Another entry in a sloth bear’s diary…

All day I carried through my early morning decision not to get engaged in any serious activities.

I did, however, check out local travel agents on the internet to organise a boat trip on the beautiful river here. I found one company that offered what I want and that had the best price. So, I set off to the town centre to pay them a visit. While their shingle is still up, their shop window was nailed over with wooden boards. Out of business…More checking required tomorrow.

After that unsuccessful effort I drove to a fishing village along the river. The typical scenery of ordinary Vietnamese life. No difference to the North. Just a bit more crowded. I ended up in a dead end street, stopped by the river, with the sun preparing to set at just around 5 pm:

As I did not want to drive back on those narrow, muddy, unlit lanes in the dark I turned back to find a restaurant for an early dinner. In a godforsaken place I found “Tunh Anh”, a local garden restaurant right next to the river. And it was only 5.30 pm when I arrived there. A tranquil setting with the river in the background.

At least now I was in safe territory as from here it was only a couple of hundred meters to civilisation with lit streets and did not have to be afraid of darkness any more :)

I ordered the obligatory Larue beer and a salad made from shredded banana blossom, shrimp, pork, onion, mint and peanuts (4 Leva):

Nothing complicated but because of the freshness of the products and the balance of tastes something I could only dream of back home. I was also ogling at the seafood menu – but in the end decided a salad was quite enough. Willpower, eh!

On the way back, after crossing the bridge to the old town and passing by many shops…

…it came to my mind that my “consultant”, the lady from who I rented the motorbike, had recommended a restaurant “very good” and “not expensive” on the road from the old town and my quarters. And I though, what the hell, I will check it out. Just briefly. Maybe just sit and have a beer and a look at the menu :) Which I did.

What a different world! A restaurant geared completely to foreign tourists. Lovely and smiling service, no complaint. But there were at least a dozen German couples (and a few English):After nearly 4 weeks of completely Vietnamese life the whole setup felt totally unreal to me. Just looking at these German tourists and their sodden faces and staid outfits made me wince. Fortunately, with my poor hearing I did not have to listen in on their boring conversations :) OK, here I was, seated at a table. What to do? A Larue beer and a small item from the menu: squid with lemon grass and chilli.

As to be expected they brought me not only chopsticks but also fork and spoon :) – but no bowl with fish sauce or chillies. But that was easy to order.

To my surprise (not really) the squid came sliced in rings like in Western restaurants. They were not bad, though -fresh elastic squids with the right texture – but the chillies I had ordered to be put into the dish in addition were not much hotter than red peppers :) And the rice was not of the superior quality I had in most of the purely Vietnamese restaurants.A dish like you can find it in many restaurants all over Europe (apart from the refreshing lemon grass feature).

By the time my squid arrived two young German couples had settled in on a neighbouring table. And despite my bad hearing I was subjected to their conversation. The ladies were discussing their problems at work and with their bosses in Germany. What a topic for a holiday in an exotic country!

Well, what should I have expected? The recommendation came from a woman that sees me as a tourist like all the others she deals with and she thought this would be just the spot I might be looking for. I am to blame – not she. Because I should have known better. Well, now I do. Here is the culprit, “Miss” Lan:

But I do value this experience. Because it made me aware again that I am doing the right thing for myself. Avoiding Western tourists and trying to immerse in local life – and enjoying all the marvellous experiences and things I cannot encounter back home. Why else should I have come here?!

On my way home to the hotel I was hit by a gushing shower. The joys of motorbiking :) “No problem” – my favourite Asian phrase. Comes right after “niama problem” back home in Bulgaria. Hehe.

After a shower and new clothes I strolled over to the other side of the street to have a good-night drink on the deck of the restaurant, built on stilts in the river, where I had my first evening’s dinner.A classy place! Very expensive but with a laid back but cultivated attention to details. From furniture to plants to service and low background music (Sade and Nora Jones in a restaurant in Vietnam?! Unbelievable!)

Great to chill out here – with a gin & tonic. In  fact, I felt like being Hemingway (but, of course, my ego is bigger than his :) ) I happily paid the 90,000 Dong (6.70 Leva) for the gin & tonic in exchange for an hour of complete relaxation. May all days end like this!

Well, tomorrow is another day and we will see what it brings. The weather forecast talks about rain. My idea is to get up early and go to the Hoi An fish market – if I can heave my body out of bed in time. Because the market starts at 5 am (when the fishermen come back in with their prey) and finishes at 8 am. I won’t make any prognosis at this point in time :)

Leka nosht and till soon…



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