Monday, January 24, 2011

Last Night On Earth

Sunday 9 January - evening

Tonight is our last night in Vietnam and I'm feeling a little sad about that. I love Vietnam so much and the pace of this holiday is perfect. We are relaxed and don't need to be anywhere we don't want to be. It will be lovely to get home to my dog, my family and my friends, but I also don't want to leave Hoi An. I could come and live here for six months very, very easily. It's just so beautiful. Hoi An is definitely the kind of place one does not leave with enthusiasm; there is always a sense of regret.

Despite the fact that there are still so many restaurants we haven't yet tried in town, we decide to wander over the bridge tonight and seek out a restaurant on Cam Nam. We head into town and make a bee line for the bridge, which is crowded with tourists and lots people milling about. Some are wandering with purpose, whilst others are just living in the moment and taking in the visual banquet before them. The atmosphere is simultaneously festive yet relaxed. It's a lovely feeling. As with the rest of Hoi An, there are restaurants aplenty on Cam Nam and no shortage of choice. Some of the restaurants had a set menu, and even though the price was ridiculously cheap, we simply couldn't justify that much food after our late lunch. We found a restaurant that was ultra modern in its decor, but Curry thought it looked too "plastic" and we wanted something traditional and gorgeous for our last night. We kept wandering and ended up finding a place called Vuon Hai San, or "Seafood Garden" on Nguyen Phuc Chu Street. We were a little concerned that there wouldn't be anything for Caramel, but were assured that they catered for all types and there would be plenty of meat available.  We were shown upstairs to the balcony and given a table with the most beautiful view over Hoi An - looking back over Bach Dang Street and all the places we've been over the past five days. It was just gorgeous looking at it from the other side. Curry can't help herself and sets up the camera to take some night shots over the water. She's somehow misplaced her tripod, so she had to crouch down and use the railing as a stabiliser. Whilst she was doing that, Caramel amused herself by taking photos of Curry taking photos. Caramel's photos were rather amusing, as in one shot she took of Curry directly from behind her, it looks as though Curry is throwing up over the balcony. We all giggle with girlish amusement.

Again, we had a lovely wait staff who were all very friendly and attentive. The owner of the restaurant even came over to talk with us and he was so lovely and polite and very interested in talking with us. We ordered our favourites - vegetable spring rolls, White Rose dumplings, Morning Glory and decided to share these. We each also ordered a plate of our favourite noodles. Caramel had Diet Coke and a coffee and Curry and I had pots of ginger tea each. When the noodle dishes came out, there was another beautifully carved masterpiece on the side of the plate, this time a flower made from a cucumber with a carrot centre. Curry was the lucky recipient of this one, and we dutifully took pictures of it and expressed our appreciation to it creator. Again, the food was delicious and fresh. It was a lovely evening and we savoured every mouthful and every moment, knowing that it could be some time before we return here to this magical place.

When the bill arrived, we had to check it twice. No......surely not. That cannot possibly be correct, can it? However, our human calculator Curry assured us that it was indeed correct - the whole meal, including drinks cost us a total of AUD$9.75 for the three of us. Stop it!!! That's just embarrassing. We left a generous tip and departed the restaurant.

It was lovely to wander up and down the street people watching and taking in the sights. We came across the most beautiful little girl who came over and started talking to us - little pink jacket, dimples and all. This of course is always a ploy for money but I don't mind being duped into parting with some cash when the scam artist is young and adorable. Being the ultimate scam queen myself, I appreciate the talent in younger models. One does indeed recognise one's own. Sure enough, after a polite period of conversation, the hard sell is presented. "May I please have some coins for my collection?" Of course you may. We dive for our wallets and hand over $1 and $2 coins to the small but firm waiting hand. This kid will be running BHP within five years. Sure enough, like the special effects in a Harry Potter movie, the mother and a little brother suddenly apparate out of the ether and the exercise must be repeated. It is seriously a blatant rip off, but when it's done so charmingly and with such skill, homage must be paid to the perpetrators and we do so with a smile. We are permitted to take some photos of our Vietnamese dandy highwaymen, and we continue on our merry way. It is a beautifully balmy night and we take our time wandering around. Curry has died and gone to night photo heaven.

We wander back to Bach Dang Street and collect Curry's shoes. At last they're ready, and they look fabulous. She's pleased with them and all is well with the world. We keep wandering and come across a small shop with an explosion of lanterns hanging from its front window and a tempting array of purses in baskets. In the background we could hear an English football match happening and could spy a group of men gathered around a small television, watching the game with intense excitement. As we're browsing through the lovely purses, an attractive young man dutifully comes over to serve us. We choose some purses and negotiate the price. Just as we're getting our money ready, an almighty shout erupts from behind him - evidently a goal has been scored and he's missed it. I felt so sorry for the poor boy - here he is haggling over the measly sum of about $2 whilst his team finally scores a goal he's probably been waiting at least an hour for. I'm reminded of the Kit Kat ad on TV awhile ago, where the photographer waits hours for the bears to emerge from the cave, and they do so, on roller skates, whilst your man turns his back and takes 30 seconds to readjust his cushions and camera equipment. He takes off at the speed of light back to his group - hopefully he'll catch the goal on replay.

We continue our wandering and eventually return to the hotel. We've realised that we need to pack, and on the return journey with way more than we started with, it's certainly going to be an exercise in creativity and leverage!

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