DEC

DayΒ 34. Sat 6/11

Hoi An

Hillary arrives! White roses, Marble Mountain, Da Nang dinner, DEC

We are once again a group of 6! Hillary joined us this morning from her Euro trip, and with her she brought a little entourage, including a translatorand, photographer and driver. We are happy to have Hillary here even without these helpful people, but even happier because that means no more taking sketchy cabs! Well, at least until after Vietnam. Also, in other good news, Hillary didn’t mention anything about my black eye, so I think it’s finally healed. And the cough is still lingering, but definitely getting better.

We spent some time at the pool, which overlooks the Montgomerie Links golf course (s/o to airbnbs), before heading back in to Hoi An for our second clothes fitting at Tony’s. It seems like we always take a lot longer there than we plan, but there are six of us and only three – sometimes two – of them. The fitting went super well today, and they made a lot of changes that made me feel way better about how things were going to turn out. And I added a pair of sandals to my order.

After we finished we were pretty hungry, and after our failed attempt at last night’s dinner to try some of Hoi An’s specialty dishes we searched for a little place the women at Tony’s recommended to us, called Bo Bo’s Cafe. A little bit of a walk but sooo worth it. We were the only ones there so when we walked in she turned on the fans and pushed some together for us. Shop owners here end to do that – when there first customers arrive they turn on the AC, fans, lights, whatever. Otherwise they’re left off, I assume for cost savings. Unfortunately they also do this at some hostels and hostels – so when you arrive it takes a little while to cool down, which isn’t great if you arrive super late at night or have to climb a couple of flights of stairs first.

Β I ordered white rose – a shrimp dumpling made with a translucent white dough and bunched up to look like a flower – and also tried some of the pork and veggie wontons – they were essentially wonton chips with the toppings on top, kind of like nachos. Both were delicious! I’m really glad we gave it another try. Β When we went to pay I asked if we could use a credit card and the waitress (probably also the owner and cook) apologized profusely and said if we didn’t have enough cash we could come back and pay tomorrow if we wanted. We had plenty of cash so we paid then, but it was cool to say that we ate at truly a family-owned place with authentic Vietnamese food. And loved it ❀

Hillary, Mike, Josh and I decided to go check out Marble Mountain after we got back and ended up getting there just in time before the ticket office closed. We went up in an elevator and had a cool view with a sunset as we wandered around the caves and pagodas. And for the second time, a group of Vietnamese tourists asked Mike to take a picture with them. The first time this happened was in Paradise Cave, where they huddled around both Josh and Mike. They were speaking a different language but we could make out the words “basketball” and “NBA” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

We wrapped up our trip pretty quickly once we Β heard thunder and saw some storm clouds rolling in. Trang and Po, Hillary’s hosts, took us to a scrappy looking restaurant along the beach and we were pretty uncertain about things once we arrived and saw that half the floor was full of buckets of love seafood. We saw lobster, crab, fish, prawns, and other things I didn’t recognize. Instead of ordering individual dishes we had Trang pick out a few things for all of us to try.

We started our meal out with hard-boiled quail eggs (just like chicken eggs, but smaller) and then were brought a plate of fried squid, which I liked way more than I thought I would! Fun fact: you can eat the entire squid except this long strand (that looks like a string of plastic) that’s in the center of the body.

Next we were served clams, which I tried in Australia and liked, but didn’t enjoy so much here because there wasn’t much flavor. We also got king prawns – usually it freaks me out when they still have the eyes and legs but I dug right in after such a good experience with the squid. We finished the meal with snail, which Po had to teach us how to eat with a toothpick, and once again I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it!

After dinner we went to check out DEC, Da Nang Electric Carnival, that was just up the street on the beach. Once we calculated that tickets were $16 we thought we’d give it a chance. And once we found out beers were about $1.15 each we decided we could stick around a little while before heading home. About 11 o’clock Head Hunterz came on so we ended up staying until around midnight. When we got home Max couldn’t believe we spent our money and time on the festival. “Nothing like going to Vietnam to see a European DJ play.” I think he was just jealous.

Food Log:

  • Eggs from the resort’s restaurant. Average.
  • White rose and a banana shake
  • Fresh seafood dinner of hard-boiled quail eggs, fried squid, king prawns, clams, and snail. Things I never thought I would like – but so good!

Linking Up

Day 33. Fri 6/10

Hoi An

Pool transition, more clothes fittings

We thought we had it good at the last airbnb (and we did!) but as we rode up to our next place it was even nicer and on a golf course. We did have the nice beach at the Ocean Villas but Montgomerie Links had a pool that was deeper than 1 meter, 3 security guards (that all stopped us as we checked in with our motorbikes and backpacks) and really really nice beds (important).

