It began with a funeral…

July 17, 2015

Our day began at the crack of dawn. We were awakened at 5:30 am by a funeral procession, complete with drums and bells/chimes. After acknowledging the procession on the streets below, we fell back asleep until breakfast time, around 7:30 am. We enjoyed the delicious banana pancakes and chocolate sauce accompanied by fresh passion fruit and pineapple.

After re-organizing our clean laundry (only $1.00 US per Kilo) and adding to our travel blog, we set out to explore more of Hoi An’s historic town.

Our first stop was the Covered Japanese Bridge, which connects the main walking and merchant streets. The Bridge is guarded by symbolic monkeys and has a small shrine and living quarters at the rear.

Our next stop was the Cam Pho Communal House. Archaeological excavations on this site have revealed many ceramic and wooden pieces that help us better understand how people lived and gathered in the past.

Our walk through the town and along the river was a very slow one as we were extremely warm in the +40 degree Celsius and high humidity weather. We were asked several times to come with the locals to their tailor shops to have clothes and shoes made for us. We politely declined. We were also hailed by several boat tour operators to join them on board for a river tour. To this we also politely declined.

Our attempt to see the Vietnamese Water Puppet presentation was unsuccessful as the performances on the day conflicted with our evening activities. Instead, we strolled through the food markets which sell raw fish right off of a plate held by the seller and all kinds of imitation clothing and bags. Calls of “Hello Madame” followed us everywhere. However, as we didn’t want to carry anything more with us, we also declined the offers to buy.

Our last historical ticket was used at the) Museum of Trade Ceramics. Here we learned of the preferred routes of travel over the centuries and the location of items coming from and going to Hoi An. We saw many ceramic pots, jugs and bowls recovered from archaeological sites (such as the Cam Pho Communal House) and ship wrecks along the coast and in the river. Amazingly the items from 300 years ago and earlier resemble the items available for sale in the shops across the street! Amazing how the simple and intricate designs are still popular today.

After a very long circle around the town, we crossed over the Covered Japanese Bridge again and made our way to a lovely open-aired but shaded patio restaurant. We sat, sipped tea and water and enjoyed some lovely food. This was our nice and easy (yet hot!) day in Hoi An.

Sean and his banana pancakes, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Sean and his banana pancakes, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Carolyn and her dragon fruit, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Carolyn and her passion fruit, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Bridge Protectors -Sean and Monkey, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Bridge Protectors -Sean and Monkey, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Carolyn is across the Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Carolyn is across the Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Purple Lotus Flower, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Purple Lotus Flower, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Gate into Cam Pho Communal House, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Gate into Cam Pho Communal House, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Courtyard of the Cam Pho Communal House, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Courtyard of the Cam Pho Communal House, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

The rare Vietnamese Tiger, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

The rare Vietnamese Tiger House Guardian, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Walk along the Thu Bon river, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Walk along the Thu Bon river, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Tourist Boats along the Thu Bon River, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Tourist Boats along the Thu Bon River, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Overview of some trade routes, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Overview of some trade routes, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Fancy a dish from the 15-16th Centuries?, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Fancy a dish from the 15-16th Centuries?, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Great Slogan :) ! Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Great Slogan 🙂 ! Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Inviting Patio, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Inviting Patio, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Incredibly delicious food, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Incredibly delicious food, Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Let's eat! Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Let’s eat…! Hoi An, July 17, 2015

...and drink! Hoi An, July 17, 2015

…and drink! Hoi An, July 17, 2015

Posted in Adventures, Animals, Art, Artisans, beauty, boats, Bridge, Cafe, Canadians, Ceramics, Cooking, Experiences, Fish, Flowers, Food, G Adventures, Gardens, Historic Sites, History, Hoi An, hotels, House, Living, Patio, plants, Restaurants, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO, Viet Nam, Vietnam, views, Walks, Water, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cycling through the Vietnamese Countryside

July 16, 2015

After our “smashing” lunch at Oodles of Noodles, our group headed out on another adventure. This time on bicycles lead by our expert G Adventures CEO (Chief Experience Officer), Nghinh!

