Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Hoi An!

Lachlan's report on the night bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An:

Hoi An was incredible.  A UNESCO-designated historic district is the centerpiece of this beautiful town situated between the South China Sea and Vietnam's Thu Bo river.   Narrow streets lined with bougainvillea and canary-yellow shophouses, vivid open air markets, and lush surroundings make it a visual feast.

We arrived early on the night bus from Nha Trang (see Lach's review above) and headed to a coffee shop to wake up and then wandered around the morning market until we could check-in to Orchid Homestay (which was great).

This scene just never gets old, the locals get their produce early and a whole lot of trade is happening 

veggies for sale
ducklings for breakfast?  No, but they were for sale
local pottery
the busy river Thu Bo
flowering trees everywhere
This Ma insisted that we take a picture with her.  Note the death grip on
Megan's arm, which was released only after we paid her a dollar.

hot stuff
several areas were designated as walking/biking streets (didn't stop the motorbikes, sadly).
Ahh the Banh Mi, Megan here in search of the perfect vietnamese sandwich.  Unfortunately, they love their meat in Vietnam so the search is complicated by the veg factor.  The above was solid but too much gravy on the tofu.  I was able 2 days later to find a much better sandwich from a guy with a cart who had avocado as an add on option.  He wins!! Even better, it cost a dollar.  
Lots of couples come here for wedding or engagement photos, they look incredible and the backdrops perfect.

We went on a boat cruise up the river, Not the greatest of tours.  Z really preferred to read her latest book.  Some you win, some not so much.

Another family photo

We did meet a local potter and Lach and the other kids got to try their hand at it. 
I am slightly obsessed with jackfruits, they look so cool growing on trees, just wish I liked to eat them as much as I like to photograph them.  The green is fabulous

Lachlan getting into character

lovely rooftop bar in the Heritage Area:  great for people watching
no shortage of fried deliciousness in Hoi An
After a few days of Hoi An heat (it was around 100 F every day we stayed there) we were ready for some pool time. Luckily the Hotel Anantara allows non-guests to access its lovely pool facilities for a reasonable fee.

Lach found an Aussie friend and they could have played getting on and off this ledge all afternoon.  Cutest.

 One highlight of the whole trip was a bike trip through the villages that surround Hoi An with our fabulous guide, Mr Cu. He was friendly, hilarious and knowledgeable about all things Vietnam.  We have learned through this trip that a guide can make or break a tour, he made it with 2 thumbs up.  He met us at our hotel with bikes and off we went.  First stop was to check out the river that runs through Hoi An all the way to a mountain where Mr. Cu grew up. 

We came upon this fantastic DIY home gym in someones back yard, genius.

Z super ready to pump some iron, or concrete in this case.

Great to be on 2 wheels, even if it was beastly hot.

We never grow tired of looking at these people working so hard to grow rice in the most beautiful of settings.  Entire villages of people, many of whom would be retirement age in the U.S., still active and tough.

Nothing better than throwing rocks at Water Buffalos in a rice paddy.  

The crew on the trail between 2 rice paddies. 

At one stop we saw a lake created from a U.S. bomb crater. The kids also learned some cool weaving techniques with cocoa palm fronds- Mr Cu can make bracelets, rings and some very cool specs. 
See how cool the shades are!!

After more than an hour of biking we parked the 2 wheelers at an uncle's house and walked to catch our bamboo boats- super cool round rigs made of bamboo and buffalo manure, aka buffalo chocolate.  Their round shape is perfectly maneuverable in many a space.  Also makes for some fun spinning.  Fin said it was like riding a wicker teacup in muddy water. 

When you are the photographer of  the best 6 pack, you need to do a selfie once in a while and who better to do it with than this awesome young lass in the coolest of hats. 

After cruising down river we stopped to do some crab fishing.  We each got a small stick with string that had  raw
pork on the end.  You stand in the mangroves and wait for the  crabs to take hold of the bait.  The kids loved it.  Our guide loved to yell "you got a  big one" any time the kids had any bite. It was adorable.  I loved him. 

I however enjoyed the shade of the mangroves and chillin in my boat solo talking to Mr Cu.  He took this pic. 

Z totaled up 14 crabs in her plastic bucket, with a little help from the brothers.  She was psyched. 

We boarded the boats and then back on the bikes and onward to Mr Cu's house.  His wife and sister in law prepared the  yummiest of feasts and we learned some Vietnamese cooking skills too.  Here the kids took turns making rice milk on a 100 year old antique rice grinder.  They use the milk to make rice paper for spring rolls, and in the seafood pancakes among other things.

Best part- kids all sat down to lunch and did not bat an eye when the only utensils available were chopsticks- the kids are chopstick pros now. 

Here we are learning to make the savory pancakes

Lachlan, super chef
I really like their flag and so do the Vietnamese.

Post trip thumbs up all around w Mr. Cu

Hoi an is flush with tailors everywhere you turn.  Fin has been talking for months about getting a tailored suit on this trip.  Z thought she would join in the fun since dresses are just never long enough for her.  She used her mad money from her Gamma for a custom dress that she's worn almost daily since we picked it up.  Getting measured was most fun. 

Fin styling at one of his suit fittings, cant wait to see him sport this at home. 

Another lovely home stay, this one at the beach near Hoi an, An Bang beach.  We were just minutes walk to the sand. 

Vietnamese beach habits are interesting. In the US we are used to hitting the beach in the heat of the day for prime rays.  Not so in Asia.  Around 4 or 5 o'clock all the locals show up with picnics or huge buckets of clam soup to sell (for a buck) and kids swim and adults chill, watch the sunset, and Crack a few beers.  I think they are on to something.

super delish meal at Ms Lys in Hoi An. Love the food, spicy papaya salad here
Also fell in love with the famous French photographer Rehahn who since 2011 has been photographing Vietnam's 54 ethnic and tribal groups.   Some of the tribal areas are extremely remote and their heritage is dying.  He travels on motorbike to find them, learn about their lives and history and not only preserve their images but has also been collecting their tribal dress which is all on display in his museum in Hoi An.  So very cool. 

can't beat a  sunset

Whitman has always loved to dig since he was a baby.  Seems that drive has not left him even as a teenager.  This creation which literally took all of 1 day attracted many on-lookers and some just had to have a selfie with the famous creator. 


I was so happy to find Yoga here at 6am, brutal wake up but so lovely
One the seamstresses who helped make all the right stitches for Fins suit.  I figured I might as well see how they do copying an Anthropologie shirt, not bad!!

this trip has been made even more special by the 4th reading of the Harry Potter series by Scott.  He has the best voices for all characters and Z is completely obsessed and mesmerised.  Also quite adorable to watch as brothers seem to never tire of listening either.

She  is 8 going on 15 in this photo.
Besides a suit or tailored dress, lanterns are the thing to buy in Hoi An. 
Our beach view
The ladies guarding the beach chairs were a force.  We were in awe of their "the sun is my enemy" outfits every day.  Gloves check, socks with flip flops yes, full pants and long sleeve shirts check and not a drop of sweat.   Miraculous

Pho on the beach with a beer- Heaven. Do I really have to cook when we return??  I'm so getting used to to this. 

Home stays really are the best.  This one is like a small B&B.  Our hosts at the Dragon Sea Homestay  live in the back and have 3 different rooms to rent, 2 of which we occupied.  Super helpful and made us breakfast each morning.  Kids have learned that even without shared language a smile and a laugh go a long way and google translate is the best app!!
Very common dashboard.  Here is one in our taxi to the airport- we will  miss Hoi An. 

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