After Phong Nha, we hopped on another bus (well really it took 2) and headed to Hoi An. Hoi An is a very touristy section of Vietnam, and we spent a few days exploring and shopping.
In all honesty, Cara and I didn't shop much, but we encouraged Bri, Marie, and Chip to shop as much as they could take. Hoi An is a great place to have clothes and shoes made, and Marie and Bri both got knee high leather boots made, and Marie had some custom sandals made. The Friendly Shoe Shop did great work!
One of the downsides to Hoi An is that they want to gather more tourist dollars, so they try to collect an admission ticket to the old town area, which is where all the shops and restaurants are located. We unknowingly walked by the first day, thinking it was a scam and inadvertently found out you can just walk with a purpose and they won't pursue you. We also found some of the smaller alleys and streets into old town didn't have a ticket booth so you could enter without anyone bothering you. Hoi An is famous for its lantern festivals during the full moon, but you can see lanterns in the city all the time!
One of the days I wasn't feeling to well, so Cara, Marie, Chip, and Bri rented 2 scooters and went to see the beach and some temples and had quite an adventure. I'll let her tell that story though.
Since Jeff had probably spent too much time making out with Bri (who arrived to Vietnam with Minnesotan winter cold/flu symptoms), he needed some time to himself to rest one day in Hoi An. (I secretly think he wanted to get rid of the rest of us so he could go enjoy coffee and eat street food all day.) Chip, Marie, Bri and I rented 2 scooters after breakfast and headed to the beach!
It wasn't super sunny, but we enjoyed the beach for an hour or two, and Bri introduced us to Acroyoga:
Chip and Bri were brave enough to get into the water!
After we grabbed lunch near the beach, we decided to head to My Son to see ancient temples around 1:30 pm. Easily the worst decision we made while in Vietnam. It took us much longer to get to My Son from Hoi An than we anticipated, and traffic was chaotic to say the least. Note: driving a scooter on the highway in a foreign country probably isn't the wisest choice. Shout out to Bri who scooted my butt around, and she pretty much learned how to drive a motorscooter 3 days before! We finally made it to My Son around 3:30 pm and quickly walked around the temples.
This area was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War (War of American Aggression). Many of the temples survived, and there are still giant craters near some sites that are depressions from bombs.
We left My Son a little before 5 pm. Sunset was around 6. At this point we were still optimistic about making it back to town before it got pitch black. But that was also before we followed google maps onto dirt paths.....that turned into mud....because we were trying to drive through a rice patty....
Chip and Bri did an awesome job getting us back to town! We only had a few close calls with big buses and the people we rented the scooters from made no comment about the amount of mud on their motos! We were all wide-eyed (maybe a little shaky) when we found Jeff. Nothing a few beers couldn't fix! Please note that the smiles in the photos above do not accurately display our feelings for the situation (nervous smiles???).
We immediately followed our worst decision of the trip with the best decision! The best part of Hoi An was the cooking class we took at the Green Mango. As a part of the class, our teacher took us to the local market and showed us some local ingredients and some of the things we would be using, and let us taste test a few things. Below I am trying Tin Cho- a sweet soup (breakfast food). It was much better than my face lets on, it was just a weird consistency. Jelly-like coconut, black beans, and a few other spoonfuls of stuff were mixed together (from the pots in the first picture).
We made quite a few dishes including spring rolls, pork for bun cha, and mango sticky rice for dessert, as well as slicing some fruit and veggies for an appetizer tray. We had a great time and we will definitely be trying to cook some of these things when we're back in the States!
In the afternoon after our cooking class, we went in search of a massage. The Vietnamese have a very large 'spa culture.' You can find places to get your nails done and massage parlors everywhere! We found a place that could take all 5 of us at the same time. After we bartered them down, they ushered us inside. It was one large open room with see-through sheets dividing the beds. Needless to say, it was a bonding experience for the 5 of us. There's nothing quite like taking off your clothes and getting rubbed down next to your friends. There was also a startling part near the end, where all the massueses rubbed a lot of Tiger Balm on their hands, then covered our faces with them. I enjoy sniffing menthol, but everyone else didn't seem to keen to be suffocated by Tiger Balm. It wasn't the best massage we've ever had, but for $6 it was a solid way to spend an hour!
Overall, Hoi An was a fun city, but not our favorite. We flew from the nearby city of Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and spent our last few days exploring!