Airport Adventures

Our Hanoi hotel secured a transfer to the airport for us, and we arrived in plenty of time to check-in. Jim’s carry-on bag was over the weight limit for the first time, and the agent said we would need to check our the bags. We’re in a foreign country, and if they want us to check our bags, we’ll check our bags.

It was very foggy, but that didn’t stop flights from arriving or departing. We checked out the terminal for lunch before we boarded the plane and found a restaurant called Ans Menu, where we tried our first Banh Mi’s, and Jim tried “white coffee.” Both were a hit.

Breakfast sandwich at airport
Vietnam white coffee

Back at our gate, we were told to line up, and they sent us down the steps in groups (ok, so checking the bags worked out OK), and we boarded buses that took us to the airplane.

The flight was uneventful, taking just over an hour. When we left Hanoi, it was 50 degrees; when we arrived in Danang, it was in the low 80s and sunny.

After a long wait for our bags, we found our driver and headed to Hoi An.

Lantana Boutique Hotel

We arrived at the Lantana Hoi An Boutique Hotel around 2:00 PM, and we were able to check into our room. The hotel is a cute little place situated right on the river about a block from what is considered the Old Quarter. Our room was on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the river. It was large and has an air conditioner that works very well!

Lantana hotel bedroom
Lantana Hotel bathroom
Lantana hotel lobby at breakfast

The hotel has a spa, pool, exercise room, restaurant, and bar. Breakfast was included in our room rate, which was very good, with both hot and cold items available. Two water bottles are provided daily as you can’t drink tap water in Vietnam.

Lantana hotel pool
Lantana hotel exterior
Lantana hotel sign

Clean Cloths

Once our things were put away, we headed out to explore the town. We were in dire need of a laundry service. The hotel did provide this, but it was four times the cost of a small shop right around the corner. We dropped our dirty clothes off, and the cost to wash, dry, and fold them was $1 per kg. Almost every piece of clothing needed to be cleaned, so the bag was heavy. We spent a total of $6.08 on laundry!

Our First Attempt at Market Shopping

Jim needed a light-colored shirt as what he had on (the only clean shirt he had at the time) was black, and it was a scorching day. We had researched purchasing items at shops here and were told we needed to negotiate. We are not good negotiators. We found a store that had a large selection of what the owner said were authentic Nike t-shirts. With no negotiating skills available, I’m pretty sure we paid too much for the shirts, but compared to the price in the US, it was a decent price. After getting the shirts back to the hotel and looking at them closer, I’m pretty sure they are not authentic either.

Shops in Hoi An Vietnam
Street with stores in Hoi An Vietnam
Shopping in Hoi An Vietnam

Next, we walked the streets, checking out the shops, food stands, and restaurants. There were so many options to choose from that we became overwhelmed and ended up back at the hotel for happy hour and just ordered dinner from their menu. After dinner, we returned to the area by the river to look at the boats that sailed in the evening with lanterns lit. We were surprised to find thousands of people crowding the area. Some other folks were around when we had strolled the streets in the afternoon, but nothing like this!

We took a few photos of the pretty lanterns lit up and headed back to the calmness of our hotel.

Lanterns in Hoi An
Lantern lit boats in the river in Hoi An Vietnam
Street lit with lanterns in Hoi An Vietnam

Wandering the Streets

Today was an open day with nothing planned. I needed a haircut, and we had a few products we needed to replace (saline solution for our contacts and some hair conditioner). These things are easy to find at home but not so easy to see when there are no large groceries or Walmarts around. Also, most labels are in Vietnamese, so we have to get our translation app out to determine the product.

Resting in the shade in Hoi An, Vietnam.
A home in Hoi An Vietnam.
Street view in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Hair Cut

Knowing our tasks today might pose a challenge, we hit the street determined to be flexible. Jim had looked up a few pharmacies where we thought we might find the contact solution, but we were unsuccessful. We saw a hair salon as we navigated to the next one on the list. I popped in to see if I could make an appointment, and in very broken English, the girl said now.

Hair Salon in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Hair salon color supplies in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Getting the works at the hair salon in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Jim’s New Friend

I hopped in the chair and communicated to the head stylishly, with the help of Google translate, that I wanted a haircut and color. While I was getting my hair taken care of, Jim made friends with the shop’s dog. He was a white, fluffy little fellow with his ears and tail dyed bright pink. Jim was his new chew toy.

Jim and dog from the hair salon in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Jim petting salon dog in Hoi An.
Entrance to hair salon in Hoi An, Vietnam.

With the haircut mission accomplished, we were able to find the rest of the items on our list by visiting several shops.

In Search of Food

We had noticed a Thai restaurant next to our hotel, so after dropping off our purchases, we went next door to the BKK Tahi Station for lunch. It was fabulous and very reasonably priced.

Pad Thai in Hoi An.
Jim's lunch, I have no idea what it was called.
Mango sticky rice in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Returning to our hotel, we rested for a while and researched options for dinner. Initially, we thought it would be easy to find vegetarian food in Vietnam, but it was challenging in Hanoi. It does not help that most people here do not speak English, and we don’t speak Vietnamese. We’ve found that if we don’t know where to go, we eat poorly with whatever we can see when hungry. Jim has taken on the task of researching restaurants and figuring out how to get there.

Tonight, Jim chose a Mexican Restaurant called Masa Restaurant. We had been craving Mexican food but found no offerings in Hanoi. Masa was great; not only did they have the standard Mexican fare, but they also had a substantial amount of vegetarian and vegan Mexican options available.

Mexican restaurant in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Jim with beer in Mexican restaurant in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Chips and salsa at a Mexican Restaurant in Hoi An, Vietnam.

