After a full day of travel and sightseeing yesterday, we arrived at our hotel in Hue. Along the way, the streets were filled with a myriad of lights, like Las Vegas. This time of the year that the country celebrates the reunification of North and South Vietnam after the Vietnam War. It starts now and ends at the end of April. There are Vietnamese flags everywhere showing solidarity.
We finally arrived at the hotel, which sadly was far below Smartours normal standards. The rooms were small, with few electrical plugs, and beds that rival older Mexican hotels, like concrete slabs. After our disappointment, we made our way to the hotel restaurant for a fixed menu eight-course meal. It looked impressive, but after our big lunch, most of us were just too full to eat much. Still, it was an enjoyable time together.
After dinner, it was still, fairly early, however, the room had a huge bathtub and lots of hot water. I took advantage of this opportunity and enjoyed a relaxing bath, which was a wonderful treat.
Breakfast in the morning was okay (not spectacular) as we checked out to proceed to Danang. We made a quick stop at the airport on the way because one man in our group left his iPad on the plane from Saigon. He, along with most of us, was convinced that it was lost forever. But low and behold, it was in the airport lost and found. In almost any other country, it would have disappeared. We all clapped when he returned with Kit, our guide.
Next, there was a mountain range to traverse, either through a tunnel underneath or over the pass. We went over the pass, climbing to almost 5,000′, hoping to see the beautiful vistas. Unfortunately, the cloud cover was too low and thick to see much below from the pinnacle of the pass. And the number of motorcycles, trucks and buses made it almost impossible to stop, even if we wanted to.
Off we continued to Danang City. With its two million inhabitants, it is Vietnam’s third largest city, after Saigon with ten million and Hanoi with another seven and a half million. The amount of construction happening is breathtaking. There are condos and resorts going up everywhere. Over fifty years ago, Jim spent two weeks at China Beach, an American R&R facility, waiting for his ship. He was curious to see if and how it changed. The former facility is now home to many upscale resorts, with more being built. There are some vestiges of the war, including some of the hangars but they have been re-purposed. The beaches were very nice fifty years ago, on the edge of a huge mangrove jungle and now, they are becoming a destination for wealthy Chinese and Europeans to enjoy.
Time for lunch. We went to a gourmet Vietnamese seafood restaurant for lunch to taste yet another sampling of food from this area. This was included with our tour, which takes the guessing out of what to order. The fixed menu consisted of seafood and quail egg soup, Danang rice pancake with seafood, char-grilled pork pancake on a sugar cane, grilled oyster with spring onion salsa, steamed prawn with lemongrass and chili, stir-fried red tilapia with salted egg, caramelized mushroom with garlic, stir-fried noodles with pork char-siu, steamed seasonal vegetables with reduced dipping sauce and finally, coffee jelly with coconut milk! Pretty impressive, no?? I didn’t eat every dish… just couldn’t. We may not have to have dinner later either.
Of course, we couldn’t pass up a good museum along the way, The Cham Museum features relics from the various towers built from the 8th century and completed in the mid 9th century, others from mid 11th to 12th centuries and still others from the 12th to 13th centuries, depending on the various dynasties in the area.
On the way to Hoi An, there was a short visit to Marble Mountain for those interested. You had to take an elevator part way, then climb up about 100 irregular stairs to witness the impressive view and Buddhist temple near the top. Jim went but I opted to stay behind. Good thing, because even a couple of days later, the walk down those stairs was pretty hard on his legs.
Finally, we arrived at the Hoi An Historic Hotel. It is one of the most beautiful and well-located hotels in Hoi An. With elegant grounds and a large, welcoming swimming pool, we hope to use our relaxing time tomorrow to enjoy the surroundings. We are also within walking distance of the local markets and almost 200 custom tailors. It may be tempting to see what can be made in one day for us.
With only 100,000 inhabitants, Hoi An welcomes 2.5 million visitors annually. They are definitely customer service oriented. And, having two nights here will give us a chance to really relax and enjoy the town.
Kit gave us a short walking tour of the Old Town. He showed us some of his favorite restaurants, the best tailor (he thought), and some charming shops. He then left us to meander on our own. We entered the tailor shop to check it out and it was overwhelming. There were thousands of fabrics, many young women to guide you and many, many tourists trying to score a new outfit custom made for them. We opted to leave and have some dinner.
Our destination was the Morning Glory Restaurant, one of the ones mentioned by Kit. It was very unassuming and we shared a variety of spring rolls and ban my (pronounced me) sandwiches. The food was yummy and we found that we enjoyed each other’s company. After ordering two desserts and six spoons, we made our way to the Perfume River, nearby.
In the evening, most of the streets become walking streets, except for the occasional motor scooter. Traffic lights and signals are merely suggestions, so you have to pay attention at all times, or get run over! The area around the river was decorated by beautiful lighted lanterns. The area was absolutely magical.
There were boats lit with lotus shaped lanterns, cardboard baskets with candles floating on the river (as we saw on the Ganges in India), a bridge decorated with lanterns of all sizes and shapes and people selling a variety of items. We couldn’t help but be enchanted by it all.
Eventually, we decided to return to the hotel. Around the corner from the hotel was a tailor shop that looked interesting. We popped in and asked about making a bathing suit for one woman (she forgot hers at home) and I asked about duplicating a pair of pants. No problem! We selected the fabrics and then were to come back tomorrow at noon for a fitting. Really?? Sounded good and the prices were good, we thought. $30 US for the custom bathing suit and $30 each for the pants. Bring it on!
We all felt great about it and went to the hotel very satisfied…