We are having so much fun in Vietnam! I know I???ve gotten quite behind in my updates, mostly because we???ve been spending a lot of time on buses (Vietnam???s a lot bigger than the map makes it seem!), but also because we???ve just been having a good time. The food here is great. I might actually like it more than Thai food, though that???s a tough decision to make. One of the most popular and delicious dishes in Vietnam is ph???, noodle soup with different types of meat, veggies, and spices in it. Another good one is banh khoai, crepes filled with pork and bean sprouts then wrapped up in rice paper with vegetables and dunked in a spicy sauce. Really, almost all of our meals have been great. And bread is still available everywhere!
After Saigon we went to Dalat, “Le Petit Paris.” Dalat is in the central highlands, so it???s nice and cool all year round. Brad wasn???t feeling well there, so we didn???t do a whole lot, but we did make it to the Crazy House, an Alice in Wonderland type place very reminiscent of Antoni Gaud?? architecture. Some lady with a PhD in architecture designed the house and it???s being expanded with even stranger looking additions. It was a fun place to poke around in and gawk at for a while.
Next we went to Nha Trang, the beach resort capital of Vietnam, though it didn???t seem that crazy and built up to me (at least in comparison to, say, Kuta or Phuket). The beach itself isn???t quite up to Thailand???s standards, but it???s still pretty and has walking paths and parks along most of it. There was also a microbrewery in town, so we enjoyed a good, dark lager for the first time in months.
Then we stopped in Quy Nhon, which is a bit up the coast, but not very popular with tourists. Since it???s not touristy, the locals were really friendly and there weren???t any touts, so we could just wander around and watch daily life. One day we rented bikes and rode to the Cham ruins in town, then up to the leper hospital. I know, a leper hospital doesn???t sound like fun, but it???s actually really nice (more like a resort than a hospital, I???d say), and, more importantly, they allow tourists to use its peaceful stretch of beach. The waves looked pretty intimidating so we didn???t swim, we just sat in hammocks and reminisced about the early parts of our trip.
And finally we made it Hoi An, one of the best places I???ve ever been. It???s a really charming, picturesque historical town on a river. Most of the Chinese buildings were built in the 18th century, but they???ve been restored and are in great condition. It???s a World Heritage Site and quite a bit like Penang, except better. We took tours of the inside of some of the buildings, which are made out of beautiful dark wood and incorporate Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese architectural elements, but we mostly just strolled down the streets and browsed in all the little tourist shops. Tailors are the big specialty in Hoi An and each street has dozens of them. We thought about popping in one and getting something made up because it???s so cheap (an entire custom men???s suit costs around $150), but decided not to waste our money on it. At night, the town is lit up with colored lanterns hanging from the roofs and across the streets. There are also tons of fun restaurants and bars. I know this sounds stupid, but Hoi An is really just magical. I???ll admit the classical music playing in the historical quarter is cheesy, but besides that, I loved everything about it. Such a great place!
I suppose I???ll end here, although I could say more about Vietnam. This country has turned into the biggest surprise of our trip. I???d heard such horrible things about it, I really wasn???t expecting to like it much. Those good surprises are one of my favorite parts about traveling. I just hope the rest of the country can live up to the awesome first couple of weeks!