Hoi An, our first beach, and Meo

From Danang we got a taxi to Hoi An. It’s a 30ish minute drive and for 3 of us it worked out easier than one of the many buses that run between the two places.

As we neared the quaint little town we noticed a lot of westerners cycling around, a good idea after the sloth like day we had just had.

The hotel was incredible. £25 a night it had a central swimming pool overlooked by terraces running right the way round and each floor had a bridge crossing over.

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There was foliage hanging down off the walls and from the gap in the roof, pink flowers gently fluttered down to softly lie on the pool surface. It was beautiful.

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The staff were friendly as ever, got us checked in and we quickly got ready for a day at An Bang beach. A popular destination just out of town. On the street we rented bikes for the day for £1. I haven’t cycled since I was very young, possibly 11 or 12 years old so was a bit apprehensive, but this is what being away is about so pushing my fears down I got on, wobbled slightly and pushed off.

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Some how I ended up at the front, but I pushed against the pedals and we raced through the streets of Hoi An, avoiding traffic coming from all angles and breezed out into the countryside.

Passing rice fields with shouts of buffalo! buffalo! We shot on over a bridge as the landscape became sandier and more rugged. We spotted small gravestone type objects either side of us in the sand but we’re not sure what they were.

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As we arrived in An Bang beach we had 3 little old ladys gesturing wildly at us to park in their lot. We wheeled in, paid 5,000Dong each for the privilege (about 15p) and walked over a crest to view the beach.

Unfortunately November isn’t the best month to visit Vietnam and it was a slightly overcast day, still nice and warm, but the sea was very rough.

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We walked past the Vietnamese touting their sunbeds and snacks, finding a good spot on the sand. Setting up we relaxed for a bit, enjoying the cool breeze from the sea and watching people swim despite the big ‘no swimming’ sign.

Undettered by the sign we also hesitantly stepped into the cold water, with waves crashing down around us. Once in up to our waists the force of the current pulled us off to the side and out to sea slightly, with huge waves crashing over us pushing us back in. I think the deepest we got was around shoulder to head height, but we didn’t dare go further out.

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It was a lot of fun jumping over and into the waves, floating around and laughing. A few other people came in around us including a very exuberant guy from Danang who came racing into the sea cackling as he jumped into the waves, all the while his girlfriend filmed him from the beach. As we dried off it started to rain, so we saw this as an ideal time to get some food and maybe a drink.

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Wandering back to the touts one girl had stood out in particular and she was extremely happy to see that we had returned! We ordered 3 Larue, a Vietnamese beer that are around 60p and got to chatting with Meo, or Meow, like a cat.

She was exceptionally funny, had learnt lots of English phrases such as ‘no way jose’ ‘cheeky monkey’ and ‘lubbly jubbly’ but best of all was she knew Iechyd Da! The Welsh cheers, we were in hysterics and she was genuinely nice, wanting to improve her English but also helping us learn some Vietnamese. Liam learnt Oh Choi Oi (phonetic) which means oh my gosh, a sure fire recipe for disaster in the coming days.

We then discovered that they had Tamarind crab, something on our list to eat. It was a bit pricey at £3 a crab so we ordered two to share. However, Meo was enamoured with us and swung it with the boss to get us 3 for the price of two!

They arrived and they were as good as we hoped. I don’t think we were particularly good at getting all the meat out but what we did get was gooooood.

As we were eating the sun had come out so we paid up, including a tip for Meo and she arranged for us to have 3 sunbeds.

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Enjoying the hot weather we relaxed there till the sun had retreated behind some trees and cycled back to town. On the way there was a man sat on a water buffalo and we again got shouts of buffalo! buffalo!

Making it back in one piece we were pretty chuffed as we had managed to navigate the roads. Feeling a bit hot and sticky from the ride we jumped into the cold pool at the hotel. It was so nice and immediately freshened us up.

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Having the pink flowers twirl down into the pool was great and Liam and I stayed in the pool for a while. Once ready to get out we tackled the steps to our 3rd floor room and chilled out. Ready for splashing out on a top restaurant later in the evening.

The Icelandic family on the cruise had recommended Morning Glory to us and it was also in my lonely planet guide, it sounded a bit pricier than what we had become accustomed to but it’s good to splash out once in a while.

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Getting as dolled up as you can when travelling we went to the old town for the first time.

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The old town is hidden away from sight as you pass through alleyways lined with shops selling clothes and Chinese lanterns. Then you emerge to streets with lanterns EVERYWHERE. It’s hard to put into words how beautiful it is. Right on the river there are a few small streets filled with restaurants and bars, all lit up like it’s permanently Christmas.

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We enjoyed the scenery as we walked over to the restaurant, sat down and perused the menu. It was only slightly more expensive than previous places so Leia and Liam ordered cocktails while I stuck with beer. Starters arrived and they were huge. Liam had crispy wantons topped with all manner of salad and sauce. Leia went for DIY pork skewers where you added leafy greens and wrapped them up in rice paper. I went for Banh Xeo, shrimp and pork eggy pancakes with bean sprouts in the middle, again you got rice paper and leafy greens and you wrap these up into spring roll type things to.

It was all amazing and still only £1.50, big portions which I was particularly pleased with.

Clearing these our mains soon arrived, Leia and Liam plumped for spicy mango salad and papaya salad with beef respectively, I went for a noodle soup. Again the food was ace, I think I could’ve eaten and eaten there.

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The flavours and tastes were bold and so fresh, something we have really found in all Vietnamese food.

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Not satisfied we had to have pudding! Waffles and ice cream for Leia and I, Liam went for fruit with ice cream.

Again delicious, a three course meal with two alcoholic drinks each came to around £28 total. Expensive for Vietnam, cheap for the quality we had just experienced.
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We then walked round the old town trying to ease off the full stomachs we now had. A guy from a bar shouted to us that we could sit up on a balcony overlooking the river and we didn’t hesitate. The views were stunning as we tried to relax still feeling stuffed!

Realising we needed a change of scenery we walked down to cross the river. As we neared the bridge we were assaulted from all sides by people trying to offer us the best deal for drinks. After taking a few flyers we crossed the bridge, briefly chatting to an English speaking couple.

We decided on backpacker bar as it seemed the liveliest of a quiet bunch. Sat down and ordered 3 beers. Noticing something about free cocktails and buckets we questioned the staff and were rewarded with weird bubble gum rum and cokes. As we were receiving them the couple we briefly chatted to walked over, we got chatting more and we ended up sitting together. Claire and Dan were seasoned travellers, Claire was from New Zealand and Dan was Englush but now resided in NZ.

They were really friendly and the cheap beer as flowing as we discussed rugby, Vietnamese politics, and travelling. It was good to hear about their experiences and advice.

Although I enjoy hearing these things I always believe that you need to forge your own way and find what works best for you when heading to new places. At some point the bar filled up and we went inside to dance with the 18 year olds. It was a little awkward but we perservered before playing a quick round of pool where I managed to pot the black early, leaving Leia as the victor.

Dan and Claire headed off and we followed suit shortly after. Stopping for some Banh Mi baguettes, we continued up the street for 5/10 minutes before I noticed the street looked a lot different. There was no one about apart from a few rats and a guy on a motorbike offering us a ride.

Backtracking to the Banh Mi cart we realised the hotel was 20 paces away, we had to laugh. We were soon tucked up in bed fast asleep.

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