Jas and I have now arrived in Hoi An after 5 brilliant days of riding motorbikes through inland Vietnam, through some mountains and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We did a trip with Papa Hahn's Easyriders, a company recommended to us by some friends that did it last year.
So on our last full day in Nha Trang, we borrowed a bike from these guys to get out to the local hot springs and mud pools. Even though it was only a few km's away, the traffic is mad, so Jas had to weave in and out of the random, ruleless traffic, with me clinging on the back and probably leaving claw marks on his chest!! But we managed to arrive without getting killed or lost and headed in to the centre. We were offered heaps of different spa packages, ranging from mega flash and expensive (45 bucks - expensive for Vietnam anyway!) to basic and cheap (which we chose!). So for the bargainaceous price of $5 each, we got 20 mins in the mud bath, followed by a "hydrotherapy spa" (aka walking between 2 walls with heaps of strong jets of water spraying out), then another 20 minutes in a hot mineral water bath. After that we had unlimited use of all the swimming pools, which varied in temperature. Soooooo relaxing! That night we wandered around town stopping for beer and pool at a few places before grabbing dinner. Apparently relaxing in a spa all day makes you hungry, because for dinner Jas managed half a ceasar salad (shared with me), followed by an entree of a cheese burger and fries, then a main course of spag bol. They say the way to a mans heart is through is belly. I think that's extra true for Jason!!!
The next morning we woke up to torrential rain and were a little scared about starting our motorbike trip in this weather! Papa hagn assured us that it would improve once we got away from the coast, so with that we met our guide (his brother Cal), strapped up our luggage and pulled on the wet weather gear they gave us. Although the rain never stopped, we had a great day! Our first stop was a cafe in the middle of nowhere overlooking paddy fields, and this was where we first experienced Vietnamese tea and coffee. The tea is similar to green tea and drunk all day by the locals and we both got quite addicted to having some at every stop. Jas doesn't like coffee, but I gave it a go and was obsessed after the first mouthful! It's made by place a little percolater over a glass which has a little condensed milk at the bottom. Once the coffee has all filter through (about a double espresso worth), you stir to mix the two and then drink. It is beautiful! Very strong and very sweet. I took to having one every morning, and I'm not quite sure how I'm going to cope without when we leave this country!! The next stop was for lunch, for which Cal ordered us fried rice with chicken. Sounds simple, but with it they serve a little dish with salt and pepper mixed in it and you squeeze a quarter of a lime in it, mix it around and then dip each bit of chicken in it. Omg, it was so yummy! After eating I headed out the back to find a loo and was followed by 3 little girls who, in broken English, fired questions at me. What was my name, how old, where from, how long in Vietnam, did I like their country. I managed to escape into the toilet, but they stood outside the door waiting and it continued even while I washed my hands! They saw I was carrying a camera, so they asked if I would take their photo, then one of them took a picture of my with the other two. They were so excited by the camera and were shoving each other to get closer and look at the photos, it was quite cute! We carried on riding, and as we got further and further off the tourist trail, we attracted more and more attention from the locals. At first it was just the kids. As we passed them and they realised we were white, their eyes went wide and they stared open mouthed, before waving excitedly and yelling out "hello" with big cheesy grins on their faces. What was funnier was that by the second day, we started sparking the same reaction in the adults as well as the kids!! That night we stayed in a little hut in the jungle. Apparently the resort is only used by locals for wedding parties and stuff, so we were the only ones there, which was strange! For dinner Cal ordered us stir fried venison (which was beautiful), noodles with beef and a hot pot made with fox and young bamboo shoots. Fox is a disgusting meat, all fat and bone, no meat. And young bamboo is ok, but we couldn't eat much of it - it did kind of just taste like tree!
I won't go in to the specifics of the next 4 days because it'll take ages, but the highlights were: visiting some locals house where I held a 30 kilo python and some babies (jas doesn't like snakes and was too scared to even stand next to me for a photo!!!), drinking scorpion wine and Laos wine (neither of which taste anything like wine, and we found put later Laos wine is actually illegal, oops), visiting coffee, pepper, rubber and pineapple plantations, seeing beautiful scenery, learning about how evil the Americans were during the war (and seeing the lingering effects) and visiting an orphanage. I know I should say that the best part of the trip was the countryside, the riding and the people....but although all of those things were beautiful and amazing...the best part was the food!!!! Jas and I both love trying local foods and escaping the tourists, but in Cambodia and Vietnam it's so hard, because outside the tourist spots no one speaks a word of English. (we found this out in Phnom Penh when we wandered off and sat down in a little cafe full of locals. For about 10 minutes they all just stared at us, then a waitress came over and said "beer?". Which was all the English she knew. After a few minutes of tying to ask for food, we gave up and headed back to the overpriced tourist restaurants!). Outside the tourist areas most restaurants don't even have menus, so communicating enough to order food is impossible without knowing the local language. With Cal by our sides, we ate only in local restaurants and apart from the gross fox/bamboo hot pot, everything we ate was beautiful, and dirt cheap!
So after 5 days we arrived in hoi an and said goodbye to Cal. We've been here for 2 days now and are heading off to Laos tomorrow. It's going to be another long bus journey !!