Sunday 24th February
Da Nang, Vietnam. Only 4 days left…
So….Friday evening we ate a nice Vietnamese dinner in our hotel. All the staff are really attentive and helpful. One of them even showed us how to eat one of our courses Banh Xeo (crepe stuffed with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts rolled in rice paper). We were all pretty adventurous and managed shared meals. A good start. We then walked next door to the posh Four Points hotel’s 36th floor for nightcap cocktails by the rooftop pools. Nice.
Yesterday was a trip straight down to the beach after a noodle breakfast (other choices were available). Rather windy straight off the sea again but we managed to hold on and got well and truly ‘fan burnt’. Enjoyed a freshly opened coconut for 80p which presumably recently fell off the tree above us. !
We are not big on guided tours (following some guide through a crowd holding a flag in the air (the guide was holding the flag, not the crowd!)). However we had to visit Hoi An some 15 miles away and this proved to be a good choice. We stopped at Marble Mountain first. This was a mountain from where historically people extracted…marble for statues and carvings. Very interesting. Of more interest was the drive into Hoi An. Impossibly the driving is even more mental. Small streets with all flavours of mopeds, scooters, cycles, cars, trucks, coaches..horns…manic and soooo entertaining. We passed rice paddy fields with water buffalo working alongside. Your typical oriental image. Shame we didn’t get chance to get a closer look but we can’t quite manage everything.
Hoi An is an ancient town with hundreds of years of Chinese and Vietnamese buildings. After dark the town is covered with thousands of lanterns across the river. A great view, very busy and to be honest, too commercial. Damn tourists..!
The best part of this element was dinner. This came as part of the tour package. Bearing in mind we were in Vietnam and we were the only non-oriental folk in our group of 10 we were a little worried (and excited) about what we may have to eat. To add to our concerns we were seated at a table with two older Vietnamese ladies and we started to worry about our table manners and our chopstick skills…..! We all knew how to use them but not without spinning pork balls across the table or using them as harpoons. There was only one way to deal with this.. head on. We asked them for assistance up front and they were brilliant. Explained the dishes from the (8..!) courses and how (and when) to eat them. Turns out we were pretty chopstick savvy already.. It was a terrific meal and experience (apart from cabbage soup…yuk!)…
Our return road experience was just as exciting but now add the fact it was dark….wahey..
Whole trip. 4 hours. Entrance to 3 sites. Hoi An market. Dinner. Cost 3/4 million each. (About 25 quid..!)
Another nightcap at the Four Points Hotel and a good day complete.
Today…an interesting day for once…. It was cloudy but bloody warm again. Nice. We (I) decided to persevere with the snorkelling attempt. Haven’t managed to sort one yet over here. All the tours want to take you to an island for the day but we could not find an alternative despite all the research saying there was lots in the area. The staff here at the hotel are not only nice but very helpful and despite having no snorkelling knowledge between us we formed a plan to visit a ‘locals’ beach on the Son Tra peninsula about 5 miles away. The hotel arranged a taxi as the ‘Grab’ option failed. (There are loads of ‘Grab’ cabs in this location. I am sure I have mentioned them before as we used them in Australia. )
The taxi driver caused us some concern as he forgot to take the handbrake off and struggled with clutch control..! Had no idea where we were headed and at one time just stopped (in fifth gear) half way up a hill..! Gawd. He was actually very funny and we struggled to not burst out laughing as he was tooted tirelessly whilst being passed on both sides. We were glad to get out…..until we realised he had dropped us in the wrong place..! We were not entirely sure where we were or, for that matter, where we wanted to go. So… once again…just do it. Follow the path down to this beach and see what happens. Turns out this was a wedding party going on and the beach was real small. In addition a poison witch of a Vietnamese woman basically told us to get the hell of HER beach as we didn’t want to purchase an 8 hour trip in a ropey old speedboat to an island to snorkel. She was ‘orrible…..and ugly..!
So….. we left her beach, back up the hill and along the road. Flip flopping our way. Short while later came upon The Son Tra Beach resort and snook onto their private beach and swam in their private South China Sea. Flat calm, quite warm, but no coral, no fish, no snorkelling. Not willing to give up we walked around the headland on the beach to Bai Rang beach. Nice beach, not many folk and no sign of any snorkelling options. About to abandon the idea and return to base when we saw two people in the water 100 metres out. ‘Can’t be snorkelling as there is nothing there’ says I, the snorkel guru …. but I decided to have a little look anyway. Mask and snorkel attached, waltzed down the sand. Look down…and there it was… yup. Coral. Loads of coral… Not deep. Not bright coloured. Loads of it across the bay and covered in fish. Proper tropical fish with fins and everything. Small yellow things, bright blue stuff and a rather aggressive black bugga. (You may recall our poor fish recognition skills..).
Well that was an hour or so spent with the three of us enjoying our last snorkel trip of the holiday. It was a lot of work to get there but satisfying to have coped.
We eventually found our way off the beach and onto the road. Bearing in mind now that we really had no idea where we were, we had no transport and the few locals in this area had never seen a white boy before never mind a white boy with two white girls wandering the country roads…. they cannot speak English and our Vietnamese had not improved beyond ‘Thank You’ (Cam Ôn). And what didn’t help was…my Grab app says ‘no drivers available’….. ooops. Now what. .?
No worries. A short while later we found the main road and managed to hail a passing taxi. We scare ourselves sometimes. Phew. Back to the hotel for a shower and beer.(not in that order).
So….this evening we have just walked into the Da Nang centre. We always arouse interest as most people don’t walk, they use scooters, or mopeds etc. And most people are NOT European. Quite fun really. I think a lot of people have a good look at Michelle and Trina in particular as they don’t have straight black hair like 99% of the rest of the population.
We had dinner in Al Fresco Grill in the posh mall and got a ‘Grab’ for the two miles back to the hotel. Cost……. 3000 Dong. I will let you google that to see how crazy cheap that was! Wow.
Anyway. Enough for today.
Great to visit but glad our hotel is not there. Too commercial and manic.
Did you know…Hoi An means ‘meeting place’. It was originally a trading port active from the 15th to the 19th century.