Vietnam

Hoi An – Part 2

December 28, 2015
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With the one exception of my scary night ride, Hoi An was a safe, quaint town with so much to see, do and explore. Because we only had 18 days in Vietnam, Selma opted to move on to see more of the country with her friends, but I wasn’t done with Hoi An so I hugged Selma goodbye and hung back with Melanie.

Boats on the river in Hoi An

Boats on the river in Hoi An

Fishermen casting their net

Fishermen casting their net

Melanie is 19, Swiss, has the most beautiful singing voice I’ve ever heard, laughs more than anyone I know and her favorite party trick is to make people guess how old I am. We were in the same dorm room on Gili Air and thanks to an enormous gecko (affectionately named Vince by one of our other Dutch friends) we bounded. The gecko’s home was in our outdoor bathroom, behind the mirror. I preferred to admire him from afar, but Melanie insisted that he was “beautiful” and that I simply had to look at him close up. A fair amount of squealing and laughter solidified our friendship.

My girl Melanie on the streets of Hoi An

My girl Melanie on the streets of Hoi An

We spent the next few days in Hoi An wandering through the beautiful city streets, snapping pictures and gorging ourselves on amazing food.

Street shot - Hoi An

Street shot – Hoi An

Street shot - Hoi An

Street shot – Hoi An

Street shot - Hoi An

Street shot – Hoi An

Once, while walking through the market after another great meal of spring rolls and morning glory, I was nabbed by a Vietnamese woman. Through broken English and charades, she described to me just how hairy my face was and how badly I needed it threaded by her. Threading is a process done with a single thread looped into a hand-weaving contraption that when worked back and forth pulls the hair out by the root. I tried to politely decline and explain to her that because I’m a mammal those tiny, fine, blonde hairs are normal and no big deal. She disagreed and tugged me into her shop, which more closely resembled a witch’s lair than a beauty salon.

Her lair

Her lair

In order to show me just how disgusting I was, she covered my face in chalk to accentuate the fine hairs. I attempted to fight her off, but it was useless and she had catch phrases to combat all of my protests.

“You do once, never come back again.”

To her and Melanie’s delight I agreed to have my lip threaded (before you freak out, the answer is NO it does not grow back black – but thanks to all for your truly terrifying promises that it would). She chalked me up and I braced myself. She promised that it wouldn’t hurt. The witch lied. She worked the thread back and forth over my face that felt something like a combo between a hot knife and tweezers. My eyes watered and I reared back in stinging pain.

Strugglin'

Strugglin’

“No pain, no gain. No hair, no monkey,” she said.

Excuse me? “No pain, no gain” I’m familiar with, but “NO HAIR NO MONKEY?!?” Did she just compare me to a monkey? I wanted to be offended, but it was too damn funny. Plus Melanie was ROLLING with laughter, which only got me going more. I was already in so I took a deep breath, squeezed Melanie’s hand and thrust me face back forward. I whined, tensed, and protested throughout the painful process, and all the while she repeated her catch phrases over and over.

“Never come back again. No pain, no gain. No hair, no monkey. Never come back again.” 

So far the witch’s spell has worked – my tiny, blonde, insignificant hairs have never come back again.

Happy it's over

Happy it’s over

The following day we biked to the beach (about a 15 minute ride away) and it definitely exceeded my expectations. It was clean, clear, the sand was soft and the water was warm. But I had broken one of the cardinal rules of traveling and hadn’t packed my swimsuit, so I waded in as far as I could and spent the rest of the time sunning myself, girl talking with Melanie and cursing myself for not being able to play in the waves.

Beach day (minus a swimsuit)

Beach day (minus a swimsuit)

That night we headed to Melanie’s hostel to make/eat spring rolls and while we were there we booked a cooking class for the next day. I’d heard of Red Bridge Cooking School from a few others, all of whom raved about it, and it did not disappoint.

The cooking class was a half day deal that started with a tour of the markets (fish, meat, vegetable/fruit, and spice areas respectively), then a river boat ride to where we’d be cooking (which was spectacularly beautiful) where we were greeted with welcome drinks. The chef was wonderful and hilarious, which made the whole day even more fun. We observed each process and then cooked our own Vietnamese pancakes, seafood salad, a sort of eggplant stew and – best of all – fresh spring rolls with rice paper that we made from scratch. After our hard work we feasted at a long wooden able overlooking the river. The cost of this whole experience: $32. Boom.

Outside the market

Outside the market

Market time

Market time

Veggies galore

Veggies galore

Fish market

Fish market

Setting for our cooking class/lunch

Setting for our cooking class/lunch

Foooooood

Foooooood

That night we did our customary bike ride around and ended by hitting up the hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Banh Mi Phoung – renowned by Anthony Bourdain as having the best banh mi sandwiches in the world. Guess what? THEY WERE THE BEST BANH MI SANDWICHES IN THE WORLD!!!

There's no shame in my chowin' game

There’s no shame in my chowin’ game – when the glasses are off you know I mean business

That night, after writing time for me and music time for Melanie, we went to bed full and happy, but more than a little anxious about our next adventure: driving scooters from Hoi An to Hue.

Artsy time

Artsy time

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5 Comments

  • Reply Swann December 28, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I had a similar experience the first time Laura made me get my eyebrows threaded at the mall. She drug me kicking and screaming with promises of no pain….lies Mancini.

    • Reply margarethenney January 10, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Sounds about right 😉

  • Reply Lauren December 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Wonderful!! My mouth is watering for a banh mi!

  • Reply Sorana December 28, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Loooved Hoi An as well, and no witches in sight LOL have fun and keep writing to let us know how you are. Love reading your posts!

    • Reply margarethenney January 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

      Sorry for the late response – but thanks Sorana! So great to hear from you and glad you’re enjoying. More posts to come soon!

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