Hello friends we've met, friends we haven't met yet, and family!
We're still in Vietnam in Hanoi on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend. We sure hope you all enjoyed the holiday and got lots to eat!
When we arrived in Vietnam we had no idea what we were going to do or where we were going to go. All we knew was that we had a 30-day visa and we flew out of Hanoi on December 3rd. When we visited the Cu Chi tunnels (or tunners according to our guide) Leanne spoke to an Irish guy who told us we should check out an area called Mui Ne. We had absolutely no idea what was there but we knew it was a 5-hour bus ride away so we booked the ticket. It was $5 for a one-way ride and we were on our way. Before we get to the knitty-gritty we wanted to mention the hotel we stayed at in case anybody is randomly looking for information. We stayed at a place called Hai Yen. You can google it to find contact information if you'd like. The rooms were $16 and were soooo nice. There was a pool, good internet, and a friendly staff. The guy that owns the place has his fingers in everything so he seems to keep everything new and clean.
We rented a motorbike the whole time we were there for $5 a day so were able to explore everything the area has to offer. Mui Ne is actually a desert. Did you know they have deserts in Vietnam? We had no idea. You learn something everyday. It's also on the coast so there are plenty of fishermen.
While biking along we came across this local fishing village
Leanne was all smiles at the thought of having some of their haul for dinner
Josh got excited about playing on the sand dunes
So did Leanne!
We tried to roll down the dunes but weren't very successful.
Selfy shot at the dunes
When riding back along the coast the scenery was absolutely beautiful.
We caught the sunset before heading back
We ate at rows of stands where families sold the catch of the day. Dinner every night consisted of picking out something and having them grill (or BBQ as they say) it. You were able to pick what sides would accompany it as well. We usually picked out a vegetable and had rice, of course.
Scallops and beer!
The next day we headed to an area called Fairy Stream. The way it was presented we expected there to be signs but after turning around and driving past it four or five times we finally saw a small sign. We walked down a path and caught this other tiny sign and were able to find it.
It really was a beautiful place. We hiked up this little stream for about 30 minutes.
We took a few pitstops to climb up the sides and take a few pictures
Leanne posed in the sand formations that have formed from the stream cutting through the sand.
Ahh...that feels nice. It was really hot.
We originally intended on staying a couple of days but were enjoying the weather so we extended our stay to five days. We hung out by the pool, ate great seafood, and explored the region for our remaining days.
The fisherman all row around in the these little boats and fish in the mornings. Do you see the little anchor? Josh wanted to row around in one of these boats but the opportunity never came up.
We cruised by the fishing village again for another photo opportunity.
One day while riding around we found a huge cemetery right on the coast. We ended up spending a couple of hours wandering around and checking it out.
We also came across these guys drying out little fish
Watching the sunset at the dunes
That's Leanne waaayyy off in the distance.
We did not partake in the snake but took a picture of the options on the menu. Side note, we did not partake in the snake because it was out of our budget at $20 a plate.
It was finally time for us to pry ourselves away from Mui Ne if we were going to see anything else so we had to move along to Nha Trang about 5 hours further up the coast. Nha Trang is more of a city but still has a really nice beach. We were only there for a couple of days because we wanted to spend several days in Hoi An (the next stop).
Here's a picture of some workers shaping the bushes into little boats with scissors.
Everywhere you go in Vietnam you are constantly reminded that you are in a Communist country. As a matter of fact, Vietnam, China, North Korea, and Cuba are the only communist countries left.
It was pouring rain for the majority of the time we were in Nha Trang so we took that as a sign to make our exit. We hopped aboard a 14-hour sleeper bus to Hoi An where we would spend the next week.
Hoi An is full of winding lanes and Chinese-styled shophouses. While most of the shops cater solely to tourists, the area has been preserved largely as is, which is unusual for Vietnam. Almost every shop in the downtown area that isn't a restaurant sells souvenirs ranging from tailor-made clothing, paper lanterns, shoes, bags and jewelry. Hoi An has a long tradition of copying or rapidly making up new garments for travelers. There are so many tailor shops throughout the town. Josh got his shorts fixed and Leanne got a pair of shorts made. Since we are traveling light, that was the only contribution we made to the garment making business of Hoi An.
The night market had so many fresh vegetables. The fresh vegetables and herbs are some of the best things about eating in Vietnam!
Beautiful handmade lanterns.
We ate at this sweet lady's restaurant (really it was her house) twice while we were in Hoi An. Her food was amazing. Each area throughout Vietnam has different speciality foods. Think Texas - Tex-Mex, Georgia - boiled peanuts and Colorado - Rocky Mountain oysters. Hoi An's specialty is rice pancakes and a dish called White Rose.
