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Running away from Home

I can't wait for the Tran Family mini-mall

VIETNAM | Monday, 12 April 2010 | Views [352]

The overnight bus trip to Hoi An was much better than the one to Nha Trang. No movies, no music, no card games. They turned all of the lights out and told us that they would wake us when we got there. There wasn’t much that I had wanted to see in Nha Trang. So if I had to choose a place to be ill during my Vietnam tour, it would have been there. The coastal town is a good place to go if you are into water sports, relaxing on the beach, or scuba diving. Hoi An is more for history buffs and foodies like myself. I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep, but when we reached our destination, I hit the ground running.

The old quarter of Hoi An is another world heritage site so a tourist has to pay about USD5 to have a closer look at some of the buildings. The architecture is predominantly French colonial, but the Japanese and Chinese have also left their mark. I visited a Japanese covered bridge and a Cantonese assembly hall. I mixed it up with a few museums about local history and folklore being very careful not to get too close to anything for fear I may sweat on it. I ended up at the Tran Family Chapel where they paid respects to their ancestors. I got a personal tour by a member of the Tran family and she pointed out the features of the building that were Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese in style. We then moved on to the Tran family souvenir shop where she told me that I could purchase items or just look “for pleasure”. She didn’t attempt the hard sell and she was quick to point me in the direction of the exit. I think she just didn’t want me to sweat on anything.

It took a half hour of walking to decide on the restaurant where I would get my first taste of Hoi An cuisine. Two things this town has in abundance are tailor shops and restaurants touting the local specialties. I had heard about the clothes shops where you can get a complete outfit made and fit to you for about $20, and the idea is very tempting. Considering my financial position as well as the weight of my pack, it’s just going to have to wait until next time. I chose a place called the Re-Treat, and I ordered Cao Lau and fish that has been wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. Cao Lau is a rice noodle dish with barbequed pork , local herbs and greens, and a topping of fried noodles. They went a bit heavy with the salt and pepper on the pork, but otherwise it was very tasty. And what would any Asian dish be without that long black hair in it. This is becoming a tradition. These folks stay covered from head to toe in the sun and they can’t put on a hairnet in the kitchen? The fish was more to my liking. They had seasoned it with a full-dose of minced garlic and the banana leaf had allowed for the blending of flavors as well as retained the moisture.

I spent the afternoon reading, relaxing and re-hydrating, and as the sun was setting, I re-emerged from my hidey-hole to take pictures in the fading light. I strolled along the riverside while little women in conical hats touted evening boat rides. The restaurants had started seating for dinner and hostesses were calling me over to have a look at the menu. I ended up at the local market looking for a decent price on pineapple and bananas for a light dinner of fruit and yogurt. Fortunately there was a glut on the market and I could pretty much name my price. I was still fair, even though I know that if the tables were turned, they wouldn’t be.

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