Sunday 28 Feb: 0km, a rest day!
We’ve stopped for a few days in Hoi An for a rest and because it’s the suit and dress making capital of Vietnam. I’m happy to indulge Alex’s shopping spree as it means my legs get a rest! I’m surprised that my quads and glutes feel ok today. Instead I simply feel a general sense of tiredness. I have never been cycle touring before but I’ve decided that it’s an ideal way to see a country: slow enough to say hello and see the details; fast enough that you actually get somewhere. Even on the uphills, I’d rather be on the bike than on one of the long-distance buses that career past us on the mountains bends!
Hoi An has a pedestrianised old town so is the most relaxing place we’ve found to wander in Vietnam. You don’t have to worry about being run over by scooters and there’s an eerie/serene absence of blaring of horns. We’ve met plenty of Westerners here, lots of Germans and Russians, also French and English. No Spanish yet; perhaps they prefer to travel in South America? Tourism means we no longer get pointed-at as we have been in other places. Having said that, one group of giggling 14 year old locals did accost us for selfies earlier.
We have seen a lot of wedding parties, they have several parties for each family before the big day. All funded by donations from friends and family. We saw brightly coloured wedding dresses in the shops because here the bride changes three times on her big day, from white to yellow to red.
Hoi An is the culinary heart of the country and we spent a day on a cookery course with Van, a sophisticated Vietnamese women running a slick kitchen. There are six main ingredients in most dishes: chilli, garlic, lemongrass, shallot, ginger and turmeric. Fresh turmeric looks like root ginger but it’s smaller and redder. Our lesson was a culinary and eating marathon as twelve students made their chosen dish in turn for everyone to taste. So many delicious mini meals! I learnt skills like skinning fish and chopping lemongrass from Van. Apparently I don’t know how to chop an onion so star-student Alex taught me that too. Lakeland has a lot to learn from Vietnamese cooking gadgets. We need a bigger kitchen to accommodate our wish-list! For the time-being we’ll start by using extra-long chopsticks for everything like the Vietnamese, even carrying hot pans around.
The tailoring returned mixed results. Some hits, some misses. The difficulty is, you need to pick everything; fabric, style, length, cut and fold. There’s no trying-on or second chance. The best you get is draping the cloth over your shoulder. The shop staff do have an incredible knack with a tape measure so the good news is your creation will fit: slinky number or coal sack. In conclusion, I should stick to my day job and not try and be a dress designer!
We are back on the bikes tomorrow taking a leisurely three-day route up the coast to Huê, mostly flat with one big mountain pass to look forward to (or not!).