Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 8

Day 8
A quick bike ride at dawn (7am) over the bridge to the outlying village areas proved interesting and worth a look. A concrete, recently laid road led us about three kms through a waking populace on a peninsula like area. Intermittent rain couldn’t dampen our soaring spirits as we biked free as birds or mothers on holiday before parking our bikes and entering the city market once more in search of a pre breakfast snack.

Back to the pancake lady after passing new and exciting sights of croaking frogs just before they were skinned alive and snake/eels slithering in a bucket as we were ushered to seats (wooden slats) where the plastic table cloth was lovingly placed and we partook of a bowl of the local specialty, Cao Lau noodles.

Temporarily sated we returned to the hotel on bikes and showered and packed and took one last meal at the resort . Five plates of brekky later, we rested briefly in the room before being collected. We waved our superfriendly super assertive Hoi Anians farewell and headed for the airport.

The flight was large and quick. Blue skies emerged as we headed away from Monsoon Hoi An. Upon landing, our trusty tour guide awaited. A cute looking Asian Leonardo DiCaprio called Sun (pron. Soon) swaggered confidently grinning charismatically at us. We put him to work immediately protecting our luggage while we relieved ourselves at the nearby WC.

Forty minutes into a racy Hanoi then a ten minute turnaround at the hotel and we were bundled back into our "├žar" for the three hour walking tour to orient ourselves around Hanoi (capital of Vietnam). Dropped in peak traffic around the French quarter we walked through vast expanses of land put aside for governmental fancies like Ho Chi Mihn’s mausoleum, the temple of Literature and the President’s palace. We dutifully followed the less than exuberant but nevertheless knowledgeable Sun as he waited patiently outside while we investigated the ins and outs of the historical hot spots.

Three hours later and as hungry as wolves, we bid Sun goodbye and high tailed it up to our 7th floor bar that had been sadly left to rack and ruin and ordered restorative G and T’s with a seafood and beef noodle chaser revelling in the freedom and air high above the chaos of downtown Hanoi.

With full stomachs and heads buzzing we returned to our modern conveniently chilled rooms to shower off the day and slip into our robes for a well deserved rest.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 7

8/9 Having become acclimatised after four days in Vietnam we now wake at 7am. Back to the hotel breakfast, less tantalising the second time we rehydrated and took on board vital nutrients essential for another days adventures.

Keen to explore the city’s history we geared up against the elements in our trusty blue plastic pullovers and stylish accessory footwear and headed for the central market that we had hurriedly passed through the day before en route to the tailor’s appointment. Cramped into the space the size of a football field stood an array of merchants squatting either side of the narrow walkways, wares resplendent in circular cane platters. We passed noodle merchants, seafood merchants, butchering merchants, and fresh green vege merchants and backed up by trinket stall holders. The food merchants ignored us realising the futility of selling us fresh produce while the ‘trinket’ stall holders sang their local chant of ‘’You come my shop, plllllease”.

Thwarted by the deluge of rain but grateful for our waterproof shoes we mingled amongst the organised madness beneath the tarpaulin village architecturally engineered to provide fresh rain water for washing and cooking on site. Locals and tourists mixed alike with locals gathering their daily needs of fresh food with the tourists happy to gaze on in wonder.

Regardless of our already stretched stomachs we decided to roam dangerously close to risking a perforation of the wall and settled near a food stall to try the pancake like snacks the woman was making. We ordered one and I tried it to test for poisoning. Unscathed we shared it and promptly ordered another. The crispy exterior was filled with lettuce, herbs and shrimp then folded in half tortilla like and wrapped in a conveniently edible rice paper and dipped in some undistinguishable sauce. Mmmmm was the result. Curiosity assuaged we ventured out the other side of the market and made for the historical sites dotted about the city previously researched in the room.

*Quick pit stop to gather our thoughts and down a cheeky Mojito (because we could).

Voucher purchased we pressed on through the continuing downpour. Small running streams had now formed but undeterred we oohed and aahed over the Japanese bridge built four centuries before, toured through the oldest house in Hoi An walked through by the latest of the eight generations that had lived there, lurked about an old Cantonese temple (trying, unsuccessfully to mount the spiritual horse for a photo opportunity) and read studiously through an architectural presentation of local construction. Sodden and hungry again, we decided to seek refuge in a nearby cafe. Having become disoriented we ended up back at the same restaurant as last night (The Mermaid) and partook of a satisfying lunch of Cau Lao noodles and groper fillet sliced with bone in and covered in herbs and spices.

Now exhausted from all our experiences and wet through we hurried back to the hotel to dry out and relax ready for our day spa treatment booked for mid afternoon. My overzealous relaxing on the outdoor beds was brought to an abrupt halt as K motioned us in the direction of the day spa.

Dazedly I readied myself hoping I could soon return to that state of bliss. We filled out the required medical information forms, drank the potentially lethal liquid offered and followed our therapist into the changing room where we were told in Vietnamese to ‘’nude up’ and don the plastic undies.

Obediently, dressed in day spa gowns sporting cane sandals we were gently frog marched into our separate treatment rooms. K’s eyes rolled completely around in her head as she was led by the youthful non homosexual boy to her room. Once inside the room I lay face down gazing through the hole in the bed to a bowl of perfectly arranged rocks and waited for the magic to begin. Previous to this my feet were cleaned and energised in a bowl of tepid water alive with large amounts of lemon grass and mint. Ninety minutes of medium/severe manipulation left me pummelled into shape. The over earnest kneading of the scalp and face technique was new to me and not one I would like repeated. The ensuing salt scrub felt like an itch I needed scratching but quite abrasive and aggressive at the same time. I was hoping she would leave me one or two layers of dermis to go home with. Two hours later I was told to shower in the room whereupon she departed and left me unsure whether this was the end. Cleaned and scrubbed literally, I wandered back into reception where I was told to get back to my room so my therapist could then lead me back to reception.

Reunited again, K and I headed back into town briefly to collect my tailor made shoes then back to the happy hour at the resort to relax like Colonials over ginger cocktails in high back rattan chairs wiling away the evening gnawing on bar snacks and waiting for our Vietnamese orders to eat at leisure. Another early night (well we are getting on) ready for a 10am pick up to fly to Hanoi tomorrow.