2019, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Vietnam Day 10: Hoi An Monday September 30, 2019

The night before was the first night I slept through the night. This past night I slept through the night again. With just one dose of the medication I already started to feel better, which could have something to do with the fact that I was taking three pills, two of which (at minimum) would require a prescription in Canada. However, I still had another health problem I have refrained from discussing.

The breakfast was extremely busy this morning for some reason but we were lucky to find a table.

There are a number of things you can do in Hoi An outside of the old town but many of them require tours or cabs at the very least. But in recent years one of the islands in the river had a bridge built to it so we decided to walk to the island, Cam Kim.

The bridge to Cam Kim

The bridge, which is closed to cars, is quite long and extremely noisy. Walking across it while motorbikes speed by you is quite the experience. (Most tourists who cross it cross it on bikes, but we didn’t rent bikes. Why will become clear in a subsequent post.)

The view from the bridge to Cam Kim

The people of Cam Kim are extremely friendly. Basically everybody said hello and only one of those people tried to sell us something. One thing about Vietnam: not everyone who is friendly is trying to sell you something. Many people are just being friendly. This is a very different experience than most places I’ve traveled. However, in Hoi An there are a lot more people trying to get you to buy things, and there was even more pressure than Siem Reap. So Cam Kim was even more welcome, because everyone was just friendly.

As much as mountain towns everywhere are similar to each other, and port cities are similar to each other, so are agricultural islands. There were times on Cam Kim when I could have tricked myself into thinking I was on Wolfe Island in Ontario, if I just ignored the architecture and the flora and fauna. We found the experience of walking around the island, looking at farms and dodging cows, to be quite serene and relaxing.

After a while we stumbled upon a more built up place and stopped for fruit juice. Much like the other tropical country I’ve been to, juice in Vietnam is plentiful, cheap and excellent.

We got a little lost on our way back to the bridge but we made it quickly enough. Crossing the bridge was a little less stressful the second time around.

Back in the Old Town we stopped for another drink, as we were still quite warm. Jenn had yet another iced coffee and I had yet another smoothie. In the Old Town the stores and restaurants and cafes are mostly in old houses, and the atmosphere inside them is really great. In this case, we sat on the second floor and it was really nice to be in this house that was a few hundred years old, with all this old wood and a view of the street.

View from the cafe

We went looking for lunch and ended up back near our hotel. I had another one of the Hoi An-specific foods and then we went for a swim.

I guess the walk to the island and back took a lot out of us because we stayed in the room for a while afterwards. If we watched something, I didn’t record what it was.

We headed back to the Old Town for the evening and discovered that Hoi An is far busier in the evening, even though they don’t light the lanterns every night. (It’s somewhat busy in the morning, dead in the heat of the day and then incredibly busy at night, even in the rainy season and even on a weeknight.)

We headed to a restaurant with a very good reputation. It took us a while to find it but when we did we found the prices shocking. And the same thing happened a few more times with a few other restaurants. Like many places in Vietnam, we’ve found that increased tourism has allowed the places popular with tourists to jack up their prices, regardless of whether the food is western or Vietnamese. These restaurants in Hoi An were not expensive for Canada, but they were incredibly expensive for Vietnam, with one place having a buffet for over CAD$20 per person, which is just insane for this country. A couple of these places were also very crowded, and so we didn’t want to wait to pay relatively tons of money.

We wandered across the bridge and wandered into what was likely a tourist trap. But though they sort of forgot about us, as they were more concerned getting news customers than serving the current ones, the food was pretty good, actually. And it was far, far cheaper than in the Old Town. (Though it was still slightly more than out by our hotel.)

After dinner we went to the Night Market. Eventually we tried a banana pancake, which might be my favourite Vietnamese dessert. These things are just, um, bananas. They are so good. Unfortunately we never found them in Hanoi (and forgot to look for them in Hue). Someone should open a Vietnamese banana pancake shop in Toronto. They will just be rolling in money. These things are amazing.

We headed back across the river to have a beer in the Old Town along the river. It was quite pleasant and Jenn had her first and only great cocktail of the trip. (Vietnam is not a great place for cocktails. They are numerous, mostly extremely sweet and generic.)

Despite the quality of the banana pancake, I was determined to try mango cake. We got slightly ripped off – a mango cake cost the same as a banana pancake many times its size – but that’s because we were in the Old Town. They were extremely disappointing, tasting much more like peanuts than mango, and resembling Mochi in texture, something I don’t love. But at least I got to try that banana pancake.

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