We carefully navigated the roads in Hoi An and made our way out of the city and into the countryside. We rode between rice paddocks and through small villages. The breeze created by our pedaling kept us cool on the warm day of +37 degrees Celsius.

Our first stop was to view the rice fields. Our second stop was to help out a local farmer by watering her spring onions. Our third stop was extraordinary as we each had a little tour on the back of a water buffalo! Our fourth stop was a surprising ride in a basket boat and a chance to try crab fishing! Our fifth stop was a boat ride up the river and our final stop was back at the hotel! Such a fantastic way to spend an afternoon near Hoi An!

Ngihinh and Sean ready to ride!, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 15, 2015

Nghinh and Sean ready to ride!, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Bikes are adjusted and baskets loaded for our afternoon ride, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 15, 2015

Bikes are adjusted and baskets loaded for our afternoon ride, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Rice Fields, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 15, 2015

Rice Fields, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Carolyn admires the cattle, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 15, 2015

Carolyn admires the cattle, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Carolyn does chores, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 15, 2015

Carolyn does chores, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Sean's tour on a water buffalo, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Sean’s tour on a water buffalo, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Carolyn also gets a chance to ride, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Carolyn also gets a chance to ride, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Beautiful Countryside near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Beautiful Countryside near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Basket Boat rides, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Basket Boat rides, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Happy as Two Crabs in a basket boat, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Happy as Two Crabs in a basket boat, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Sean tries crab fishing, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Sean tries crab fishing, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Crabs in the bucket, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Crabs in the bucket, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

All aboard, including bikes!, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

All aboard, including bikes!, near Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Sunsets on another wonderful day in Viet Nam, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Sunsets on another wonderful day in Viet Nam, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 16, 2015

Posted in Adventures, Animals, beauty, bicycles, bikes, boats, Canadians, Experiences, Farms, Fish, Food, Friends, G Adventures, Gardens, Historic Sites, History, Hoi An, islands, Living, Noodles, plants, River, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized, Viet Nam, Vietnam, views, Water Buffalo, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Collection of Crafts, Vietnamese Bingo and Oodles of Noodles

July 15, 2015

Our first full day in Hoi An was divided between “own time” and “group time”.

On our “own time”, we returned to the Old Towne and used our city pass to visit 2 historic sites. We first visited the Hoi An Art and Craft workshop where we viewed leather crafting, calligraphy, painting, coconut crafts, lantern making and weaving. We had a guided explanation of silk collection, weaving and how to check it’s authenticity.

FYI: You can tell if a product labeled “100% Silk” is authentic by the smell it gives off when burned. If the product smells like wood it is cotton based. If it smells like plastic it is polyester based. However, if you burn a small piece of real silk it will smell like burnt hair.

Hoi An Craftwork Shop, July 15, 2015

Historic Site visit #1, Artcraft Workshop, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Coconut Monkey Mask, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Coconut Monkey Mask, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

History of silk production in Hoi An, July 15, 2015

History of silk production in Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Silk weaving looms, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Silk weaving looms, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Our second stop was the Hoi An House of Traditional Performing Arts. Here we arrived early to take front row seats for the 35 minute performance. We listened to traditional instruments and songs. We viewed traditional folktales interpreted by dancers. We even played a game of Vietnamese Bingo, where a song is sung and 3 times during the song a symbol is selected. Luckily, Sean’s symbol, Duong, was selected and he won a green and yellow Hoi An mini-lantern! What a great souvenir and a wonderful show.

