The blog today comes from Hoi An, a lovely old town on the East coast of Vietnam, not far from the old north/south divide. Its 9:00am in the morning and Dan is still asleep-recovery from some serious retail therapy yesterday...but more about that later.
Following Saigon we took a bus up to the Central Highlands to a place called Dalat. Here we were up in the hills and the scenery was stunning. This is the area of Vietnam where the majority of fruit and vegetables are grown due to the well draining soil and favourable cool climate. It was a bit of a shock to the system actually. We went from sweating constantly to needing our jumpers out from the dark depths of our rucksacks! In Dalat we met Rot; a local guy who owned a lovely guesthouse and who offered a really exciting tour to the surrounding countryside on the back of motorbikes. So the next morning we climbed aboard our rides for the day and took off into the hills. Both of us happy to be passengers to local drivers as the rules of the road in Vietnam (as Dan has previously mentioned) are pretty non-existant and we didnt want to try and navigate ourselves first through the busy town and then around various potholes on the hillsides on the back of bikes that we probably wouldnt have much control over!
The trip was amazing. Rot is originally from one of the many hill villages surrounding Dalat town and so had a fanastic knowledge of everywhere we were going. The area of Dalat is full of various farms and we were taken to some of them to have a look around, however they were slightly different to those at home. The first farm was a cricket farm. Crickets are a delicacy in Vietnam and some guy has managed to breed them in large numbers and when they get to the correct 'eating' size they are sold for a hefty price to the markets and local 5* hotels and restaurants. We were told they were usually eaten fried whole and we got to try some...thankfully ours had been covered in rice batter so most of the cricket was hidden and they tasted just like fried food, no real distinguishable taste but definately not 'just like chicken'. We then got to visit a silk farm which was fasinating. The silk worm cacoons were heated and boiled and unwound through various machines before they emerged as silk thread. The farm then used the threads to create reams of silk with various colours and patterns. Each little cacoon could create 200 metres of silk thread and the bonus at the end is that once the silk worm has had his little home destroyed the Vietmanese like to eat him, usually pickled in a jar with loads of his mates. Thankfully these wern't on offer to taste...a crunchy cricket is one thind, but a squishy chewy worm would be hard to stomach! The final farm we stopped at was a coffee farm, the main type of farm in this area. Apparently Vietnam is the 2nd largest coffee producer in the world and most of that coffee comes from Dalat making the local farmers pretty wealthy in comparrison to farmers elsewhere. We help pick some beans as it is prime season for coffee which would soon be dried before being sold on to the coffee factories.
After this we went on to Rots local village and his family home to chat to the locals and have lunch. We met an amazing family who talked us through their local customs and taught us some of their language which is completely different to the rest of Vietnam. They also had four little puppies in their house, barely a week old, so I was in puppy heaven again! However it would be quite likely that these dogs were eventually for the dinner table as dog is very common on the menu here, and in the rest of Vietnam. An earlier visit to a local market was quite hard as there were two tiny puppies and a kitten for sale and Rot informed me they were 'cooking with'....hmmm...not for me thankyou. After lunch we got to try some more interesting foods in the form of various exotic fruits, picked from the garden surrounding us. After learning all the names and promptly forgetting them Rot then appeared with another delicacy which he informed us was a type of vegetable cooked in banana leaves. It tasted sweet and was thick like treacle...not bad but a bit odd. Only when Rot then informed us it was actually a cow pat from a calf that had been fed special grass I was put off taking a second taste! We then drove back to Dalat town fully satisfied from our day's adventure.
The next day in Dalat was not as exciting but we went to visit some of the town's sights including a flower farm and the 'Crazy House', a guesthouse built by a bit of a 'Crazy' lady which was a bit like a warped Disney land. It promptly send me and Dan a bit 'Crazy' too! The following day we left Dalat for Nha Trang, a beach resort on the East Coast. Unfortunately there would be no sunbathing as the tailend of the wet season was hanging around bringing frequent rain showers. We did however get to go scuba diving again and despite the visability not being perfect we saw some new interesting fish including a lion fish which was really pretty. We also spent a very hard day at a local mud spa centre. First we sat in a huge bath of mineral mud, then in a steaming bath of hot spring water and finally had to endure a head to toe massage and steam room!! The massage was great although when the ladies started walking up and down our backs it was a bit wierd! We spent that evening with Ross, a friend of Dan's from Newcastle who we randomly ran into the previous day. However this was a bad mistake as too many drinks later and needing to get up at 5am to catch a plane the next morning both meant we suffered quite badly!
So yesterday we flew, very early, into Hoi An after deciding another long bus journey wasnt worth it (flight took 1hr, bus would take 12hrs). We've got a great gueshouse and have already loved the parts of Hoi An we have seen so far. Hoi An is renowned as being THE place to get tailor-fitting clothes made to measure, having around 400 tailors around town. You can pretty much get anything made from dresses to suits to handbags to shoes......its Amazing! We already have several things ordered from yesterday and we are going for our fitting later and they will be ready tomorrow.....such a quick service! However I wont write more now, I will leave more info on Hoi An for next time. Right....I'm going to wake up Mr lazy bones now and head out for breakfast.
Lots of Love, R xx