Tag Archives: Drink

Lantern Town

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Pretty lights and calm nights - Hoi An the Lantern Town

Pretty lights and calm nights – Hoi An the Lantern Town

A million moons ago, when we were marooned by the rain in Tonga and seriously considering building an ark, we met a few travelling Norwegians who asked us about our plans and on finding out that we were going through Vietnam, turned and said, ‘Just wait until you get to Hoi An. It is the most beautiful place that we have ever been to. ‘ (Isn’t Norway beautiful??) ‘You won’t want to leave’. We nodded and smiled and politely registered their opinion but at that point in time, we had no idea. Hoi An was just two syllables that sounded a bit like an Asian condiment. We didn’t forget though, and despite trying our utmost not to arrive in a place with high preconceptions, it was a good thing that Hoi An met and surpassed all our expectations.

Casual commute

Casual commute

It’s picture postcard old style Vietnam in all it’s glory: hanging baskets, multi-coloured lanterns, mollusc hats, Chinese temples, ancient tea shops..it’s every cliche that the camera-wielding tourist could ever want. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and for a modest fee, you buy an admission ticket that allows entry to five heritage sites, including a traditional musical concert or stage play. To be fair, it is a steal, although hard to know what to choose as the town is saturated with historical buildings. We were lucky enough to catch a traditional music performance in an old wooden hall, decorated with bright lanterns and guilded Chinese calligraphy. Virtuoso musicians on bamboo flutes, zithers and animal skin drums; operatic singing; and traditional dance-drama.

Lanterns and a typical street by the river

Lanterns and a typical street by the river

Our wily entertainers

Our wily entertainers

Operatic singing and traditionally dressed musicians

Operatic singing and traditionally dressed musicians

Vietnamese dance-drama

Vietnamese dance-drama

The water-carriers dance

The water-carriers dance

Another string to Hoi An’s bow is the proliferation of shops offering tailor-made clothing, and there are more than 200 tailors in town. Obviously, Celyn and I being the high-flying yo-pros that we are, we bought five trouser suits and some snakeskin moccasins each (um…) OK, so we might not have splashed out, but you can find some beautiful clothes, including handmade shoes and silk ao dai (the traditional Vietnamese tunic and trousers).

At one end of the Old Town is the grocery market, a walk through which is akin to running a gauntlet. It is definitely the domain of the female and there are hundreds of women sellers, all sporting the typical woven hats to protect them from the sun, clucking and cooing at one another while they barter back and forth. Women carrying two heavy baskets balanced on their shoulders saunter past, some sleep in the shade of their stall, others call out for you to come and look at their wares – ‘Hey lady, lady. Come buy something’. How can you resist? All the while, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians push for a passage through, which was near impossible and every so often you would feel a light tap on the back of your leg and turn to see a moped carrying a family of four patiently trying to run you down.

Some market sellers

Some market sellers

Selling pho (rice noodle soup) at the roadside

Selling pho (rice noodle soup) at the roadside

The actual food in the market was plentiful; greenery and bright vegetables everywhere, live chickens in cages, baskets of ducks with their legs and wings tied shaking and quacking nervously amid the chaos. Hoi An is famed for it’s food and cooking courses and we had planned to do one – an excursion that started in (semi-)disaster but ended rather well. On one of our two precious days in Hoi An, we arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at a course that we had booked the day before only to be told that the chef was ‘too tired’ and couldn’t be bothered so could we come back tomorrow? We were leaving the following morning so were turned out into the streets rather like Oliver Twist when asks for more gruel (we hadn’t  had any breakfast). All was saved in the afternoon as we managed to find a restaurant with space on a short afternoon course and, as it was pricier than we had hoped, we did this strange ‘sharing’ of the work. I.e. The chef did the cooking, I stood around and looked professional in a nice white apron, and Celyn was put through his paces as he scribble down everything that was being done. Still, with a finished menu of fresh spring rolls with pork and shrimp, grilled fish in a banana leaf with lemongrass, and pork in a clay pot, we left feeling thoroughly educated and very full. Nyom.

Imminent digit damage
Imminent digit damage
Just call me Nigella..

Just call me Nigella..

Team effort finally paid off..

Team effort finally paid off..

Hoi An was beautiful by day, but magnificent at night. All the shops had hanging coloured lanterns which lit up like luminous balloons when the sun set.  Little girls bedecked in gorgeous traditional silk dresses sold candles in coloured card which were set afloat and bobbed on the dark surface of the river. Music floated down the streets and people gathered on the illuminated bridge to watch the reflections below. In the darkness, with only lantern and candle light against the inky blackness, you couldn’t tell where the ground met the river or the river met the sky. It had this sort of other-world-ly feel. Either that or it was like the Green Fields of Glastonbury just after sunset.

A lantern seller and his son at the night market

A lantern seller and his son at the night market

Even the street signs were picturesque!

Even the street signs were picturesque!

Stopping for some 'fresh beer' - brewed in Hoi An and costs about 12.5p

Stopping for some ‘fresh beer’ – brewed in Hoi An and costs about 12.5p

Some of the lights on display

Some of the lights on display

I think the pictures speak for themselves.

