Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Living the Dream in Hoi An, Vietnam

If your dream is eating copious quantities of Vietnamese food and laying on the beach all day, then we are living it!

After Andy's medical mishap was handled, we set out to explore the little beach town of Hoi An, Vietnam. The "Old City" is very small, just a few blocks square, and full of shops and neon lights and the usual touristic silliness. My finely-honed people watching-skills deduced that this is a tourist town for mainly Vietnamese (in addition to foreigners of course), so despite the trinkets and salespeople and paper lanterns everywhere, I feel like we're having an authentic experience. 

(I'm sorry to report that due to a phone mishap, no pictures of Hoi An survive, so you'll have to use your imagination here.)

For dinner we had one of those perfect eating experiences -- when atmosphere and taste and view combine in the most satisfying way possible. We stopped at a street/riverside barbecue "restaurant," which really means a woman with a collection of pans and pots over a portable grill on the sidewalk. The proprietress waves passersby to sit down on a tiny chair at a tiny table (seriously, everything here is legit kindergarden-sized), and proceeds to serve amazingness. She handed us a menu and strongly recommended Pork Pau Lau and Barbecue -- ok sounds good!

Pau Lau might be my new favorite thing: it's a bowl of think rice noodles in sauce (not fried) with slices of pork and a few crispy pieces of pork rind, all on top of a mix of greens, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs (cilantro and mint). I love greens mixed with hot things, and the fresh herbs here are fantastic and abundant.  The barbecue is slices of deliciously marinated pork (I'm guessing something like sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar) pinched between chopsticks that have been split in half lengthwise. Perfect.

The next two days we spent at An Bang Beach, and that was pretty perfect too. To get there we rented a motorbike, since a bicycle and broken wrist do well mix. As the one member of the party with four functioning limbs, I was the pilot of this operation, to the extreme amusement of everyone we passed along the way. 

An Bang Beach is just 6k from Hoi An, is less crowded than the main beach, and I highly recommend it! At the beach, the lounge chairs are free as long as you buy lunch at the associated beachside seafood restaurant, WHICH YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY DO IT -- WAS MY FAVORITE MEAL SO FAR. After a rough morning of reading and swimming and beach walking and napping (refer back to the aforementioned "dream"), we sat down for a late lunch. I ordered the Squid Soup: rice noodles, shredded carrots and possibly green papaya, many many pieces of squid, all submerged in the most delicious seafood broth I have ever experienced. It was amazing and I will dream about that soup forever. 

The two days we spent there included more motorbiking, a lot more food, and extensive beach time of course. I could have stayed for a week (or more?), but it's time to move on to the mountains!