This morning we woke up to the sound of roosters crowing, a church bell ringing, and loud boat engines, which is nicely different than just an alarm clock. After a breakfast of fresh baked bread, a fried egg and coffee we were back in our boat and off to check out the floating market at Cai Be. It was neat to see all the boats selling different fruits and vegetables. Next, we stopped by a factory making different types of candy and snacks. They showed us how they make puffed rice and taro root which were then made into their version of a rice crispy square. We could also see the production of some taffy and rice crackers. This was the last stop for us in the Mekong and we were soon in a van transfering back to HCMC.
Once we rejoined the rest of the group we made our way to the train station to catch our overnight train. Once there Tony started to look through his backpack for the train tickets which would have us in the hard sleeper cabins. He kept looking, and looking and tearing apart his backpack. I've never seen a guy sweat as much as he was. The tickets were nowhere to be found. He attempted to talk to the customer service ladies but they basically told him to find the tickets or we weren't going anywhere. The train ended up leaving at it's scheduled time without our group. Tony purchased new tickets for the next train in a few hours which we were all fine with. Tony then realized that he had left a bag at the hotel so we all went to go retrieve it and kill some time before our new train. Sure enough, the train tickets were found in that bag that had been forgotten. A few drinks later we made our way back to the train station and boarded. However, much to our dismay instead of having a bed for the night, we were in the regular seats surrounded by locals as it was the only option at the last minute. We all knew that it was going to be a rough night but luckily Tony had a pretty easy going group so we didn't kill him. I don't think any of us got much sleep (except for Bernardo who managed to sleep all the time, anywhere and everywhere on the trip), but it actually ended up being a neat experience to see how the locals normally travel, and there was a cute mouse running around in our car.
In the afternoon we headed to the beach which is absolutely gorgeous. We were wandering along when we heard our names being called. The girls were lounging under a palapa that they rented. We ended up joining them and just sat reading, listening to music and people watching until dinner time. Then it was early to bed as we hadn't had much sleep the night before.
We spent this day catching up on the computer, having lunch, relaxing again on the beach, dinner and then getting ready to take the overnight bus to Hoi An. I didn't know what to expect with the bus but it ended up not being too bad. Instead of having regular seats, the bus is set up with 32 almost fully reclining seats which are in two levels. I've never seen anything like it in my life. The "beds" are actually fairly comfortable as long as you're short enough to fit in your allocated space. Even with the bus swerving in and out of traffic, honking it's horn, flashing it's lights and oncoming traffic doing the same, I did manage to get some sleep.
We arrived into Hoi An at about 6am, and then walked about 10-15 minutes down the street to our hotel. The friendly staff greeted us with tea and snacks. Then, we wandered out to explore Hoi An and find some breakfast. Hoi An is a quiet town with over 400 tailors, and excellent food and shopping options. We spent the rest of the morning attempting to find a geocache nearby, but the park was locked and the sun was blazing down making it far too warm. In the afternoon we wandered to a restaurant that was recommended to book a cooking class for the next day. Then, we wandered through the huge market and stopped at a small restaurant to have 4000D beer (about 25 cents) and ice cream. Back at the hotel we had a short nap before heading across the river to some food stalls for dinner. Had some delicious fried wontons and noodle dishes. We went back to the hotel and played my new favourite card game, Monopoly deal for awhile before heading to bed.
This morning we woke up to find that the hotel and the whole neighbourhood was without power. The hotel staff were still able to put together a great breakfast before we headed off to our cooking class. We wandered over to the restaurant on the other side of town and met the chef. He whisked us off to the nearby market and showed us some of the many food and other items available. A few of the areas were a bit difficult to stomach, like the meat butchering, seafood and fresh poultry. After this we walked back to the restaurant and began our lesson. Most of the food was already prepped so all we had to do was assemble, mix and cook. In all we covered 4 different recipes including spring rolls which ended up being some of the tastiest we had on the whole trip. It was the most expensive optional excursion we did on the trip, but it was loads of fun and we got some great recipes out of it so it was worth every penny (or Dong in this case!).
After breakfast we stopped at a nearby islet where it was possible to climb many stairs to a viewpoint. It was a warm climb but very worthwhile once you saw the 360 degree view. Once we returned to the boat it began to cruise back to the pier, then we were once again headed back into Hanoi.
The rest of the day was free time so we took this opportunity to finish up our souvenir shopping.
On our last full night in Vietnam we enjoyed sitting in a café overlooking the lake and the main roundabout, just watching the chaos below.
Last day in Vietnam, and I woke up feeling really sad about leaving. It ended up being a really lazy day. We had breakfast and then had to check out of our room. Luckily the girls were staying another night and generously shared their room with us and our bags for the day. We watched some tv, did last minute shopping, got one last geocache on the other side of the lake, and then met up with Tony and the girls for our final dinner. Afterwards it was back to the hotel to grab our bags, and say our final goodbyes. I was so choked up I couldn't even talk and as soon as we were in a taxi heading towards the airport I cried. It had been such a perfect trip with an excellent small group of people whom I hope to keep in touch with for a long time.
Only a few minutes later though I had to snap out of it because our taxi turned down a small dark road and stopped. The driver said he would just be a minute, and then he came back and asked us to get out and switch into a different taxi. I was so caught off guard by this that I went into paranoia mode and didn't really calm down until I started seeing airport signs indicating that we were indeed still being taken to the airport. Apparently this is how the taxi drivers always do it, but it would've been nice to know ahead of time.
Anyways, we made it to the airport with plenty of time before our 1130pm flight to Seoul.