Joe was here in 2010 and noted a tremendous difference in the growth and feeling of the town since then. Let’s just say it’s gotten fairly touristy, prices are up and the streets are more crowded. Mind you, it is the Tet holiday today—Vietnam New Year. The flower vendors line the streets and already yesterday, half the shops were closed. Most of the rest of them, including the markets, will pack it in later this afternoon and stay closed for 24 hours. What are we to do?
The first night in Hoi An we wanted a traditional Vietnamese restaurant so we left the hotel and headed off to walk to town – about 1 km they said. We walked, and walked and walked while it got darker and darker and darker and less inhabited and less inhabited… you get the idea. Finally we came across an older woman on a bike and asked her where Hoi An was – back the way we had come. Apparently we should have gone left instead of right out of the hotel. She indicated we were walking towards Cua Dai. Geoff pantomimed eating and she nodded. So off we went – the five of us with her walking her bike and singing to Terry and Sam. When we got to Cua Dai, she parked her bike and came in with us. I guess Geoff had invited her to eat with us. Anyway, after a few minutes discussion with the server, she left the seeds on the table, waved and left us to enjoy a mediocre dinner.
Tuesday was a day for exploring Hoi An and the market. Never having been “threaded” before, I had no idea how painful it could be. The lovely woman doing it kept calling me a baby every time I said “ouch” – which was a lot! Then she started on Geoff’s ears. Talk about a baby!
We found this great place for dinner one night—Red Dragon. It’s down by our end of town, away from the old town and towards the ocean. The food was awesome and reasonably priced, and the owners loved us because Geoff spent the time convincing passers-by to come in and eat, filling the place up on an otherwise slow night. When we noticed that they would do a cooking class for us, and allow us to choose what we cooked, we signed up. We’ve been back for about an hour, with our bellies full and rhapsodizing about the food. Here’s what we made and ate.
First, fresh spring rolls. Geoff and I made these—sort of—on the cruise in Halong Bay but they were nothing nearly as good as these. The secret was in the lemon grass chicken we prepared for the filling, along with the teaspoon of peanut oil, used to fry shallots, put into the dipping sauce just prior to serving. Oh my. Half ripe mangoes, cucumber, fresh herbs, carrots, lettuce and some great, slightly heavier rice paper. Amazing dip! Next, cau lao, also amazing. We had eaten some downtown the previous day but what we made left no comparison. Again, the key seemed to be in the preparation of the pork that went into it. First we caramelized it with garlic, shallots, lemon grass and other things, then allowed it to finish cooking for an hour. Finally, we made Tom Yum soup. When we’ve had it before, it was so hot as to be inedible, but this was perfect. Fabulous! $22 per person, including a market tour. If you ever come to Hoi An, look up the Red Dragon. Our chef is planning on starting a cooking school a few kilometers out of town, to be called Red Dragon Farm. We are sure it is going to be fantastic!
We are all feeling a little lazy. Good thing it is hot and we have nice comfortable loungers by the pool! Later we might feel like renting some bicycles and checking out the ocean. Or maybe not. Life is good!
(Ed. note: Some photos of Hoi An for you to enjoy. The reason for the title of this blog is that every morning at 6 the 4 or 5 dogs in the house behind our room decide it is time to wake up the neighbourhood – along with the rooster and the buddhist monks who play some lovely music adding to the cacophony of noise. I always thought roosters only crowed at dawn but here it is all day long – I guess they figure it is dawn somewhere.)
The Shoe Blog
These are beautiful shoes – but how the hell does she stand in them, let alone walk?