Historic Site visit #2 - Performing Arts Centre, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Historic Site visit #2 – Performing Arts Centre, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Musicians set up for the cultural show, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Musicians set up for the cultural show, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Old man is taught how to catch fish by young girls, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Old man is taught how to catch fish by young girls, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Bingo Cards - Sean's Duong and Carolyn's Goi, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Bingo Cards – Sean’s Duong and Carolyn’s Goi, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Duong is selected! Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Duong is selected! Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Sean's Lantern Win!, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Sean’s Lantern Win!, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Ceramic Pot Dance, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Ceramic Pot Dance, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Our “group time” began mid-day as we gathered at a nearby restaurant for a noodle-making demonstration. We were introduced to the Streets organisation which provides schooling and support for disadvantaged Vietnamese young people. They are trained in the hospitality industry as chefs and waiters and are assisted in job placements after completing their training. As such, our noodle instructors were students currently in the program.

During our Oodles of Noodles workshop, we learned about 5 different types of Vietnamese noodles and then tried making some. We really enjoyed the “Noodle Smash” appetizer and eating the noodles we made ourselves! Yummy!

Entering Oodles of Noodles, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Entering Oodles of Noodles, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Types of Noodles, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Types of Noodles, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Ready chef! Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Ready chef! Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Using one noodle to make another noodle, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Using one noodle to make another noodle, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Carolyn's rice noodle on banana leaf, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Carolyn’s rice noodle on banana leaf, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Noodle Smash, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Noodle Smash, Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Delicious reward! Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Delicious reward! Hoi An, July 15, 2015

Posted in Adventures, Art, Artisans, Arts, Canadians, Cooking, Experiences, Food, G Adventures, Historic Sites, History, Hoi An, Lanterns, Living, Music, Noodles, Performance, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO, Viet Nam, Vietnam, Walks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Heading to Hoi An – City of Lanterns

July 14, 2015

Today we left the fertile rice fields of the North to cross over the mountains and explore how the rice grows in South Vietnam.

We viewed the topography of Vietnam change as we headed south. We enjoyed a rest stop at Lang Co beach, took photos at Hai Van pass over-looking the North-South divide, and were excited to see the familiar scooter traffic jams of Da Nang on our way through the busy city.

Arriving in Hoi An is such a treat. While the area around the city is building up, the centre of the commercial district remains traditional and ancient. This is because the “Ancient Town” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon entering the Ancient Town we were dazzled by the lanterns and lights, smells of the local restaurants and the music of instruments and people.

Bus ride south, July 14, 2015

Bus ride south, July 14, 2015

Changing countryside, July 14, 2015

Changing countryside, July 14, 2015

Where the ocean meets the mountains, July 14, 2015

Big mountains, big lake, July 14, 2015

Where the ocean meets the mountains, July 14, 2015

Where the ocean meets the mountains, July 14, 2015

Gate monitoring travel between North and South Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Gate monitoring travel between North and South Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Sean and Carolyn take in the view, July 14, 2015

Sean and Carolyn take in the view, July 14, 2015

Golden Dragon Bridge, Da Nong, Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Golden Dragon Bridge, Da Nang, Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Welcome to Hoi An, Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Welcome to Hoi An, Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Lantern lit streets of Hoi An, Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Lantern lit streets of Hoi An, Vietnam, July 14, 2015

Posted in Adventures, Bay, Beaches, beauty, Bus, Canadians, Da Nang, dragons, Driving, Experiences, G Adventures, Historic Sites, History, Hoi An, Lakes, Lanterns, Markets, Motorcycles, Mountains, Night, Road Trip, Scooters, Shopping, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO, Viet Nam, Vietnam, views, Walks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Foot-stepping in the Forbidden Palace

July 15, 2015

Today’s adventures took us back in time. As we made our way past fruit vendors, still wearing traditional conical hats, using carts and carrying baskets, we were amazed with the size and grandeur of the Imperial Forbidden Palace in Hue, Viet Nam.

Our local guide provided us with heaps of history as we entered via the South Gate and toured around the massive enclosure to visit the shrine to former emperors, the Emperor’s Mother’s palace and the Emperor’s palace. Much of this site was severely damaged during the war in the 1960s-70s, which the Vietnamese refer to as the “American War.” However, restoration work is being done and what is currently available for display is stunning!

