Monday, January 24, 2011

Slow Food For A Long Life

Sunday 9 January 2011 - morning

I awoke this morning and felt like I'd been run over by a train during the night. Yesterday had been such a massive day and I think it was starting to hit me that we'd been going non-stop for almost a week. We'd agreed to meet for breakfast, but when the appointed time came, I was still in bed trying to get back to sleep. Curry came and knocked on my door and I politely declined the invitation to join them, saying that I would have breakfast later.  Maybe I was feeling just a tad melancholy that this was our last full day in Vietnam. I went back to sleep almost immediately because denial and avoidance are my friends.

At some point the girls knocked back on the door and bless their hearts of gold, they'd brought me breakfast in bed. I was so tired and shattered I'd even been prepared to go as far as skipping the heavenly sinful chocolate croissants today. However, I didn't need to and I was beside myself with gratitude (and hunger). The girls lounged on the bed with me whilst I ate and they decided to head into town to do some things for themselves whilst I caught up on some much need rest. We agreed that I'd be up and ready by lunchtime so that we could head down to the beach.

I peacefully slept the morning away whilst the girls took in some heritage sights and sites and continued their contribution to the Vietnamese economy.

Eventually, I was able to rouse myself from slumber and drag my sorry carcass into the shower and then into some clothes. The girls arrived back from town and we were ready to head out to get sand between our toes and commune with the South China Sea.  We were going to walk, but again our best laid plans were thwarted by the weather. The trek to the beach was well over 2km, which on a fine day would be lovely, but on a rainy day was ill advised. The lovely Ms Thanh on reception ordered a taxi for us and we set off down the road. Our driver was friendly and pleasant and the trip down towards the beach was very scenic and pretty. We passed a lovely looking restaurant overlooking the river, where a sign proudly announced "Slow Food For A Long Life". That definitely looks like the perfect place if one wishes to indulge in one of life's great pleasures - the 7 hour lunch. Eventually our driver dropped us right up to the restaurants adorning the beach area and we stepped out to the familiar smell of salty sea air.

Given the cloudiness of the day, we were rather surprised at how many people were on the beach, including the obligatory Japanese tourists wearing business suits. We have a little chuckle to ourselves whilst studiously attempting to evade the restaurant owners who were overly assertive in their efforts to get us to come and eat in their restaurants. Most of the restaurants were seafood based, so Caramel was fresh out of luck there. We wandered up and down the sand whilst two restauranteurs in particular shadowed our every move. We felt a little bit like Princess Di being stalked by the papparazzi and it's not a pleasant feeling. After completing the requisite ritual for Kerry (touching the sea with both hand and foot and being photographed doing it), all the while being shadowed, we kept walking and walking until the restauranteurs had to give up, and at that point we disappeared into a large copse of palm trees so that nobody else could find us. Before leaving Australia, I'd warned the girls that on China Beach (near Da Nang), the local vendors appear out from behind palm trees faster than zombies in Michael Jackson's Thriller video. They hadn't quite understood me at the time, but they were about to achieve higher understanding big time and very quickly. Almost before we could blink, about half a dozen women appeared out of nowhere, carrying baskets laden with all sorts of things and entreating us to buy from them. Although we felt bad, we simply had to ignore them and walk as briskly as possible away. If you buy from one, you must buy from all. We did have to stop to pose for photos behind the palm trees and the ladies patiently waited for their prey whilst we postured and posed for each other's cameras. The ladies followed us for some time before we decided to abandon the beach idea altogether and head back the way we came. We shot out of the palm trees and back onto the road faster than a dish licker in Race 5 at Dapto. Let's just say that the peaceful walk on the beach idea didn't go exactly as planned!

The road back towards the hotel is Cua Dai Road right at its beginning, and there are lots of little shops lining each side of the street, and these sell everything you can possibly imagine. Curry stopped to take photographs of various bottles of evil looking concoctions containing snakes, scorpions and a variety of other creatures I'm not sure we wanted to know about. Our strict quarantine laws in Australia meant that there's no way we could get those things back into the country, which is a perfect excuse not to buy them. I love a built in excuse when one is desperately needed!  We wandered a bit further and I spied a gorgeous Collingwood stripe 1950s style bikini. We were having a lovely time meandering around like Brown's cows until we realised that we'd better get some lunch soon or we'd miss the opportunity altogether. We stumbled upon a quaint and pretty little place called The Blue Wave, which went all the way down to the river at the back of the restaurant. The lovely staff showed us to a nice table at the rear so that we could look over the river and enjoy the view. We ordered and realised that we were hungrier than we thought. Even though we were the only patrons in the restaurant, the food seemed to take forever to come. We heard all sorts of chopping and pounding sounds coming from the kitchen and realised that everything we'd ordered was being made fresh and from scratch. This got us to thinking about how fast paced our lives are in the West - the 30 second grab and expectations of instant gratification really are not at all good for one's health nor are they harmonious to a soothed soul. We all need to slow down and enjoy life's experiences along the way. The slogan "slow food for a long life" certainly is apt and should be taken into consideration more often.

We used our waiting time to relax, take in the lovely surroundings and grab some photos of the pleasant view over the river. The food arrived and it was certainly worth waiting for. Just delicious and very, very fresh. No wonder the Vietnamese are so healthy.

After we'd finished our delicious and embarrassingly cheap lunch, the staff were good enough to order a taxi to take us back to the hotel, but along the way we realised we'd be better off heading straight to town. Kerry's shoes were to be ready, and I was to have my final fittings on all my outfits at Mr Xe's. I was still bloated like a whale from lunch so a couple of my things were a teensy bit snug, but they felt good and I knew that once the food had gone down, all would be well with the world. Unfortunately, Kerry's shoes still weren't quite ready and we were told to come back after dinner. We headed off for another lovely coffee at Faifoo and the gorgeous Yum Yum was still working as usual.  We wandered around for a bit longer and ended up at another ceramics shop in Bach Dang Street - this one was Tam Kim, and they were advertising sets of bowls with matching bases for $2 per set. We were very impressed, and I ended up buying a set of 8, with matching chopsticks and another set of chopsticks for ten people, complete with rests in a beautiful wooden box. At 530,000 VND (about $25) for the lot, this was an excellent bargain. We continued on our little mini shopping spree and we ended up finally purchasing our "Same Same But Different" T-shirts, together with some scarves.

Seriously, Vietnam is full on shopping porn and we can't get enough of it!

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