Visiting Hôi An
Wednesday 10th & Thursday 11th February
Hôi An is most famous for shopping, in particular its tailors. It’s also almost as well known for the scams and dodgy commissions that come with buying tailor-made clothes, so no exquisitely-fashioned cycle shorts for us, thank you!
On Wednesday evening we went to one of Hôi An’s most famous restaurants, called Bale Well, named after a nearby famous well (I’ll come to that later). The place was incredibly busy when we arrived – I guess that’s what happens when you are one of the top results for “best restaurants in Hôi An” on Google – but we were lucky enough to get a spot. What actually happened was that the owner, a nice-looking lady who was flying around the place frantically, saw us approach and yelled: “You – there!” pointing us to the only empty table. We sat. I wouldn’t have dared to do anything else!
It’s a simple set menu, and soon enough the food started arriving. Pork and beef, spring rolls, fresh herbs, lettuce and fermented, spicy cabbage and carrot are given to you, and it’s your job to wrap them up in rice paper, dip them in a sauce and eat them. The food was good, but not mind-blowing. It was more the atmosphere and the fun and messiness of making the rice paper rolls that made it a worth-while experience.
As we were leaving Eric patted our really nice waiter on the shoulder and thanked him, as he was obviously so rushed off his feet. The waiter then turned round and gave Eric a hug.
Vietnamese people seem to really like Eric.
The next day we walked into the centre of town and had a wander. In our three months of cycling around Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, this is the first time that I have seen a city which has an “old town” in the same way that a lot of cities in Europe do, that is: old, beautiful buildings with a consistent architectural style (sorry, this is getting a bit pompous). What I’m trying to say, while not sounding like a tosser, is that the old town is really beautiful, and from my experience in South East Asia, this is a rare thing.
Cau lau is a bit of an urban legend. It is a type of noodles unique to Hôi An, and the secret recipe is held by one family, who deliver the special noodles to different vendors each day. The noodles are soaked in a particular kind of water to give them a yellow colour and a chewy consistency. They are typically served up with pork, fresh greens, lime and chilli.
The noodles tasted like thick, chewy pasta. It was quite nice, but I wouldn’t say it lived up to the hype. They say you should never meet your heroes. Maybe the same thing applies for the eating of legendary noodles.
It’s still a working well now, and there was a lady drawing water when we arrived. Her expression said “Can’t these tourists just piss off while I draw my water?” We said “Xin chow” and she ignored us. Oh dear. So we didn’t stay too long.
Eric had a bit of a dodgy stomach, so in the afternoon he relaxed at the hotel while I walked to Hôi An beach.