We have been soaking up the sun in the beautiful town of Hoi An for a few days and it is a special place. We are about half way between Hanoi of the North and HoChi Min in the south.Our boutique hotel is a few kilometres from town nestled amongst the rice paddies with water buffalo wandering around and the local community who welcomed us when we arrived as they played soccer. For $40 a night we are staying in a beautiful little villa that has a cool pool to dip ourselves before we melt and serves up a great breakfast of local noodles called Cao Lau, made by the ancient recipe and the special local well water and amazing iced coffee and French baguette. We can take a taxi to the bustling old town for about $4 and have taken advantage of the beautiful world heritage site, a traditional preserved town highlighting the ancient homes and way of life here. It is right on the river and our first evening was spent with new friends at the full moon festival. Lanterns were lit and floating down the river as it grew dark, and we had the opportunity to go on a wooden boat to let our own lanterns go. A beautiful sight with the full moon rising as everywhere you look is a lantern. We took in a meal on a balcony overlooking it all and were quite enchanted. Hoi An is famous for its lanterns which hang everywhere here.
We ventured to the beach for a bit of relaxing by the warm waters and sipped cold drinks under the shade of a palapa. The fruit juices here are amazing, freshly squeezed and cold pineapple, mango and watermelon, passion fruit and others, usually for about a dollar. The beer is around the same price.
The highlight of Hoi An has been a cooking class at a local restaurant today with a local guide who loves food and spoke English. He guided us thru the cooking school and lead us to several stations where we enjoyed fresh flavours, new techniques and a lot of good food. We learned how rice noodles and paper were made, and made our own fresh spring rolls. We enjoyed a crispy savoury pancake that we cooked ourselves with fresh shrimp, pork belly, mint and cilantro and rolled in a rice paper. Yummy! Next we ate meat marinated with fresh flavours and grilled on a stick. Then a steamed rice dish with shrimp pate that we folded in a banana leaf and steamed...I had the vegetarian version, which was just as good! We learned how to make jackfruit salad, a special dish for New Years here and how to make the local Cao Lau noodles. And were shown many great techniques for cooking Vietnamese food. There was a station with the local delicacy that I walked by as our guide talked about pig ear salad, frog leg curry and silk worm salad, and as I glanced back I saw Chris take a bite out of a silk worm. He reports that it wasn't as good as he was hoping....he would do better on Survivor than I would!!! We ended with a lemongrass ice cream and enjoyed fresh basil ginger juice and amazing lemon juice...so refreshing on a hot day! We are coming home with some new recipes to try so get ready!
Another highlight here is having tailor made clothes designed for you. I have had a dress made and Chris has had some shirts and pants made for him. We have seen them a few times for custom fittings and they have been so great at meeting our needs. We pick them up before flying to HoChi Min City tomorrow for the last leg of our trip.
All in all, we have really enjoyed this lovely little town and highly recommend it!