23 January, 2017

Hoi An Pottery Village

20 January, 2017

We are wondering why our host named his homestay the Riverside Pottery Village Homestay. We ask, and he gives us directions to our hotel's namesake and sends us off on 4 of his bikes.

Just a short ride back toward old town we turn right at the fish market. We haven't made it to the fish market yet because it's only open from 3am to 7am – a bit early for our jet lagged selves to contemplate at this point.

After the fishing village we come to the pottery village where terra cotta pottery is still made in kilns made of clay and wooden strips. A museum has been built here and we happily pay the 30,000 dong (about $1.50) entrance fee.

Inside we find ourselves delighted. We are surrounded by incredible terra cotta art installations, a 3D visual gourmet meal.

Rather than try to describe them, we've decided to take the easy way out and just post a bunch of pictures. Hopefully they will give you a sense of what we found in this little gem of a museum. What a delicious ocular feast.

Leaving the museum, we take the back route through the fishing village along the river and stumble across dessert – a fleet of brightly colored fishing boats.

Still having a wonderful time,

Julie & Mark

Julie's new friend.

Interesting restroom signs

22 January, 2017

Our House

Location: Hoi An, Vietnam

The view to the left from our balcony
 We have just signed a 2.5 month lease on a 3 bedroom house. It is on Luu Quy Ki street (pronounced “loo-WEEkee” - ish) on An Hoi island just across the Thu Bon River from the Ancient City of Hoi An.

Here's a link to our house on the realtor's web site.

And here's a link to Google Maps showing our approximate location.

Our friends Steve & Marg from “Lion's Paw”, whom we met in the San Blas Islands in Panama, are sharing the house with us. We are in a local neighborhood just off the tourist "beaten path", and are looking forward to building relationships with some of our neighbors.

All three bedrooms have queen size beds (a bit firm for our tastes, but we're sure we'll get used to them) and en-suite bathrooms. The bathrooms are of a typical Vietnamese style – toilet and shower in one easily washed down tile room, and a sink in the bedroom. We have a two burner propane stove (no oven), refrigerator, two TVs, and a washing machine.

Us, our new Chinese friends, and our host
We said goodbye to Riverside Pottery Village Homestay and our friend Quyen (corrected spelling – we had the pronunciation right - “win” <ish>). We are going to maintain our relationship with him, his family, and his staff, however, as they're now our “go to” guys for local information, customs, shopping tips, etc. And we'll need a lot of help with all that until we learn the ropes.

Dragon Fruit - yummm!!

 Our landlady Cuc (rhymes with “cup” - ish) lives next door to us and today we got to meet her twin 3 year old grandsons. We didn't get their names, yet, but we did get to play paper airplanes with them until their mom (“Nyoom” - ish, no idea how it's spelled) made them “stop bothering” us. They are very cute and we are sure we'll have some fun times together while we're here.


Today we walked to the Ba Le market and got our first real taste of shopping in Vietnam. The Ba Le market is very much a local market and we really enjoyed walking around picking out vegetables, some needed housewares, and checking out the fish and meat parts of the market. Since it was late in the morning we decided to save meat shopping for a day when we could come back much earlier while things were more fresh. The meat and fish sit out in the stall until they are sold. We're talking no refrigeration here, and we're still a bit too “gringo” to feel comfortable with that.

Flowers for Tet
 We are getting close to the Vietnamese New Year festival of Tet, a national holiday that runs from January 26 – February 1 this year. Part of the tradition is to have a flowering tree in your home. The streets here are lined with vendors selling fruit filled kumquat trees, huge flowering chrysanthemum plants and other showy plants. We are seeing lots of lanterns being hoisted along the main streets and are really looking forward to seeing what events will accompany this festival. Our new house is almost in the thick of things here, so we will be able to easily sample what the celebrations have to offer.
More flowers for Tet

An interesting advert
 At any rate, back to shopping. 
Julie & Marg were buying some things for the new house and were attempting to barter with the stall holder who told them the total for their purchases was 404,000 dong ($17.95) We offered 350,000 she said no, then we offered 375,000, “NO!”. So we got the bank notes out to pay her the 404,000 dong ( we are terrible at bartering), hand her the money, and she lets out a huge cry and looks angry. That's when we realized that we had given her 4 10,000 dong notes (each worth about $0.50 instead of the intended 4 100,000 dong notes (each worth about $5) - with all those zeroes it's hard to keep track which note is the correct one especially since the 10,000 and the 100,000 are the same color! Once we convinced her that we were just idiots and not trying to rip her off, she smiled again, and once again we got to practice saying “I'm sorry” ("toi xin loi" pronounced "toy sin low-ee" - ish), one of our few Vietnamese phrases, which, to our chagrin, we are using more often than we'd like.

