Hop, skip and a jump…thats what these little Vietnamese flights feel like. We hop onto these little planes, skip over some amazing jungles and landscapes and jump off in a whole new area of this incredible country.
After our amazing stay in Nha Trang, it was time to move on. Once again, we got up, had some breakfast, drank our shockingly dark Vietnamese coffee and decided to book a flight north. Just like that, we were landing in Da Nang. We were excited about this part of our trip because for this I booked a Home Stay. Essentially like a B & B in the States. I thought it would give us a glimpse into family life in Vietnam. We landed and immediately grabbed a cab heading to Hoi An out of Da Nang. The plan was to go straight to Hoi An and then after a few days, head back into the city of Da Nang for a couple of days before flying back to HCMC.
We got to Hoi An, found our Home Stay and was immediately met by the sweetest young lady, who was the daughter of the owners. She brought us inside, sat us down, served us fresh fruit and water, since it was so hot out. She allowed us some time to just sit an relax, which we were so grateful for. She told us all about the house, where we would be staying, about the beaches that we could ride cruiser bikes to, about restaurants, and sights to see in the city of Hoi An. Nothing about this place, or the city of Hoi An is rushed.
Hoi An is a small little town that in my mind is how traditional Vietnam would be. Before traveling to any place, I always seem to get an idea, in my mind, of how it will be. Sometimes it’s better and sometimes not…but thats how things go when you’re traveling by way of the wind. Hoi An totally hit the nail on the head. Sweet people, quaint little shops, great markets, gorgeous bridges, decadent restaurants, temples, tea houses and phenomenal beaches all wrapped up with an old-world Vietnam feel.
After our visit with our gracious hostess, we quickly unpacked and jumped onto a couple of cruiser bikes to set out to roam the city. She gave us a little city map, and outlined some areas of interest, as well as a safe place to park our bikes to walk around the markets and shops. This time, instead of a crazy scooter ride, it was a crazy cruiser bike ride. Swerving in and out of people shopping, other bikes and the occasional car in a very “free for all” way. No one is in a big rush, but everyone is heading somewhere with a purpose!
We parked our bikes and strolled through the streets; taking in the buildings, temples and shops. It seemed to be a city stuck in time, which was just fascinating. We stopped to talk to shop owners, some spoke English pretty well, and others not at all. Still lots of conversations were had. Honestly some of the sweetest people. They would say something (in Vietnamese) and I would say something (in English) and we would both double over laughing. It was glorious! The universal language of laughter and smiles.
That evening we made our way back down into town to go to the Night Market. We had no idea what to expect, but when we rounded the corner, we could not believe what we were seeing. An entire market area lit by thousands of lanterns. We stood and stared, in awe of the beauty. This ended up being a nighty ritual for us…making our way downtown after lazing on the beach all day, finding a new restaurant to eat at, have some tea, and stroll the market. We listened to music, watched people dancing, and laughed with vendors. We had massages nightly, and tried mini donuts from a food cart. Which by the way, tasted nothing like American mini donuts. We were enchanted by the women making the silk lanterns, one after another, street side, and seeing the men bring out their offerings each evening to sit outside their shops. The air was humid and full of rich incense every evening.
After our third day, as we sat having breakfast and talking to our sweet, hostess, she invited us to dinner with their family. What a treat! On our way home from the beach that day, as we rode our cruisers through the market, we stopped to pick a pineapple to bring to dinner as a thank you. Dinner was at 6pm, and as usually we ate outside. The whole family was there as well as another couple from Germany who were also staying at the house.
Sitting at a large table outside, we shared a Vietnamese meal prepared for us by the proprietors of our Home Stay. They showed us how to fix our rolls, by layering vegetables, eggs and meat, and rolling them neatly into rice papers. They served us a variety of dishes and a whole lot of beer! I’m sure our laughter could be heard all the way down the street. They taught us to say “Cheers” in Vietnamese, which is “Mot,
Hai, Ba, Yoh!” (One, two, three, drink) We laughed and ate and drank well into the evening, with the often-repeated sound of someone shouting, “mot, hai, ba, yoh!” …..and with that, we raised our glasses, and clinked!! It was a truly special evening!!
The next day after beaching at the gorgeous beach of Cua Dai for the day, we had made a reservation for a cooking school.
We hopped on our cruisers and made our way into town. Again, we met around a large table inside the back of a restaurant called Hai Cafe’ and started our class. We were joined by people from Europe, a solo girl backpacker from Australia and a group of women on a girls trip from New Zealand. What a group! What a blast! We each had a spot around the table as we watched and listened carefully to our chef/ instructor. We learned how to make: Grilled Ocean Fish in
Banana Leaves (Ca Nuong La Chuoi) with a Lime Dipping Sauce. Spring Rolls (Ram Chien) wish Fish Sauce, and Beef Salad (Goi Bo Hoi An) We learned about Vietnamese spices, how to chop, grate and prepare all of this food with chopsticks.
My proficiency went WAY up in the chopstick arena after this trip! We cooked and drank and chatted the night away with our new friends, and when we finished up, we took off to the night market and purchased lanterns and placemats, and chopsticks to bring home to recreate this night at a dinner party for our friends back home. Including the recipes that our chef had typed out for us!
We loved being in Hoi An so much that on our last day there, before heading back for a few days in Da Nang, we decided to stay. That’s the great thing about NOT booking up a vacation with itineraries and hotel reservations; you can stay as long as you want. We asked if there was room at the home stay, but were willing to move if we needed to. We were able to stay with just a switch of rooms. When we go back (and we will) we will definitely stay at Magnolia Homestay again. *And thier Phở was TO DIE FOR every morning! We ended up staying 3 extra days in Hoi An before catching a cab back to Da Nang.
Being in Da Nang after Hoi An was a jump from past to present. Back to city life. We had 2 nights to stay in Da Nang and stayed at the beautiful beach resort; Sandy Beach Resort on Non Nuoc Beach (China Beach) Everything about this place was first class! We enjoyed our last couple of days on the South China sea and woke up on our last morning early, to catch the last sunrise over Non Nuoc and Da Nang before flying back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Our whole entire vacation was unimaginable! We loved every piece of it and cannot wait to go back.
We spent our last night in the BIG city of a million lights, people and scooters before boarding a flight to Japan, and ultimately back to the Pacific Northwest.
Mot Hai Ba-Yoh Vietnam!