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Not-a-White Christmas (In the style of Seren Nia Thomas)

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12.01 am Realise it’s Christmas halfway through a tremendously long yet very well orchestrated church service. Whisper Happy Christmas to each other and notice that Georgie has gone to sleep. Wake her and sing the descant to Hark the Herald.

 

1.00 am Leave the Cathedral. Be shocked at how obscenely warm it is outside.

 

1.07 am Get lost on the way home. Drive the wrong way up the motorway.

 

1.15 am Manage to get off said motorway.

 

 

1.17 am Get back onto said motorway, but this time in the right direction.

 

1.40 am Get home and sit by the fire before one by one we all fall asleep and go to bed.

 

2.00 am Wake up to speak to Celyn’s family.

 

2.32 am Wake up again to speak to everyone on the ‘Christmas Eve Walk’ in Chepstow. Except it’s not a walk, it’s in the pub. Spend about half an hour doing sign language and telling Tom Heggs how disappointed we are in him. See almost everyone’s tonsils – apparently when in doubt about what the other party is saying, just open your mouth at the camera. Sorted.

 

3.30 am Actually go to sleep.

 

4.45 am Wake up and remember it’s Christmas Day. Smack Celyn in the face and shout, ‘Santa’s Come’.

 

Go back to sleep.

 

10.12 am Get woken up by everyone storming about the house shouting, ‘Merry Christmas’. Realise that it’s boiling hot. Get dressed in inappropriately warm attire and go out to the garden.

 

10.13 am Go back inside and get dressed properly (swimming stuff and nothing else)

 

10.30 am Skype Edinburgh. Play the head game. Forget Miss Fritton’s first name. Remember it’s Camilla. WIN THE GAME.

 

11 am Pump up paddling pool. Drink champagne (even though it’s not champagne) and eat German Sausages and Pretzels. Or Bretzels as they are apparently known in Bavaria.

 

11.14 am Get into paddling pool. Continue eating sausages.

 

11.26 am Get out of paddling pool as there are 12 people in it.

 

11.35 am Watch Barbara and Jess have a wrestling match in the paddling pool. Switch to beer. Reapply suncream. Choose factor 50.

 

12 pm Eat a pigs-in-a-blanket croissant. Think of home. Have another beer.

 

12.40 pm Get a bit burnt. Sit at the bar out of the sun for a while.

 

12.41 pm Realise that the bar is no cooler than outside. Get back in to paddling pool.

 

1.00 pm Transfer Secret Santa presents from the sellotape Xmas tree to the bar. Have a debate about whether to open the presents or not.

 

1.01 pm Open the presents.

 

1.05 pm Try to play the secret santa present game with dice.

 

1.06 pm Fail.

 

1.15 pm Play with new secret santa toys.

 

1.30 pm Go upstairs and open more presents. Say thank you to Parental Units in the UK (telepathically). Put on new clothes.

 

1.31 pm Take off new clothes as it is too hot.

 

3.00 pm Try to get stuff ready for going to the beach. End up just emptying the fridge into a portable fridge. Put portable fridge by front door.

 

3.30 pm Get into Rave Taxi. Rave all the way to the beach. Sing medley songs at a rate of knots and shout ‘Merry Christmas’ aggressively at everyone. Get aggressive ‘Merry Christmas’-es back.

 

3.42 pm Arrive at beach. GET INTO THE WATER.

 

4.00 pm Get out of water to have a G&T and a chicken, salsa and corn chip corn-chip-sandwich. (Don’t knock it till..)

 

5.30 pm Jump over Adam’s sand sculpture. Watch Celyn do a once again surprisingly-gymnastic front flip. Be impressed.

 

5.33 pm Watch a child ruin the sculpture.

 

5.34 pm Join in the sculpture-ruining-effort.

 

7 pm Leave beach and get back into Rave Taxi. Realise driver is a KFC Colonel in his spare time. Be VERY impressed. Sing songs all the way home and watch the sun set over the Cook Strait. Be more impressed at the beauty of the scenery than at anything else that has happened in the day. Including Gin.

 

7.28 pm Get home after very long detour. Wash. Wash again. Get dressed in new clothes. Make cheese board even though dinner is being prepared.

 

7.45 pm Get the cheese sweats. Play the dictionary game. Learn the meaning of autarchy, otiose, and piccalilli.

 

7.59 pm Eat Swedish meatballs and beetroot salad (courtesy of Igor and Georgie). Eat more sausage.

 

8.50 pm Start cooking the ham.

 

11 pm Start eating the ham. Enjoy the accompanying cinnamon carrots. Fall slightly asleep.

 

11.25 pm Sit on beanbags on the roof. Digest.

 

11.30 pm Notice clouds are starting to cover moon. Try to discern shapes in clouds.

 

11. 57 pm Fall asleep.

 

12.37 pm Move from roof to room.

 

12.38 pm Try to watch Love Actually. Fall asleep again. Admit that Christmas Day might be over. Sleep for real this time.

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

 

(from Igor, Jessica and Celwyn Jones in the paddling pool)