A Travellerspoint blog

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Bike tour of Hoi An

the only way!

overcast 80 °F

Along the way to the beach

One of the nicest parts of Hoi An

More sights on my bike ride

A curious toddler at Hon's Restaurant - Cua Dai Beach

Since it was a little overcast today, Saturday, I rented a one speed, Chinese clunker of a bike to see the town - the only way! I went out to the beach again, and was stopped by a barrier on the road indicating that bikes/motorbikes had to be parked there - 5,000VND. I walked up the sand (pretty windy) since I had the name of a restaurant where I thought I could chill out for a while, and luckily found my Hon's. I sat down, ordered a pineapple shake, and studied the menu. Was not really very hungry since it was only 11:30, so I ordered the clam soup - a good choice! Next stop, back to town with a stop for a haircut (I had noticed a place near the Hai Au, which I had to pass), and the lady barber was very nice, spoke good English, and only charged 75,000VND for haircut and beard trim - that's $5. She had a brother in San Diego.

Came back to Hoi An Town, but couldn't take too much more of that bike, so took it slow, went around to the Bach Dang (waterfront at the Canal) where I knew I could get sugarcane pieces to chew on, and then also saw Fresh Beer advertised - had to try it just once. Fresh Beer is made that day, and turned out to be quite nice (if a bit light in taste). Other patrons at that cafe were all German. The bill came to a whopping 4,000VND, or 25 cents!!!

Came back to the Nhi Trung, where I settled my bill since I'd be leaving first crack in the AM, and the lady on the desk made an error in my favor (not once, but twice!) - We got it all figured out finally - a whopping $45. total for 2 nights @ $15. + the $15. trip to Danang Airport. Time for my siesta once I get this updated, and a final meal at Miss Ly's tonight. Forgot to tell you that I ate at Shree Ganesh again (Chicken Samosas with tamarind and a mystery emerald green dipping sauce, Lamb Vindaloo with rice - medium hot, Cheese Naan to die for and Tiger beer) - I could barely walk!

Posted by Daawgon 23:53 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The Laugh Cafe

a well named place for food and good times

75 °F

The Laugh Cafe

Jennie, the nice lady from Ipswitch, UK

Crab with Lemon, Laugh Cafe

Kong the whistle guy

The crab cracking waiter took this - Kong and me

I had heard about the Laugh Cafe, and according to the map, it was just around the corner from The Nhi Trung on Tran Cao Van, so I went looking. Not too impressive from the alley, but what Viet restaurant is. I sat down, studied the menu for quite a while, ordered a Coffee Freeze, and still was undecided. I settled on Crab with Lemon, seafood soup and a Saigon Beer. Little did I know what I was in for!

After the soup was served, I noticed the waiter escape on his motorbike, and wondered if the kitchen was out of crab - turned out I was right, and he returned about 15 minutes later with my dinner, and proceeded into the kitchen to cook it.

When it came out I took it's picture, and looked around for instruments to attack the crustacean - none in sight, but soon the waiter sat down with pliers in hand and pulled the plate over to him, and commenced claw cracking (handing me the results as he progressed) - a rather unusual way to eat seafood. I say unusual, because the waiter was not terribly skilled with crab (after all, the Laugh Cafe was another training cafe for disadvantaged youth).

Turned out that crab had much more outward beauty than meat, but what it did produce was great. I had been talking over my dinner, the whole time, to another patron across the small outdoor patio - to Jennie, a 69 year old grandmother who was about to return to Ipswitch soon, and who lived next door to the restaurant - a regular patron. She advised that the shrimp spring rolls were delicious, so still hungry after that lean crab, I ordered some to finish out dinner. Then, along came Kong the ceramic whistle vendor, and still needing a souvenir from Hoi An, I bought 2 (one a buffalo, and the other a frog, I believe). Everyone at the Laugh did indeed have a laugh or two tonight - Vietnamese waiters happily join in with patrons, and the waiter insisted on taking my picture too, and then Jennie sat down a little closer and we discussed her relatives in Portland, her travels, and various things we had in common. What a great way to spend my last night in Hoi An. The bill came to 198,000VND, but it was seafood!

Posted by Daawgon 06:30 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Settled in at the Gia Thinh Hotel

in Hanoi's Old Quarter

semi-overcast 63 °F

Hanoi's Old Quarter

My view at the Gia Thinh on an overcast Monday morning

The patina of Hanoi can't be described as beautiful - it's old and grey

I got up with the crows again this morning, ate a bacon omelette, baguette and coffee for breakfast at the Nhi Trung, said my goodbyes, and was off for Danang Airport before 7am. I waited for Thuong at the airport, but I imagine she was unable to make it, so I approached security, and guess what - they did not like my small scissors at all, and I told them to keep them, but then they also went through my packs, wanted to see my liquids, and generally gave me the evil guy once over! Jetstar was late arriving from Hanoi, but finally we boarded a bus and went out to the plane. It sure looked like a cut rate airline - no frills on Jetstar. We were delayed another hour with electrical problems on that aging 737, and didn't get into Hanoi until almost noon. I got to the Gia Thinh about 2pm after a hellish bus ride with the driver blasting the horn at every other motor scooter. They put me in room 603 this time - very nice to be in a place with real service again (I'll have to watch it though - they have an elevator, and I really need as much exercise as possible.)

I had a Mango & Shrimp Salad at one of my favorite restaurants (was that ever great), walked around and shopped for gifts, came back to the room and tried to figure out the electronic safe, and had to seek assistance from the desk (once you know how, it's a breeze). I think I'll try one of the places in this neighborhood for dinner - not in the mood for more walking tonight. This is Hang Bac - silver street, and it's still a jewelry center. All "Hang" streets refer tp the 34 trades (one for shoes, one for photography, etc.) - this is slowly disappearing/changing as tourism takes over, and now there's store after store selling the same souvenir junk. It's a good 15 degrees F cooler here than on the Central Coast - just fine by me.