We had some quality pool time at the Ocean Β Villas before we had to move and then we took a couple hours more in the new pool. Around 3 we headed back into town for our first fittings at Tony’s and to do a little shopping. Mixed between the tailor shops are also leather shops and we girls had our eyes on some purses and the guys were checking out some wallets and messenger bags (and balloons lbh).

We got to Tony’s and almost couldn’t believe after how much we ordered, everything was ready in a little over 24 hours and fit decently well. The guys suits only needed a little altering but Kaija and I had to adjust the legs and butt of our jumpsuits and pants a little more. I’m guessing it’s a lot easier for them to crank out men’s suits than women’s clothing because they took a lot more measurements of us and girls have more specific preferences about how they want things to fit. It made me a little nervous how many things I wanted to be tweaked, but it was too late to turn back. Keeping my fingers crossed that tomorrow’s fitting goes better 😬

Starved from skipping lunch, Mike Josh and I ordered food from what looked like an authentic Vietnamese place, and turned out just to be kind of disgusting. We ended up canceling one of the main dishes we ordered and just heading back home to order food from the resort. The calamari was a much better decision. I love how much seafood is on the menu here ❀

After dinner we went after some more of our precious Bundy and a little rum over a couple games of Irish poker. Pretty good end to the night πŸŒƒ

Food Log:

  • More toast and jam
  • Awful shrimp wontons and a chicken dish that was the color of pork. Something was not right…
  • Calamari from the resort. Very, very right



(Trash) Fire!

Days 31 & 32. Wed 6/08 & Thurs 6/09

Hoi An

Clothes fitting, beach time, movie night

In every major city we have visited in Vietnam there are constantly people burning trash outside their shops just in the middle of the sidewalk. Hoi was the first city where there were little metal tins that the fire was contained inside (safe??) but the scent of the fires were also noticeably worse. Cities here also lack trash bins – maybe this is their alternative? Maybe we’re supposed to throw trash in the burning piles? Who knows.

Hoi An and Da Nang two cities about half hour apart and along a highway that runs along the beach. We were excited to see Hoi An but also wanted some beach time so we opted for a little villa in between the cities and (surprise surprise) rented motorbikes to travel into town for the next three days. While we were in town we looked around a few shops (most were tailors where you can have custom clothes and shoes made for a reasonable price) and decided to come back the next day after doing some research on which tailors were the best.

Since our villa had a full kitchen we thought it would be kind of fun to get some groceries and cook dinner and lunch ourselves. However, we had a hard time finding groceries since most places were tiny little family-owned marts without clear signage. A local that spoke some English got our attention and led us to the mart that she apparently shops at – we racked up about a bill of over million dong (~$50USD) and she happily swiped her rewards card as we were paying. Then she tried to convince us to come buy marble souvenirs at her shop. No thanks πŸ‘‹πŸ‘‹πŸ‘‹

After buying groceries we were so hungry that we decided to try out the resort’s restaurant (go figure) and it did not disappoint. It was o good that Mike Josh and I went back the next night and convinced Kaija and Max to join as well πŸ€‘

The next day we headed into town – this time we only rented 3 bikes and Kaija and I rode on the backs – to Tony the Tailor, the top rated shop on Trip Advisor for clothing. We spent a good three and a half hours there flipping through magazines, picking out fabrics, and being measured. I wish I would have gone in with a specific idea in mind, because it is extremely hard to choose when you have literally every option you can imagine. Somehow, after much thought and deliberation, I decided on a suit, pair of pants and a jumpsuit.

On our way out of town back to the Ocean Villa we stopped for waters and found that the convenience store sold Bundy, one of our favorite drinks from Australia! We stocked up πŸ˜„

The fittings took way longer than we anticipated so we went home and were really excited to eat again. Then we spent a little time relaxing by the beach and pool before ordering dinner to our villa and settling in to watch a movie. I also booked myself a foot scrub at the resort spa and took a little me time. It’s nice to have an emptier to do list for the next few days so we can enjoy the good weather – finally! Also, I highly recommend the movie Predestination.

We only had one hiccup tonight and that was just before we started the movie. As we were picking up from dinner Kaija noticed a huge spider on the wall. Like, biggest I’ve ever seen in my life. We all freaked out and then Josh killed it but it left us all wondering how many other creatures were living in our apartment… and pretty glad we were transferring to a different airbnb the next day.

