Hanging Around Hoi An
Cooking was far from the only thing that we did in Hoi An. We originally intended to stay in the quaint city for only a couple days, but as seems to be a recurring theme in Vietnam, we wound up staying longer than anticipated. Part of this was due to Jeff and Martin getting a pair of suits tailored at a place called Kimmy’s. Hoi An is famous for its plethora of tailors who make everything from suits, to dresses, to customized shoes. Since I had recently gotten suits made in Thailand, I passed on getting classy, but luckily there was plenty else to do in the city.
I would be remiss not to mention that Hoi An is home to the unanimous best banh mi stand in Vietnam. Phoung Banh Mi serves up a sandwich filled with delicious meats, herbs, homemade sauces, and topped with a friend egg. The stand was made famous by Anthony Bourdain in an episode of No Reservations, where he declared it the best banh mi he had ever had. I definitely agree. And it makes the perfect get-up-and-go meal after a long night of partying.
Partying in Hoi An is kind of hit or miss depending on the influx and outflow of tourists throughout the week. On our first night we wandered around to different bars that had handed us flyers promoting free drinks. I find it pretty annoying when people on the streets try to hand you their promotional flyers and found it a bit amusing that two days later Martin, Jeff, and I were those people wandering the streets, promoting for a local club called Volcano. Our second night in Hoi An we had decided to check out the Volcano because we heard it had the best dancing in town and offered all you can drink service for $5. The club was swarming with Dutch girls by the end of the night, and as we became familiar with the bartender, he enticed us to promote for the club the next night in exchange for free drinks and $10.
So the next night Jeff, Martin, and I rolled up to the club at 8, threw back a few beers and ripped a couple shots to get the conversation juices flowing, and hit the streets armed with flyers. For the next 2.5 hours we trolled around the touristy waterfront area of the city and introduced ourselves to tourists who looked ready for a party, trying to get the word out about Volcano. It actually wound up being more fun than I anticipated as the bartenders brought us water bottles full of mixed drinks to carry around, I escaped for a half hour to eat some cao lau with some locals, and we became familiar with a bunch of fellow tourists. In fact, that is how we first met our friends Florencia and Jimena, who we’ve been travelling on and off with for the past week and a half.
By the time our shifts were done at 11 we were anxious to see the crowd at the club. We must have done a decent job because there were at least 3 times as many people dancing and getting lubricated by the bar than the previous night. Seeing all these faces that were familiar from earlier in the night, we felt like we were partying with a bunch of friends instead of strangers. Plus, the ability to drink whatever we wanted for free (tequila my expensive old friend!) ensured that it would be a wild night.
It’s impossible to beat free drinks, but the fresh bia at Cafe 43 comes damn close. Each glass costs 3,000 dong and it’s always happy hour with buy two get one free. Essentially, each round for Jeff, Martin, and I cost the equivalent of 10 cents a beer. The cherry on top is the delicious Hoi An specialty food available at bottom floor prices. Here we munched on white rose (shrimp inside of a thin pastry, indigenous to Hoi An); sweet and sour seafood, pork, and pineapple wantons; spicy shrimp papaya salad; and many other dishes on our daily pilgrimage to the cafe.
With all the great food and drink in Hoi An, it was very difficult to leave. But we had a date with some of the best coastal roads in theworld via the High Van Pass on our way to Hue. Jime and Flor rented their own scooter and joined us for the scenic cruise.
As we road north and passed through the beach city of Da Nang, hundreds of fishing boats floated in the ocean. We must not have been the only ones who appreciated the view as a local couple was taking pictures for their wedding on the beach. Once in the mountains, rounding each turn produced one National Geographic worthy view after another. Rather than exhaust my vocabulary of adjectives, here’s a few examples.