Fruit Seller carrying a don gahn (shoulder pole with two hanging baskets), Hue, July 15, 2015

Fruit Seller carrying a don gahn (shoulder pole with two hanging baskets), Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

South Gate of the Imperial Forbidden City, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

South Gate of the Imperial Forbidden City, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Feeding Coi Fish in the palace moat, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Feeding Coi Fish in the palace moat, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Emperor's Mother's Palace, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Emperor’s Mother’s Palace, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Nose to nose with the Imperial Dragon brings Sean good luck, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Nose to nose with the Imperial Dragon brings Sean good luck, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Might walls protecting the Forbidden City, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Might walls protecting the Forbidden City, Hue, Viet Nam, July 15, 2015

Posted in Adventures, Canadians, dragons, emperor, Experiences, Fish, Forbidden City, Fortress, G Adventures, History, Hue, Living, Markets, Palace, Travel, Uncategorized, Viet Nam, Vietnam, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Holding On in Hue

July 14, 2015

Our Night Train experience ended in the city of Hue as we were dropped off, track side (not even on the platform!). Our bus met us and transported us to our hotel. However, due to our early arrival, we were not allowed to check into our rooms. Instead, we were taken on a motor cycle tour in and out of the city!

After selecting a key chain from out of a hat, we met our motorcycle guide for the day. As many of our drivers had limited English, we just had to hold on and figure it out as we sped through traffic and down narrow winding streets. The breeze created by being on the scooters was a great relief as the sun and heat climbed.

Our first stop was a historic bridge and open market. It felt like stepping back in time as children ran around, ladies chopped raw meat and carried live chickens around for sale, while the men snoozed in the shade. We had hoped to have our fortunes read on the ancient bridge but the fortune teller who speaks a little English was ill that day.

Back on the bikes, we negotiated the rural roads until some construction blocked our path. So it was a detour through the nearby rice fields which opened our eyes to the beauty of the Viet Nam countryside. Our scooter gang enjoyed a quick stop at a duck farm and learned about the Cassava plant before driving to a hat makers workshop.

We were greeted at the home of a lovely lady who had lost part of her right arm as a child due to a clay mine explosion. However, she learned how to create and sew the conical Vietnamese hats worn by rural and rice field workers. She demostrated her technique of placing newspaper cut outs between the layers of palm leaves to create a shadow image inside of the hats. While the large hats were lovely and practical we instead purchased smaller decorative hats to fit better inside our backpacks.

Our next stop on our scooter tour was the Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. The lavish gardens and monument helped to inform us about traditions and history. We learned so much about the life and work of the Vietnamese Emperor and those around him.

Our lunch stop was very unique. We were seated at a long table inside a Pagoda. Our dining room was adjacent to the monks meditation chamber. We sat very quietly and enjoyed a vegetarian meal while listening to the rhythmic chanting of the monks. Very special!

Our motor cycle guides then raced up up the hill to take in a gorgeous view of the Perfume River. Passing through a pine forest we momentarily felt like we were back in Canada. We posed for group photos and then raced down the path to an incense shop. Carolyn got to try incense stacking after a short demonstration.

We then drove back down the hill , with a brief stop at a former Tiger arena, to meet our awaiting dragon boat on the Perfume River. It took us across the water to visit another temple and pagoda. We marvelled at the beautiful construction of the monuments and the sounds of the monks praying.

Our walk led us back to the dragon boat and across the river to our awaiting motorcycle drivers. It was a short but terribly exciting ride back as we hit afternoon traffic and held on tight to get around all of the oncoming scooters and buses! We thanked our scooter drivers and bid them farewell.

We checked into our hotel room and then relaxed in the open-air swimming pool. Our evening dinner was hosted at a French-Western restaurant near the hotel. What an introduction to Hue, Viet Nam!

