Hoi AnOn day 30 we left Hue for Hoi An. On the way we stopped off at China Beach where the US army would regularly take holiday from their war duties. It was a lovely empty beach with crystal clear warm water. We wondered at one stage if we were wearing frangipani flowers tucked over our right ear or at the back of hair (a sign to say ‘I am free’ or ‘follow me’),as we were soon harassed by children all trying to sell us a necklace draped over old plastic combs. They would not let up; it was if their life depended on it. Perhaps it did, we later learnt that they only get to keep 10% of what they sell and judging by the one design – they probably hadn’t sold any that day, even if the price was about 20p. Unfortunately I see Vietnam changing drastically over the next few years. There are plans for over 50,000 hotel rooms over the next couple of years – this beach will be packed.In Hoi An you can have anything you wish made to fit, including a 5 piece suit and a 3 piece (which one of our group did) in less than 24 hours. I swear a hoard of them must work through the night. This seems to be the town’s specialty – that and power cuts when literally the whole place goes into pitch black, including the shops and restaurants. It’s very bizarre and dangerous since the pavements are very uneven and the kerbs can sometimes be broken. Speaking of restaurants we ate at one called Banana Leaf which had few leaves but plenty of geckos to keep us company. There, the girls work from 8-10, 7 days a week with 5 days off a year – and we think we have it hard! During our stay in Hoi An we had a cookery lesson in a little café just opposite the harbor. There we cooked a variety of dishes, all of which we had to eat until we were well and truly stuffed. Dishes included – sour fish soup, green papaya salad, spring rolls (the Vietnamese soft type rather than the typical crunchy kind we are so accustomed to here), fish barbequed in banana leaf and prawn curry with coconut milk. Meanwhile Phuong played the guitar as we chopped, cooked and ate.
That evening we made our way back through the fish market, although the electricity was back on at this stage, the market which was at the edge of town was in total darkness. It was closed and there were no fish on display but the stench from that day was revolting. Coupled with that, there was the odd rat or two running around and squealing in the pitch black. Phoung had explained that in this town you can leave your bike unlocked and it will still be there in the morning so although it was us and a few wild animals we probably had nothing to worry about.