I haven’t been doing a great job keeping up with the blog lately. It wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to write about, but I was doing too many things the last couple of weeks and I just wasn’t able to squeeze in some time to write. Today I’m able to empty out a bit of time during my transition day to Kao Tao Island in Thailand. I arrived at the Koh Samui Island by plane from Cambodia in the late afternoon and I’m only here for one night before taking the early boat to Koh Tao tomorrow. So I couldn’t think of better things to do than chilling at the bungalow at my beach front hostel and writing while enjoying the ocean breeze. And to help myself remember my backpacking experience, I’ll dedicate this post and the next post to capture something interesting about each place I’ve visited in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Da Nang, Vietnam
Since I’ve already written a post about Hanoi, I’ll start with the second city in Vietnam I’ve visited. Da Nang is third largest city in Vietnam after HCMC and Hanoi. It is a coastal city with great beaches and seafood. Originally I didn’t have any plan of visiting here until my mom told me about the delicious seafood at cheap prices. Being an obsessive seafood lover, I decided to give it a try and spend a night here. When I arrived at Danang, I was still a bit suspicious of the city and the people here due to some unpleasant experience from the last city Hanoi. However, surprisingly Danang has dramatically improved my experience in Vietnam since I’ve actually met a Vietnamese friend Anh who is from Saigon/HCMC from the hostel I stayed at.
Meeting Anh took me by surprise but I was so naturally intrigued by Anh and attracted to building a friendship with her. When I entered into my room in the hostel, I actually didn’t realize Anh was sleeping in her bed behind the curtain and I was making a bunch of noises while unpacking my stuff. All of a sudden I heard the sound of someone opening the bed curtain behind me. My first reaction before looking at her was, “Shoot, someone must be mad at me now for disturbing her sleep”. Surprisingly, Anh was really chill and initiated a conversation with me in her soft spoken voice without feeling disturbed at all. After a quick introduction, we established an immediate friendship and decided to venture out together for food. I rode onto the back seat of the motorbike that Anh has rented in Danang and then she took me to try a famous Vietnamese dish called Bun Xieo, which is wrapped in rice papers with lettuce, pickled vegetable and grilled pork or pork omelette mixed in the flavorful salty shrimp past sauce. The food was so good, especially mixing with the sauce. Anh and I got along so well together and we shared so many stories with each other even though it was only our first day of meeting each other. We talked about family, love life, ex boyfriends, jobs, passion, etc. Hanging out with Anh that day in Danang really was one of the highlights of my backpacking trip. Anh showed me the pure kindness and welcoming nature of human relationships. And just like being with an old friend, I hung out with Anh for the rest of the day exploring the beaches together and even meeting her friends who are from Da Nang for dinner in the evening. Knowing that I came to Danang for the seafood, Anh and her friends took me to a local seafood restaurant and ordered so many delicious dishes. We even went for dessert and drinks after dinner and relaxed by the beautiful marina. The day went by quickly and it was time for us say goodbye to each other before Ann’s early morning departure, but luckily Anh was also heading to Hoi An where I was going next. We then decided to meet up in Hoi An again a few days later.
Hoi An, Vietnam
I cannot explain to you how cute Hoi An is. You just have to go experience it. It is a well preserved ancient town recognized by the UNESCO as a historic site. There are yellow old houses next to each other all around the old town quarter, completed with colorful lanterns hanging above the streets and surrounding houses. A narrow river filled with small old fishing boats rowed by the Vietnamese old ladies wearing the traditional Vietnamese fisherman hats. Hoi An old town is also a biking and walking town so no motorcycles are allowed. I’ve found it very nice not to see motorcycles in this small town and I was happy that I could actually ride a bike to get to places. Many people think Hoi An is too touristy but it is still a beautiful town and I really think that everyone should visit this town whem backpacking Vietnam.
I came to Hoi An without knowing how beautiful this place was. I actually came to Hoi An for one purpose – custom tailoring. Hoi An is known for making custom tailored clothing for much cheaper prices than the western countries. And this city did not disappoint. I ended up getting 6 pairs of pants, 3 blazers, 3 dresses and 1 trench coat for myself. I also got my boyfriend’s measured sizes in the US and made him 2 full suits and 4 dress shirts. The prices turned out to be a bit more than I expected but I’ve convinced myself it was worth it because I chose the best materials available out of all the options. The tailoring process was actually quite long. It took 3 full days of being in Hoi An for ordering, measuring, choosing materials and going back for 3 different fitting sessions. It is also recommended to research the styles in advance and provide the tailor some pictures to give them an idea of what you like. The process was long and could be stressful, but I left the tailor shop with a happy smile feeling that I’ve accomplished something big. I also can’t wait to receive all the custom made clothes when I’m back to the US.
Anh arrived to Hoi An on the last day when I was there. We then went for another round of binge eating. We tried the best Bahn Mi sandwich in town, sweet soup and of course seafood again. Anh and I got along so well that we decided to meet again in Saigon in a week when I arrived there. Anh even offered to take me around Saigon for the weekend and introduce me to the best food and coffee in the city. We said goodbye to each other again as the day ended but knowing that we would meet again in Ahn’s hometown in a few days. I then headed to my next stop Dalat, Vietnam.
To be continued in the next post soon…