It was late in the evening when we landed in Danang and met the driver who would take us to our home stay in Hoi An. Danang from the car did not look like the kind of place I would want to hang around very long; a string of resort hotels and bright lights. The journey was pretty hair -raising, especially when we ran over a cat (can’t quite get the sound out of my head)!
Thankfully we made it safely to our home for the next few nights. What a treat! For only $15 a night we had a pretty luxurious private room with ensuite in the beautiful grounds of Lin’s home.
The next few days were basically spent wondering around the old quarter and eating as much food as we could possible muster, with Hoi An being the food capital of Vietnam. Some describe it as a bit too touristy but frankly we felt it was a great city. Yes there are numerous stores selling the same thing, but there are few places in Asia that aren’t the same, and despite the vast number of foreigners, we loved the place.
Apart from eating, the thing to do in Hoi An is to get clothes tailored by one of the many vendors on the streets. Unfortunately, having also eaten our way around Australia a few weeks before, we were carrying more weight than we would have liked and therefore decided it would not be a wise investment to have clothes made as we would surely go back to our trim selves in no time…not if we were going to continue eating as much as we did in Hoi An!!
First stop on our culinary adventure was the famous ‘Morning Glory’ restaurant where we ate some of the most aromatic and tastiest food we had ever tried. Owned by Miss Vy, one of the most successful entrepreneurs and chefs in the city, we were so impressed that we booked ourselves onto her gourmet cookery course for the start of the week. As the owner of 5 restaurants within the old town it promised a full immersion into the Vietnamese culinary experience. Later that evening we tried a restaurant recommended by our homestay, Miss Ly, which was also fantastic. Was there any bad food in this city?
The day of the cookery course approached and I was not feeling too great (glutony had probably caught up with me, although more likely the mass amount of vegetables I had thrown down my throat over the past couple of days!). It was all a bit touristy at first with hoards of us being given Vietnamese straw hats and herded to the local food market to learn about the different herbs and vegetables. While this was an educational experience I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider looking in. On our return to the Market Restaurant we were given a tour around the different stations to see how the food is prepared. Rice paper, noodles, dim sum, salads. chilli oil etc were all prepared in front of us, Andy was even given the opportunity to sample some silk worm! Miss Vy uses this fresh produce in her restaurants, and we were soon to use it in our cooking.
Still not feeling too well I almost fainted with the heat, but pulled myself together, and off the toilet, enough to make it upstairs to the cooking chamber.
Wow! The room was like something from a celebrity cooking show, with the lady herself at the demonstration table (equipped with tilted overhead mirror) at the front of the room, and us provided with all the cooking equipment anyone could need!
Our first dish was a sweet and sour seafood soup. We were shown how to cut the vegetables, following meticulously, and then allowed to make the dish alongside Miss Vy. On completion we were allowed to eat what we had made. To say it was amazing sounds like I am complimenting myself, but seriously it tasted delicious. The various fresh herbs that are available in Vietnam can only be described as ridiculous and I can honestly say I have never tasted food like it anywhere else in the world.
Throughout the session we made a beef salad (incredible), baked eggplant, crispy prawn and pork pancakes and fish baked in banana leaf. All the while we were entertained by stories of Vy’s childhood, the history of the country and the health benefits of the numerous fresh ingredients we were using. Both of us were astounded by her subject knowledge, but more importantly her passion for the food she has been making for decades. It really was one of the best things we have done in a long time and we would recommend to anyone thinking of doing a course in Hoi An.
The following day the time came to say goodbye to our lovely host Lin and to begin the journey to Danang ready to board the overnight train to Hanoi. I was like an excitable child as we boarded and settled into our 4 bed birth cabin; home for the next 17 hours. I love trains (as I am sure I told Andy around 20 times that night) and the evening was spent drinking beers and playing cards, which of course I won, before settling down for the night – thankfully with no other tourists joining us in the cabin. I love my life!