Saturday, June 10, 2023
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Malaysian tourist explores one of Vietnam’s ancient towns on two wheels

ANN/THE STAR – My family and I went to Hoi An in Vietnam recently for three nights. The trip was organised by my daughter Adeline, and included visits to many interesting places.

I had never heard of Hoi An before the trip and was surprised to discover that it is actually a Unesco World Heritage Site. Hoi An was once an important port during the first half of the 17th Century. This ancient town is remarkably well preserved, and is somewhat akin to our very own Melaka.

After checking in to our hotel, we went straight into “tourist mode” and cycled around town using the bicycles our hotel prepared for free.

We stopped at the nearby Banh Mi Phuong which saw a throng of customers buying variations of banh mi. Apparently, the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain had a banh mi here once and talked about it, which is probably why this place is really famous now.

Banh mi is a sandwich that uses freshly baked baguettes, with either a meat, chicken, seafood or egg filling, paired with some which is cheap, tasty and satisfied our hunger.

We continued to cycle around town, getting entangled with the pretty heavy traffic, before going back to the hotel to rest for a bit.

The writer and her family at the iconic Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills. PHOTOS: EE WAH TAN/ THE STAR

But pretty soon, we set off to look for more food, specifically, pho or beef noodles. The Hoi An specialty is actually called cau lau, which is dry noodles with slices of beef.

I had pho twice before, once in a Vietnamese restaurant in Perth, Australia and again at a “local” restaurant that catered to Western palates in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam. I thought both of those versions of pho were terrible because there were just too much meat in them, and expensive, too! Luckily, the ones we had at Hoi An were delicious. It was full of flavour and the beef was sliced perfectly.

I was finally able to appreciate one of Vietnam’s signature dishes.

Later, we made our way to the night market which was just a stone’s throw away. It was a sizeable night market with myriad of items for sale. We strolled along the booths and bought a few things, and had a delicious dinner in one of the restaurants nearby.

The area was crowded with tourists, mostly Caucasians and South Koreans, judging from their language.

The next morning, we set out to explore Hoi An on bicycle again. We went to the park and rode on the merry-go-round, and then later visited the ancient Japanese bridge. We stopped by a small riverside restaurant to have cups of coffee and croissants.

The next day, we went to Ba Na Hills which is like Malaysia’s Bukit Tinggi, a French-themed resort. Ba Na Hills is much larger and situated higher up on the hills. It features a French Village as well as other attractions like the iconic “hands” that hold up the Golden Bridge, and a giant sitting Buddha.

We went up the hill via a lengthy trip in a cable car. There were so many tourists around just like in Hoi An, but thankfully it wasn’t hot in the highlands. We went back to Da Nang after that and asked the driver to drop us off at a restaurant beside the river so we could have our dinner. We took a stroll to the pink cathedral after we ate, but since it was the holiday weekend, the building was closed to visitors.

We then walked to the Dragon Bridge where there is a huge sculpture of a dragon that was the length of the bridge. While my travel companions decided to get foot massages, I walked around a night market waiting for the light show to come on. I got a good spot for us to stand and see the show, though there were quite a number of people around. The show was spectacular, with the dragon randomly spewing “fire” a few times. It put a fantastic end to our short but lovely trip.

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