Food Log:

  • Chicken pho in Hoi An alongside a mint chocolate milkshake. Turns out ordering a mint milkshake means they use crushed mint leaves in the blender
  • Lasagna from the villa resort restaurant. Hit the spot πŸ‘Œ
  • Homemade breakfast aka toast with jam
  • Eggs for lunch. Also added some hot sauce. They were bad so I also had some rosemary chips (my fave from Koh Phi Phi!) and apple cider bundy
  • Salmon salad and some sketchy Vietnamese chicken wings. At least the salmon was delish

Easy Tiger 2.0

DayΒ 29. Mon 6/06

Phong Nha

Easy Tiger, Dark Cave, Paradise Cave, Beer Towers

I don’t think anything could be better than Sapa, but Phong Nha proved to be a close second today. The countryside in Vietnam is gorgeous and today we biked around a National Park where they are filming King Kong 2. Now that we have the hang of the bikes it’s relaxing and way more fun than taking a bus or taxi, where the drivers try to up charge you and drive like crazy people.

The first cave we visited was the Dark Cave. We ziplined to the entrance (less exciting than it sounds) and then made our way deeper. Sidenote: a great addition to Jungle Party and Full Moon Party would be Cave Party, amirite? We passed bats, walked barefoot on rocks and then slid through the narrow and muddy passages to get to the mud bath pool. We laid down and were super buoyant, floating along the surface like little bobbers on a lake. I was loving it until they had us all turn out lights off and it got really dark and quiet. We sat for what felt like a minute but I’m sure was only a matter of seconds and then I was the first to flick my head light back on. πŸ˜“πŸ˜“πŸ˜“

After we exited the cave we kayaked back and then messed around in the water with the mini zip line and rope swing they had. The water was freezing and felt soooo good after we have been sweating on the buses and trains the past few days.

Afterward, we continued around the park to the Paradise Cave, which was less fun and interactive but much bigger and brighter. The large open spaces had lights illuminating different features and there was a wooden walkway throughout the spaces to follow at your own pace. We liked it minus the 1k hike up to the entrance. We buggy’ed back to our bikes afterward.

In Phong Nha, we tried to make a reservation at the Easy Tiger Hostel once we arrived but they were already full bc it’s such a popular place. Instead they sent us across the street to a really nice hotel (basically Easy Tiger 2.0) that was less expensive. It worked out nicely, because we pretty much just used the place for beds and AC, spending all of our meals at Easy Tiger, where they had delicious food 🍴 For dinner, I had the Piggy pizza and somehow managed to finish the whole thing along with a couple onion rings too.

We realized they had a deal on beer, where you could buy a tower and get a free T-shirt. We worked our way through 2 towers before the bar closed and we wandered the streets for another bar or karaoke. It was a Monday, but we figured there would be something else going on. However, we went home after walking the entire street without any luck.

Food Log:

  • Breakfast tacos at Easy Tiger, with sausage, tomato, onion and eggs that were the perfect combo after our long night on the train
  • Ice cream treats at Dark Cave
  • Piggy Pizza (bacon, ham, onion, green pepper) with onion rings and potato wedges. Overpriced, but worth it


A Tale of Two Bikes

Day 27. Sat 6/04

Sapa

Biking to Ben Phung, packing, last family dinner

Oops! …we did it again. Back at it with the motorbikes 🏍 This time it was just 2 of us because the rest of the gang wanted some time to relax around the homestay and soak up some sun and hammock time.

We had brilliant weather (the sun finally came out!) and again we set out after getting directions from Andrew that were seemingly straightforward. And once again, we completely went off the path – but had a great time all the same. The only hiccup was about ten minutes in when my bike stalled out after going over an extremely rocky hill and we could figure out how to start it again. The guy we rented the bike from came to the rescue and showed us a little trick to get the bike started if it happened again.

Andrew had said that we would have pretty decent roads to Ben Thung once we got out of his village, so we realized once we were on a rocky dirt road ascending quickly into the mountains through tiny villages that we probably took a wrong turn. At least we made a few friends along the way 😊

Once we were on the right road the sun came out almost immediately. It was a smooth ride and we made it to Ben Phung no problem, stopping along the way home for some of the most picture-esque scenes we have seen yet on this trip. I fell in love with the rice paddies and open road. When we said goodbye later that night (after another awesome dinner) I knew it wouldn’t be my last time in Sapa.

Food log:

  • My usual scrambled egg breakfast. As usual, delicious
  • Dinner consisted of our favorites again (spring rolls, French fries and green beans) along with some pork wrapped mushrooms and chicken with vegetables



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