Exiting the Night Train in Hue, July 14, 2015

Exiting the Night Train in Hue, July 14, 2015

Picking our motorcycle/scooter driver,Hue, July 14, 2015

Picking our motorcycle/scooter driver,Hue, July 14, 2015

Ready to Ride! Hue, July 14, 2015

Ready to Ride! Hue, July 14, 2015

Carolyn holds on in Hue, July 14, 2015

Carolyn holds on in Hue, July 14, 2015

Historic Bridge, outside Hue, July 14, 2015

Historic Bridge, outside Hue, July 14, 2015

Detour through the rice fields, July 14, 2015

Detour through the rice fields, July 14, 2015

Duck Farm, July 14, 2015

Duck Farm, July 14, 2015

Conical Hat making demonstration, July 14, 2015

Conical Hat making demonstration, July 14, 2015

Sean and the Emperor's Elephant, July 14, 2015

Sean and the Emperor’s Elephant, July 14, 2015

Lunch on offer at the Pagoda, July 14, 2015

Lunch on offer at the Pagoda, July 14, 2015

Carolyn and Sean overlooking the Perfume River, July 14, 2015

Carolyn and Sean overlooking the Perfume River, July 14, 2015

Incense Store, July 14, 2015

Incense Store, July 14, 2015

Tiger Arena, July 14, 2015

Tiger Arena, July 14, 2015

Dragon Boat, July 14, 2015

Dragon Boat, July 14, 2015

Monument at a pagoda, July 14, 2015

Monument at a pagoda, July 14, 2015

Cooling off after a busy day, July 14, 2015

Cooling off after a busy day, July 14, 2015

Posted in Adventures, Art, Artisans, beauty, Birds, boats, Canadians, dragons, Driving, Experiences, G Adventures, Hue, Living, Markets, Motorcycles, Pagoda, Parks, Restaurants, River, Road Trip, Scooters, small towns, Travel, Uncategorized, Viet Nam, Vietnam, views, Walks, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

No Double Doubles here but the Egg Coffee is delicious!

July 13, 2015

After bidding farewell to Ha Long Bay, our bus made the return journey to Ha Noi. As we had a few hours before our next departure, our G Adventure guide Nghinh took us on a quick walk around the area near our hotel. He pointed out restaurants that served good food to take away. He also lead us to the famous Egg Coffee Cafe, Giang. Of course we had to try the famous coffee and it was surprisingly delicious! It tasted like strong coffee with a top layer of melty-marshmallow. Yummy! While the true recipe is a secret, here is a link to a version of Vietnamese Egg Coffee.

After Egg Coffee, we walked through the busy and bustling streets to locate a grocery store. Most of the time we had to walk on the road in traffic as the sidewalks are reserved for scooter storage! We did a decent shop in the air-conditioned supermarket, picking up supplies of water, food and toilet paper!

After returning to the hotel to re-packing our cooler bag and backpacks, Carolyn picked up some local Pho and a cup of tea to go. Then it was off to the train station!

One of our enduring experiences in Viet Nam was our ride aboard the Night Train from Ha Noi to Hue. We were set into cabins of 4 with bunk beds. It was like a sleep-over party! After settling in, we negotiated our way through several carriages up to the dining car where Carolyn was brave enough to try boiled ducks egg and a local plum fruit.

Our company aboard the Night Train was wonderful but our sleep was less so. The bunk bed was much too short for Sean and Carolyn woke up every time the train stopped to drop off passengers. However, it was a very memorable experience!

Cafe Gihng, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Cafe Giang, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Egg Coffee, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Egg Coffee, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Supermarket Shopping, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Supermarket Shopping, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Train Station, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Train Station, Ha Noi, July 13, 2015

Night Train Roomates, July 13, 2015

Night Train Roomates, July 13, 2015

Dining Car, July 13, 2015

Dining Car, July 13, 2015

Sleep tight Sean, July 13, 2015

Sleep tight Sean, July 13, 2015

Posted in Adventures, Cafe, Canadians, Experiences, Food, Friends, G Adventures, Ha Noi, Hanoi, Night, Restaurants, Road Trip, Scooters, Shopping, Train, Travel, Uncategorized, Viet Nam, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment