Our first port in Vietnam was Da Nang. I’ve sort of lost track of what the original plan was – it didn’t include a stop in Da Nang – but it did include a visit to the town of Hoi An. The plan was to visit the town and go to a cooking school.
The two days at sea to get to Vietnam were rather bumpy, so Wilf decided he didn’t need a bus ride and stayed on board while I joined the excursion.
Once upon a time Hoi An was a major port for Southeast Asia. Chinese and Japanese traders set up residence and this was one of the towns where East met West to do business. Eventually, however, the port silted up, business shifted to Da Namg and Hoi An became a riverside backwater. This fact saved it from being bombed during the Vietnam war and now it is a major tourist destination.
Amongst all the tourist tat there are some beautiful old building – old merchant houses, meeting houses and temples. The historic part of the town is closed to cars in the middle of the day. Nothing to be done about the motorbikes, though.
Our first stop was the central market, which is the food supply for the town. At first it was all fruit and veg.
Soon enough we came to the meat and fish area. There was a bit of horrified muttering in our group ‘no refrigeration! What about the heat?’ I would say – do you smell anything? Nope. All of this stuff was alive a few hours ago and it will all be sold within hours.
This tour was happening on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Wilf and I came back to Hoi An. We went to the market about 2.5 hours later tha my previous visit. And the fish was all sold and the meat vendors were also packing up. Everything all ship shape and proper. After some of the fish and meat markets we’ve been in in other parts of the world (I’m looking at you, Durban.) this was a wonder of cleanliness.
Normally the town is full of tourists. We happened to be there on a rare rainy day, which thinned things out considerably. It did make for a session of swimming up stream like salmon in the teeming rain.
The cooking school was on the third floor of a building – Chinese restaurant on the second floor, street food market on the first. They were all ready for us in a very slick teaching set up.
We made spring rolls, barbecue chicken thighs, crispy pancakes and green mango salad. It was all delicious!
Everything was so delicious that on the following day we came back. The ship moved from Da Nang to Chan May. We took an excursion from the ship that took us to Hoi An and left us to our own devices for the afternoon, then took us back to the ship. Being us, you know what we did!
Yep – lunch and local beer. The ground floor of this restaurant has a central seating area and little stalls arranged all around the edges where all different types of food were being made.
We ordered by saying yes to the dumplings, checking out the lady at the next table and her interesting banana leaf packages and generally ‘bring all the food’.
By the way – yesterday I was rocking the ‘doused by a bucket of water’ look courtesy of the rain. Today I was working that shiny look only high heat and high humidity could bring…..
Once fed we explored the town a bit. There are several very old temples and merchant houses to visit. Being next to the river flooding is an issue. This merchant house is right beside the river. There are markers inside to show how high the water has been. There is an attic area and all the furniture can be hauled up if there is enough warning. The enormous teak pillars that support the house stand on marble pads. In the picture below you can see almost at the top the marker for the 1964 flood, which was devastating…
This area is also famous for its marble production,and families have been in the business for generations. No bus trip is complete without a stop. I’ll leave you with a selection of items that they would have been happy to ship to us…