Yet again, the rain caught up with us. There are opposing monsoon seasons in Vietnam so it is always raining in some part of the country. During this time of the year, the central coast gets hit with rain.
When we say hit, we mean a Mack Truck drives through and smashes it. We actually had to purchase ponchos to wear over our rain jackets because it was raining so hard.
Fortunately for us, the beers were only 14 cents each. This really came in handy on a rainy day. This ring of empties represents 98 cents well spent!
The next day the rain finally subsided so we could get in some sightseeing.
The Japanese Covered Bridge was built in the early 1600's.
Josh couldn't help but smile outside of Hokien (Fujian) Meeting Hall a.k.a. Phuc Kien. Yeah, it made us chuckle too.
We strolled down lantern lane.
This is one of the many tailor shops in town. However, this one was too fancy for us. We wound up going to a budget tailor shop off the main street. We didn't get a picture of the tailor shop we went to because it was pouring the day we picked up our shorts. Go figure.
Now those are some large incenses
Rain or shine, these ladies were always hustling to get someone to go on a boat trip down the river.
We took a break to enjoy a cup of coffee and some snacks. The coffee if Vietnam is some of the strongest coffee we have had on our entire trip. It is amazing!
It makes you perk up and get going! Only a minute before this picture was taken, Leanne almost fell asleep on the table. Look at her now!
We visited one of the oldest houses in Hoi An. Believe it or not, the descendants of the original family still live in the house.
Every tourist takes a picture at this sign. Including us...
Many of the streets are closed for walking only in the evenings. It's a nice way to enjoy the lanterns while strolling down the streets.
The weather looked promising so we started this day out sightseeing. We rode on our bikes to the beach but were caught in a downpour two miles into the ride.
Between rain showers we snuck out and found a sidewalk cafe to enjoy some more cheap beers and food. We may have been Mrs. Hay's only customers of the night and she was sure happy to have us!
For the next three days we rented another motorbike to check out the surrounding area including Danang and My Son (pronounced me son) Temple. The weather was spectacular. We passed by these water buffalos walking through a rice field. This is what we envision when we think of Vietnam.
We're not sure what they were fishing for but there were men spread throughout trying to catch dinner.
After asking many people where it was we finally found My Son! It took us a little over an hour but we were able to get directions along the way. Nobody spoke English so our conversation went something like this:
Us: Xin chao (Hello)
They would then look at us
Us: My Son?
They would point in some direction
Us: Cam on (Thank you)
We're fluent now!!
My Son is a temple from the Cham era which dates back to the second century. Unfortunately, many of the remains were damaged by American bombs in the Vietnam War.
Picture opportunities are everywhere.
Just south of Danang is Marble Mountain which has one of the most beautiful caves we had seen to this point.
The rays of sunlight in the cave were pretty unbelievable.
We motored along the coast of the South China Sea
Not a bad place to take a nap.
The beach in Danang was large and deserted during the day. We had huge stretches of beach completely to ourselves. Like clockwork, at 4:00 p.m. thousands of locals would come to the beach for evening relaxation.
We stayed at a place called Nature Homestay for part of our time in Hoi An. This was the family we stayed with and they were incredibly friendly. You can book their rooms on Agoda.com. We're even Facebook friends now! Ha.
For Thanksgiving we were very sad to not be home celebrating with our countrymen so we decided to have our own little celebration. We "splurged" by going to a happy hour special at a swanky golf course designed by Greg Norman. We really considered playing a round but there were two factors that made us decide not to:
1) Wow!! That place was expensive. We're pretty sure you could support a Vietnamese Village for 6 months for the price of one round
2) Leanne has never played golf so she would have had to drive the cart while Josh played a round. Obviously, great for Josh but not Leanne.
We settled on the driving range special of 100 balls and a pitcher of beer each. It was still expensive for us but it was a holiday so it was ok. Josh tried his best to teach Leanne since it was her first time swinging a club. She did really well!
Now this is living!!
After golf we rode to the beach in Danang in pursuit of our Thanksgiving feast at a nice seaside restaurant. We ate crab soup, grilled squid, and a big bowl of rice. Rice for Thanksgiving? This is Asia!! Speaking of that, we definitely missed the traditional Thanksgiving food and we wouldn't exactly call it a feast because the portions were still Asian sized. Still, the meal was delicious and the company was great.
Here's to being thankful, no matter what country you're from!
We miss you all! Thanks for following.
Leanne & Josh