Just a 45 minute drive from Da Nang we check into the Muca Boutique Resort & Spa for 5 days to explore Hoi An. A delightful, beautifully preserved historic town which should be on everyone’s list when visiting Vietnam. The centre of the town is free of traffic, and although it has a very commercial, touristy feel to it, the town seems to maintain its charm.
The Muca resort was about 10 minutes out of town but provided a free shuttle service for guests which we used everyday. The breakfasts were tasty and plentiful and the staff very helpful. We had a free spa session (for both of us) each day included with our hotel room which was very welcome. During our stay we had different massages and scrub downs, all of which were professionally performed.
One particular day we had been dropped off in the wrong location by a taxi driver (we were looking for a particular Australian Coffee shop as we were desperate for a good coffee). Whilst we stood on the side of the road planning our next move a very friendly young man from the shop adjacent to where we were standing, asked if we needed assistance. Upon realising our predicament, he immediately called us another taxi. Whilst we were waiting for the taxi to arrive he told us that the shop was his wife’s and he ran a cooking class. Handing us a leaflet for the cooking class (Sabirama Cooking Class) he just said – have a look and if it is something you would like to do, call me. No hard sell, no persuasion, no self-promotion.
As chance would have it we had been considering a cooking class anyway, and not out of any obligation for his help, we decided to arrange a class for the next day. We were picked up the next morning from our hotel by a lovely young lady who spoke excellent English. She took us to the local market and explained some of the produce that was being sold before taking us for a boat ride. The boat ride lasted about 45 minutes, and we were met at the disembarkation by an ox and cart. A very pleasant ride through some local village brought us to the cooking class venue.
We felt like royalty as we were handed fresh juice and sat down for a foot massage in scented water. All very relaxing and unexpected for a cooking class. With clean feet and lots of enthusiasm we followed along with the chef and two young girls who were there to . . . well I don’t know why they were there. After each dish was cooked we sat down to eat it, and it wasn’t very long before we were completely stuffed. We made several dishes including banh xeo (a kind of crispy pancake with pork and prawns), and our own rice paper. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience.
We had an opportunity to chat to the young man who had helped us yesterday before being chauffeured back to our hotel.
We were fortunate enough to be in Hoi An during the Full Moon Lantern festival. All along the river you will see locals selling paper lantern boxes containing a tea light, which you can then lower down into the river and watch it float away. The streets around the river were very crowded (more so than a normal evening). We sought refuge from the crowds in a local café bar where we could still see the evenings activities through the open shutters.
Vision Impaired Traveller?
Hoi An is not an easy place to navigate if you have a visual impairment. It is always very crowded, particularly at night, and although the main area for tourist shops and restaurants is fairly well lit, the backstreets and down by the river are not. On the evening of the lantern festival it was shoulder to shoulder in the town centre. Thank goodness I had my wife to guide me.
In a lot of Asian countries you will see the small children selling their wares to the tourists. Their parents surely know how sales levels increase when a cute child is trying to make the sale. Whilst sat in our café watching the Hoi An hordes squeezing through the narrow streets, we were approached by a little girl about 10 years of age. She seemed to be alone, but I’m sure an adult would have been close by to collect any money from her. To emphasise my point of children being used to sell to tourists, she placed several pieces of ‘touristy junk’ on our table and started quoting prices. I told her we didn’t want anything several times but she wasn’t going to listen – obviously well trained. After a few minutes she asked where we were from, and like a fish on the end of a line she started to reel me in. “Oh Australia, I love Australia she said. Sydney, Melbourne, Kangaroo, Koala, I love Australia!” I was starting to give in, and pointed to some fridge magnets of Vietnamese farmers – how much? She said something like $10! I said no, way too much and waved her away. She stayed put, had a very thoughtful look on her face and said, mmm ok it is happy hour now I give to you for $5.
I couldn’t contain my laughter anymore, she had entertained us more than the lantern festival outside. I give her the equivalent of $5 and pocketed my fridge magnets. When leaving Vietnam I saw those exact same fridge magnets at the airport (the most expensive place to buy anything) for around 50 cents. Lesson learned, well probably not.