More Food, Coffee and Sightseeing in Hoi An

I met some people in the dorm and decided to go to the beach with them. After battling my way through the breakfast buffet, and after 3-4 refills stood at the coffee counter, I was ready for the day. We hired peddle bikes and off we cycled down the crazy Vietnamese roads. The scenery was beautiful, we passed lakes and lush fields dotted with tiny figures wearing conical hats. After about 30 minutes a guy in a uniform came running into the road waving a stick. He told us we couldn't go any further and had to park our bikes. We asked if it was the beach we were looking for and he said it was. Confused we pulled over, but quickly realised it was just a scam to get us to pay to use his bike park. He looked really official. We kept cycling even though he was shouting out. This happened many more times down the road but we just ignored them until we found a quiet spot on the beach, tied the bikes together and put out our towels. The water was too cold to venture in so I just read my book and soaked up the sun.

After a few hours we were all hungry so jumped back on the bikes and peddled towards home. We stopped at a little food stall on the street, lowering ourselves onto the tiny seats and cramming around the tiny table. The lady came over with a plate of make-it-yourself spring rolls and showed us how to make one. You take one piece of rice paper and then separate a sticky piece of paper using a tab of banana leaf that's placed in between. You put this in the centre of your rice paper and add salad leaves, strips of cucumber and then place a skewer of pork on top, pull off the wrapped around banana leaf string, wrap it up and then pull the stick out, keeping the meat inside. Then just dip in satay sauce and take yourself off to food heaven. Totally delicious.

After an argument about the price of the spring rolls, as per usual no prices and a bill of twice what it should be, the lady finally settled on a middle ground. Mostly because we acted stupid and she got fed up. We hopped on the bikes and weaved our way through the traffic back to the hostel. We were still hungry so got a banh mi (baguette) from a stall outside the hostel with everything on. Even a scrambled egg which they cook in a tiny pan on a tiny stove. Back in the dorm room there was a guy I'd met in Hue just a few days ago. We played a game of pool which lasted ages because we were both really crap, had a few beers, met some other people and then headed to a bar that everyone talked about called Why Not? Most places close at midnight so this bar has a bus that comes and ships everyone to another bar outside of the town. It's 200,000 dong for all-you-can-drink. £6.

The bar is pretty sketchy and you need to be drunk just to get through the bus journey there. A few rum and cokes turned it into a fun night. The bus was full afterward so we traveled back Vietnamese style - 3 on a motorbike, overtaking other motorbikes crammed with people.

Luckily not much of a hangover today. I couldn't be bothered with the stress of breakfast - and to be honest, couldn't face calamari, fried rice or the queue for eggs - so just went to the restaurant next door and tried White Rose, which originated from Hoi An. It's a small steamed dumpling with minced spiced pork inside and a dipping sauce. Yum. Then we hired a motorbike and drove the 40km along the coastline to Marble Mountain. A lady from a shop came out and said we could park there so long as we came and had a look in her shop later. We paid the entrance to the mountain and up we walked in the midday heat. All around us were beautiful views, of the coastline, of the city with it's colourful houses and neat grid-like streets. The mountain has a marble Buddha statue and small pond at the entrance and then lots of pagodas and temples, shrines and caves. We walked around for hours, going to the lookout point, walking through temples. We went through a small cave entrance and were greeted by steps going down which opened up into a huge space that is a beautiful impressive temple, with a shrine at one end and a large Buddha statue carved out of stone.

After walking around for hours we were starving so made our way down the mountain. The lady that let us park at her shop found us and took us to another shop that had a table inside and we sat down for food. All the food in Vietnam is delicious and this was no exception. I had pork noodle soup and my usual addiction of Vietnamese coffee. The shop lady told us not to forget her family and to come buy something from her shop, especially as it was Vietnamese New Year which is an expensive time for them. Guilt trip. We went over to the shop and paid way over the odds for some rubbish we didn't really want. Actually I got a necklace that I quite like. She told me it was real moonstone, which totally isn't true, but it was a nice replacement to my handmade Peruvian one I bought on a floating island and which somehow got broken a few weeks before. I paid my 300,000 dong (£9) and we left, headed for the beach. We spent an hour there, getting the last of the day's sun before retreating to the hostel. Back there we parked the motorbike out front in the hostel's car park and went to get showered and changed. Back outside the bike was nowhere to be seen! We checked every single bike, checked outside on the road, asked at reception if the knew anything. Nothing. I was pretty much ready to pack my bags and leave! We walked to where we hired it from but it was closed. The lady at the restaurant next door called the bike owner for us and passed the phone to me. Luckily, she had wheeled the bike back to the shop so she could lock it up! I don't know why she thought we wouldn't have a heart attack about that.

So, panic over, we walked down to Hoi An Old Town. On the way we stopped at all the little food stalls trying everything until we were full. The Old Town is beautiful, located along a riverfront and decorated with strings of softly lit lanterns. Colourful colonial french buildings and streets filled with food stalls, lantern shops and plenty of slowly wandering tourists, equally mesmerised and absorbed by the atmosphere.


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