of the local cuisine. We tried some Cao Lau (which is noodles, pork and rice croutons), wontons, rice pancakes wrapped in a spring roll, Hoi An spring fried rolls and some bread with meat on top. It was really good and we especially liked the Cao Lau.

Exploring Hoi An

Hoi An is a really unique and fun town. Most of the area is within walking distance and the town has a very distinct European feel to it. Many of the little alleys reminded me of places in eastern France or Italy. In the past, there were several influences from the Japanese, French and even Chinese. So you have about four cultures mixed into one! Also on almost every building there are Chinese lanterns hanging up, which makes a spectacular view at night when they are all lit up.

Tailored Clothes in Hoi An

Hoi An is also known for its tailors. In fact, almost all the streets are lined with different shops trying to get foreigners to purchase tailored goods, especially suits for men. I wanted to get a couple of things made, so we headed into the Tuong shop, which was recommended by our waitress at lunch. Alex was just sitting as I was looking at the different clothes and the other salesperson approached him and started asking him if he needed a suit. He resisted at first, but she had him start looking at catalogs and he was slowly convinced to get one.

I picked out a pair of capri pants, a skirt and a spring jacket and Alex got a full navy pinstriped suit and dress shirt. They measured us from all angles and then the negotiating of the price began. It took about 30 minutes for us to finally come to a price that we could agree upon -- we settled for $70 for Alex's suit and then $82 for the other four items. They didn't seem to be happy with the price that we settled on, but we felt like we got a good deal. We just had to return the next day around 11 a.m. to try on the clothes! I have to admit that they were really good sales people and that they followed the selling process to a tee - they even closed the same way she did when she sold books by having people start helping you by filling out the order form! The Vietnamese are superb salesmen and women. I was also impressed with how quickly they could have the items made, especially since it always took me about 4 weeks to sew my outfits when I was in 4-H

Hoi An Old Town

For the rest of the afternoon we did a walking tour of the Old Town area, which has several museums, assembly halls, and a Japanese bridge. We were just happy that we had our rain jackets because it rained off-and-on for the whole afternoon.

We also looked at some cultural aspects in some of the museums, as there is a lot of handicrafts done here. They make silk, wooden masks, Chinese lanterns and a variety of other goods.

We had dinner at a restaurant located along the riverfront, which was selling draft beer for 3000 VD per glass -- that's less than $.25 per glass for their local brew! But Alex wasn't too happy with the taste of the cheaper beer and decided you have to pay at least 10,000 VD for a decent beer.

Bike Ride Around Hoi An

Jan. 21, 2010

It was sunny again today - thank goodness! So we rented some bicycles for 20,000 VD per bike (a little more than $1 per bike) and went for a bike ride around the area. We headed to the beach first and sat and relaxed with some friends. Alex decided to head into the water, but I didn't have my swimming suit so I just chilled on the beach; however, it was a little too chilly for my tastes anyway.

We headed back to town to do our fittings and all the clothes looked great! Alex's suit looks especially sharp and fit him perfectly! Afterward, we sent them off at the post office so we wouldn't have to carry them with us for the rest of the trip and then headed for a bike ride on the other side of town. The bike ride was great and we saw several workers out in the rice fields working hard. We tried to take several photos but even the photos can't capture how green and beautiful everything is!

Hoi An Specialty Foods

For dinner we stopped at this area where they had several food vendors that take turns serving the different types of Hoi An specialty food. We were seated at Miss Tien's table and we ordered some fried wontons, Cao Lau, and Com Ga (chicken rice). The fried wontons were amazing though! They had pineapple pieces, onions, tomatoes and shrimp and it was super tasty! We also ordered some of the 4,000 VD draft beers, which tasted a little better than the previous night. We were so full after our amazing dinner, but it was probably one of the top Vietnamese meals that we have had here thus far!

Routine Power Outages

Every day we have been in Vietnam the electricity has gone out in our hostel. Today the electricity didn't go out, but as we were walking through the streets home from dinner the electricity was out for one full block. This seems to be pretty normal for the Vietnamese and we think it is because their electric circuits get too full since they have not been adjusted for all the electronics in this day and age.

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