New market friends

What to buy?
 Another time, while Julie and Marg were buying some vegetables, a woman from the next stall came over to Mark. She called out to several women in other nearby stalls, patted Mark's belly, and called out “Number one! Number one!” - meaning either that Mark was going to have his first baby, or his belly was "Number One".  We're not sure which. At any rate, we all (especially them <grin>) had a good laugh.

Later this afternoon we also decided to go ahead and check out the Hoi An market and ended up being really glad we'd been to the Ba Le market first. The vendors at the Hoi An market were much more aggressive and the place was absolutely packed with locals, tourists, vendors, and motor scooters - getting around was a bit challenging.

Pork BBQ - also yummm....
We did, however, end up getting some really good street food - barbecued pork – yum!! The cook had a small charcoal brazier over which she barbecued thin strips of pork wedged in a split piece of bamboo with the ends tied together to stop it from falling out. Along with rice paper, fresh lettuce and sprouts, and some absolutely delicious chili sauce, we were treated to a lip smacking mid-afternoon snack.

We're still having fun and are looking forward to getting to know our new neighborhood, our neighbors, and our local vendors. And we're looking forward to cooking our first dinner tonight in our new house – stir fried vegetables with fresh shrimp and a salad. The markets here have an awesome variety of salad greens and we're making the most of it.

Julie & Mark

18 January, 2017

First Impressions

Location: Hoi An, Vietnam

 We left Blacksburg on January 10th and caught the Megabus (for only $8.25 each!!!) up to New York City where we stayed with a friend in Manhattan for a few days to recover from the 12 hour trip. We had a lovely visit with a dear friend and had a great walking tour around Greenwich Village.  We also visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, even though Julie was suffering from a terrible cold.
Pet bathroom at JFK airport, notice the fire hydrant
 Three days later Julie was feeling somewhat better, thank goodness, and we had a great flight from New York to Seoul, Korea on Asiana Airlines. We managed to snag exit row seats with copious leg room and had an empty seat between us. The crew was exceptionally friendly and helpful, and the 14 hour flight passed in greater comfort than we expected.

First beer in Vietnam
 We went to the counter at Seoul to request another exit seat for the 5 hour flight to Hoi An and were told “Fly four”. Mark said “Fly four?” and the woman replied “Yes, fly four. Sorry, cannot move your seat.” We said okay and thanked her for looking. Fly four?

We arrived in Da Nang at 11pm and waited for our luggage. And waited. And waited. At last one bag appeared. But there were two. So we waited...

We had arranged a midnight ride from the airport to the hotel in Hoi An. Julie went to customs and was able to see a young man holding a sign with our name on it. She managed to sweet talk the customs people into letting her out to talk with him. He promised to wait.

In the meantime, everyone had left the luggage carousel and we were standing there alone. Still no second bag. A very nice young man who spoke excellent English took us over to the lost luggage counter to fill out “the form”.

We finally got to our hotel at about 2am local time short a bag and with our copy of the lost luggage form. We fell into bed and that was it for the night.

Mark woke for a few minutes at about 4:30 am – just long enough for a lightbulb to go off. “Fly four? Oh, of course!! She meant 'flight full!'”. Needless to say, we need to brush up on our listening and understanding skills while we're here. Many people here speak at least some English and we, not speaking a bit of Vietnamese, need to tune our ears a bit to better understand.

First lunch in Vietnam
 We are staying at the Riverside Pottery Village Homestay. Our host, Nguyen (pronounced “Win” - sort of) is a wonderful man. He is very friendly and has been very helpful to us, even arranging to receive our lost bag two days after we arrived.
Out looking at houses
We went out house hunting yesterday and found a few options, none of which really jumped out at us. We're hoping to go out again today to see a few more. Once we make a decision we'll get moved in and will start getting to know our new neighborhood.
The party from the balcony
Yesterday afternoon Nguyen invited us to join him and his family and friends for their annual year end celebration. Our attendance would bring his family good luck in the new year. We were joined at our table by 5 young Chinese students, all of whom spoke excellent English. Between their helpful advice, Nguyen's regular visits to our table, and some additional willing help from his family, we didn't embarrass ourselves too badly.

Several courses of wonderful food followed by a “hot pot”, a delicious sort of stew cooked at table by adding fresh ingredients as you go along, similar to a fondue. The character of the meal changes depending on who adds what when – vegetables, noodles, meat, seafood, etc. It was delicious!!
Our host Nguyen

So far our first impressions of Vietnam have been very positive. We'll keep you posted.

Julie & Mark