I did end up eating practically across the street from the hotel at the Old Hanoi Restaurant (the menu just looked too good, and it was). I had Spicy Papaya and Beef Salad, Chicken and Mushroom Stir Fry and a Halida Beer. That was a good choice, and almost Thai/Chinese! Came back and turned in early - I was bushed.

Posted by Daawgon 04:55 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

A day with Andy

my new friend from Thorn Tree

sunny 75 °F

Andy, the brainy (if nutty) professor from Washington

At the Temple of Literature

West Lake, Hanoi (middle class residential & five star hotels)

Site of the oldest pagoda in Hanoi - West Lake

Sofitel Hotel on West Lake, Hanoi

I met my first internet friend this morning, Andy, a professor of statistics (and such) from D.C. Andy has a Korean wife, but he's on a solo, 2 week trip to Laos and Vietnam now (Luong Probang, Hanoi and Saigon). We met on Thorn Tree when he asked about hotels in Hanoi, and I suggested the Gia Thinh. He arrived via Bangkok on the early Air Asia flight this AM, and we met for the first time in the Gia lobby. We walked down to City Cafe for a fruit shake, and then took a single cyclo over to the Temple of Literature (extremely uncomfy with 2 beefy guys!) From there we walked up embassy row to the Presidential Palace and Uncle Ho's Tomb (but it was closed since this is Monday). From there we continued on up to West Lake, toured the oldest pagoda in Hanoi, had lunch at an upscale place on the waterfront (they actually charged us for handi wipes @ 2,000VND each automatically - often used instead of napkins in SE Asia). We shared a seafood salad and a plate of "morning glory" - a vegetable similar to spinach (Andy is vegetarian), and then walked back down to the hotel in the Old Quarter. We're taking a 1 hour break, and then off to a proper dinner (might take him down to the crepe place I like down by the RR tracks on "Restaurant Street").

We ended up right here on Hang Bac at Ancient House Restaurant - not a particularly good choice. The wait staff had trouble communicating in English, and the food was just ok. It was on my list of places to try, but lists are often wrong. Andy made me talk so much that I got to eat very little (I do like to go into finite detail!) He's off to Halong Bay for just the day tomorrow, so we will probably see each other tomorrow night for dinner, and Anne, another internet friend from Wales arrives tomorrow, also. I just hope she can keep her eyes open until 8pm when Andy and I had planned to meet, so we can all enjoy dinner at the same time. Andy and Anne probably have more in common than us two men, since 1 - they're both vegetarians, 2 - both have traveled the world, and 3- both know India quite well. Andy was born in Madras, and lived in Kerala until he was age 11, and Anne has traveled quite a bit in that country. I asked him about prices there compared to Vietnam, and he said that it is not as cheap, and that one would have to spend more on hotels for similar quality (looks like India is out for me in 2010 then).

Posted by Daawgon 04:20 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Anne arrives to total chaos

just another day in the Paris of Asia

overcast 85 °F

Yesterday was interesting, to say the least. Everyone got up with the crows, Andy and I had breakfast so early there were hotel guests sleeping in the breakfast room (German tourists arrived on the overnight train from Lao Cai). After breakfast, I went up to the room to brush my teeth, and the lock to my door was not working. I soon had half the hotel staff up there working on it, and then a locksmith was called. The whole thing all worked out (new lock installed), but I lost at least 2 hours of "Hanoi" time. Anne was due in shortly after noon (from London via Singapore). I went up to arrange details of my 2-day tour with Diep, he took me out for Bun Bo Nam Hue (spicy noodles) at a terrific place on Hang Dieu, and in the cab he arranged for a car to meet Anne's flight. I spent the afternoon doing many things (shopping again, getting my shoes shined, and later repaired (that bike ride in Hoi An must have damaged the soles), and changing my Gia Thinh reservation by one day (the tour was delayed by a day and now I needed to spend one night at another Sunshine Group Hotel - up Ma May Street, nearby).

I kept emailing Anne to see if she, indeed, had arrived, and arrange to meet. Coming back to the Gia after getting the shoes patched up on Hang Be (shoe street), I found Anne in the Gia lobby. She had told her hotel (the Phoenix) her flight number, but told them not to meet her. As it turned out, her instructions were misread, and now 2 agents were sent to meet the flight. It's a good thing, because she was more than a little bushed after many many hours on Singapore Air. She was concerned, because her hotel had paid one of the drivers, and she feared that they had paid Diep's free car! The confusion was straightened out, and we all met later for dinner at Anne's hotel. Andy met another solo traveler on his tour of Halong Bay (Yuko, a 24 year old, female, graduate student from Tokyo at yet another Sunshine Hotel). I took Anne, Andy and Yuko on a short hike down to Tong Duy Tan (Restaurant Street) for crepes, where we had a late dinner of strange proportions (2 in the group were vegetarian). At least it turned out to be inexpensive (about $10. for 4 people). By this time, Anne could hardly hold her eyes open, and it was important that we get that lady back to the Phoenix ASAP. Success, no more than 4 or 5 wrong turns, and we were all back on Hang Bac and in bed by 10:30 (so much easier walking the streets of the Old Quarter after hours - no traffic, and few of the constant horns at that hour!)

This morning, I have to pack up and move to the other hotel, and get ready for the mini-trek & bike tour of Mai Chau on Thursday and Friday (overnight at a homestay). It's time for breakfast with Andy, so I'm signing off.

(Anne refuses to have her picture taken)

Posted by Daawgon 16:12 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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