We wandered back toward the hotel, checking out shops along the way. The sun was setting, so we returned to the hotel to miss the crowds of arriving night tourists.

Tour Day

Today, we had a tour scheduled, so we were up and ready for our 8:00 AM pick-up. We were picked up promptly by our guide, Hai (Hi). After picking up five other people, he took us to a local market where we walked through the various stalls and showed us fruits and vegetables native to Vietnam but unavailable in the US. Our time at the market was interesting as he guided us through rows upon rows of fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish. He mentioned that they don’t have supermarkets or grocery stores in the area, and locals come to the market every day to purchase food for that day. A few stalls had home-good items and even toys for the kids.

Local market in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Women selling vegetable at a market in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Woman selling vegetables on the street in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Basket Boat Ride

With our tour over, we loaded back up in the airconditioned van and headed toward a different branch of the river for a ride on a basket boat. This was a first for us, but apparently, it was a traditional type of boat for this area historically. The boats are round and small, holding no more than three people. Our boat “captain” welcomed Jim and me onboard; he didn’t speak any English, so all communication was done by hand signal or obvious direction (he gave us life jackets and made us put them on). He gave us hats to keep the sun off of us, but after looking at how fair-skinned I was, he pulled out an umbrella to shield the sun.

We had an excellent tour of some tree-lined streams and watched entertainers spin the boats (we shook our heads no when he pointed to the spinner). We also saw a casting demonstration from a local fisherman. Before heading back in, he taught Jim how to fish for crabs with a fishing pole; Jim caught two, which we promptly released back into the wild.

Jim and Rosie on basket boat in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Basket boat ride near Hoi An, Vietnam.
Spinning a basket boat in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Cooking Class

Once everyone was back on land, we loaded back into the van and headed to the place for our cooking lesson. We donned chef hats and aprons and followed Chef Hai’s instructions on preparing our four-course meal. We spent about two and a half hours preparing and eating the food. We had a great time and learned some new cooking techniques. Did I mention it was a hot and humid day, and our lesson was outside? Lots of water was consumed!

Rosie in her cooking class outfit in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Chef giving us instructions at our cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Jim cooking at our cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Very full and warm, we again loaded back into the van for the trip back to our hotel.

Another Day, Another Tour!

Today, we scheduled a private tour to visit the countryside and a few local families. Our tour guide, Fairy, and driver, Flom, arrived promptly at 8:00 AM for our hotel pick-up.

Our first stop was at a family home of an elderly gentleman, Fairy, referred to as Uncle. We learned that Uncle and Auntie are terms of endearment here, not necessarily an actual relationship.

Making Rice Paper

Uncle showed us how to grind rice using an ancient system. He ground the rice for a while, and then Jim and I took turns until the process was complete. We then moved over to the cooking area, a stone structure used as a stove fueled by the rice husks. The fire warms water, which creates steam. Every part of the rice is used in this process. We were shown how to mix the milled rice with a bit of water to form a liquid, which was poured onto a cotton cooking surface and steamed for a minute. Afterward, we ate our creations, along with some that had been grilled after steaming.

Uncle grinding rice to make rice paper.
Jim grinding rice for the rice paper.
Jim cooking rice paper.

Next, we stopped at a wood carving shop and a place where they were inlaying shells into some of the wood carvings.

Fishing Village

Then we were on to a fishing village where we visited with local fishermen and stopped at a whale temple. We saw many animals along the way, including water buffalo, cows, ducks, and fish.

From the fishing village, we went to the home of another couple that used thatch to weave bedding mats and mats for other uses. They were such a lovely couple and encouraged us to try weaving and preparing the thatch for drying. We had a pleasant visit here.

Jim learning to weave a bed mat.
Jim learning the weaving process in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Preparing the reeds for drying before weaving.

Coffee Shop Like No Other

Our guide then took us to a coffee shop in the middle of a rice field. It is a pretty remote place on a very narrow road. A brick structure sits near the coffee shop, and a raised wooden path leads to it. We ordered our beverages (black rice smoothies, which was highly recommended) and watched a group of older ladies dressed in colorful local clothing as they checked out the brick structure. After inquiring with a local at the shop, she said that the structure was once part of a brick-making building. The path to the building was very tight, so we waited for the women to finish before exploring.

Coffee shop in a rice field near hoi An, Vietnam.
Vietnamese women at the coffee shop in the rice field in Vietnam.
Part of an old brick factory now located in a rice field near Hoi An, Vietnam.

Collective Herb Farm

Our final stop was at an herb farm village. We were told that over 300 families come together to grow herbs and vegetables here. The place was massive, and many people were working in the fields. We had lunch here at a restaurant on the farm’s edge. The food was very fresh, having been harvested from the farm itself.

Herb farm near Hoi An, Vietnam.
Collective herb farm close to Hoi An, Vietnam.
Lunch salad from the herb farm near Hoi An, Vietnam.

The day was long but well worth it; we returned to the hotel for some rest before dinner.

Preparing For Our Next Stop

Today was our last full day in Hoi An, so we spent it quietly, preparing for our next city. Jim picked up the laundry, and we tried a new restaurant for dinner, Good Morning Vietnam.

Good Morning Vietnam restaurant in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Dinner salad at Good Morning Vietnam in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Pizza at Good Morning Vietnam in Hoi An, Vietnam.

The rest of the day was used for packing and making sure our travel plans were in order.

We really enjoyed our time in Hoi An, but it was time to move on!

Book cart in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Building in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Bikes sitting under a window in Hoi An, Vietnam.