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So much to do and so little time

semi-overcast 21 °C

A week ago we laboured over our decision to leave Mui Ne for a few days and make the awkward journey to Hoi An, but after our time there, we are very happy we made the trip. We were so busy and exhausted ourselves so completely that this morning, when we were supposed to be getting on the bus from Dalat to Mui Ne we were catching up on some Zzzzzz's.

Aside from what the ancient city had to offer, we didn't find time to see any historic or cultural sites of this part of Vietnam. But we did manage to eat a lot of great food, find a great local artist, put some talented tailors and shoemakers to work and try our hand at a cooking course. Our schedule was literally jammed from morning to night with nonstop action.

The dining continued to be excellent and our favourite restaurant offered a cooking class that ran from 8:30 am until 1pm that we signed up for on Tuesday. It started with a tour of the local market where we learned about their local herbs and spices as well as how to select the freshest meats and vegetables. Apparently the restaurant staff gets to work very early as the fish market opens at 3am and the regular market opens at 4am and the chef demands the freshest ingredients get into the kitchen long before the sun comes up. I'm glad we weren't shopping for our lunch midmorning as the refrigeration was non-existent and the meats were looking a little questionable to say the least. Back to the restaurant we went upstairs and entered a MasterChef look alike kitchen, they have clearly been doing this course for quite awhile as it was really well organised. The menu we would be cooking consisted of 5 course and started with a cabbage and shrimp soup that had us rolling shrimp dumplings into steamed cabbage leaves. Tricky business but we managed alright, Natalie was immediately the teachers pet while the instructor took one look at my dish and just left her response at "OK...". Next we marinated some chicken with a tray full of herbs, spices and oils and sent that off to be grilled on their open fire. We were eating as we cooked and the next appetiser was a rice paper wrap of pork, shrimp, noodles, herbs and a deep-fried spring roll which we devoured quickly. The kitchen staff had prepped everything we needed to do our cooking which sped things along well. Next we made a crispy savoury pancake that was rolled into rice paper with fresh herbs and greens. Finally we made a mango salad in time to be served with our bbq chicken. I'm glad we skipped breakfast and we definitely didn't need dinner until late.

The shopping was really the central theme of this part of the trip and we didn't really expect it. On the first day we arrived I had remembered seeing people in a hurry with new suitcases as if they realised at the last minute that there was no way that their new purchases would fit in their luggage. In my head I had laughed and asked how such a thing could happen but the answer, it seems, is quite easily. I am happy to say we didn't buy any luggage but that is only because the hotel arranged for the staff from the shipping company to come to meet us, package our loot and arrange for it to be sent via airmail. We ended up having five different shops making us stuff and had a range of experiences and quality. The best was with our new friend "Ti" who has already invited us to her wedding and Nat has assured her she will be back annually to get her new gear. We will see how well everything holds up, but for now it appears to be great work.

Everything went smoothly with our last night from Danang to Dalat. As I mentioned, we didn't quite make our bus this morning to Mui Ne, but we had a really relaxing day here and are all set to get up early tomorrow and hopefully be on the water kiting tomorrow afternoon. We are also making our plans for our next leg of the trip, we were looking at Christmas and New Years in Southern Thailand, but now it kind of looks like we will be exploring the North part of Thailand with elephants!

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Posted by colincampbell 15:46 Archived in Vietnam

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