There’s a curry house in Hoi An called the Ganesh and I was starving after recovering from malaria, so I ordered a starter. I wasn’t being a glutton, malaria takes it out of you, I can tell you. Vietnamese people are very small, and so restaurants don’t generally give you a huge amount of food.
At the Ganesh the curry comes in small buckets, and even a small bucket is way too much for a plate. Not even Mr Creosote could eat that much curry, and I’d had a starter.
The rice came on a plate of its own, the size and shape of Silbury Hill and the bread was bigger than a duvet
And that was only the starter!
It’s a strange thing that in Thailand they enjoy eating raw chillies and every time you eat it feels as though your cutlery has just been made for you in the forge next to the kitchen, and is still white hot.
In Cambodia and Vietnam, the food is mild and the chillies actually make the food less spicy somehow.
We asked for the food to be made spicy but they don’t understand British spicy. In fact a couple came and sat down at the table next to us, a British Indian and his wife. Sid and Kate, who were on their honeymoon. Well, a late honeymoon, they’d been busy at the time they’d actually got married, eight months ago, what with him training to be a surgeon an all. Out of curiosity I asked him, and apparently British people do eat curries hotter than Indians do. So that’s something we can be proud of.
Sid and Kate were moving to another bar after their meal and asked if we’d like to go along with them, which was nice.
The bars and restaurants and the streets in Hoi An a very lively indeed late at night.
After about ten thirty there aren’t many people about, but there are many, many rats, cockroaches and beetles the same colour and size as walnuts, and are likely to hurt just as much as a walnut were you to be struck on the head by one whilst drinking a beer in bar late at night. But what are the odds of that happening eh? Well, quite high really.
These beetles, the size and colour of rugby balls are attracted to the lights and fly through the open front of the bar, in the same way as a drunk might stagger out, bouncing from one wall to another, from the ceiling to the floor like a airship pinball, it’s beating wings sounding like the pounding helicopter rotors in the opening scene of Apocalypse Now.
One of these things hit the floor by us and they’re really quite beautiful. I picked it up to take it outside and it gripped onto my finger with the little hooks at the ends of its legs quite strongly. I took it round the corner away from the beautiful, alluring strip lights and had to pull it quite hard to dislodge it from my hand.
On the way back from a bar late at night, you will often spot a movement in the peripheral view, out the corner of your eye.
Quite often it’ll be a cockroach but equally often it’ll be a foot long rat. After a while you don’t even bother pointing them out to each other anymore.
There are hundreds of street vendors see, with little pots of charcoal on which they grill corn cobs and cook rice. And street restaurants that appear in the evening.
Somebody turns up with a dozen little chairs a foot high and a few tables, and a handcart with a charcoal burner, and within minutes they’re serving chicken and noodles or shellfish, and there’s a restaurant where ten minutes before there had only been a pavement.
All the detritus and rubbish and used corncobs, and shellfish and surplus rice are swept into a pile in the gutter where they make a nutritious meal for the rats. Until about eleven thirty, when an army of street cleaners are mobilised with big bins on wheels, and brushes, to collect all the rubbish and wheel it away somewhere where it no doubt makes a nutritious meal for the rats.
When we first got to Hoi An, before we’d found the cheaper places to eat, we were in quite an expensive restaurant eating a chicken sandwich, or something, when a young America girl was given quite a turn by a rat staring at her from the steps opposite her table. The staff just looked, quite sanguine where she was pointing as though to say, What? Is there something over there that’s upsetting you, is it anywhere near that rat?
We witnessed the grimly comical sight one night of a rat glued to a piece of cardboard on the pavement. Stuck on his side with his legs making running notions.
Kev had told us a story, and we have no reason to disbelieve him – about one time they were in a hotel and got the staff to investigate some aircon duct scurrying sounds.
The man went away and returned with a plate of glue and bacon, which he put in the duct.
After a couple of minutes of what I imagine would have been an awkward conversation, when the noises had stopped, he reached up and removed the plate with a rat glued to it.
A Marble mountain, there are five in all, named for the five elements, Earth, Wind and Fire, and The Doobie Brothers
There is a beach about three km from the hotel. The one that James May and Richard Hammond thrashed their bikes on when they were in Vietnam.
We hired pushbikes and cycled down there a couple of days ago. It took us about twenty minutes and it’s about a hundred miles long, or something and it’s where the Americans came on R&R.
We sat reddening in the heat and occasionally going for a swim, and i t’s the coldest ocean we’ve found anywhere here, I imagine because the river joins the ocean just about half a km away. You can taste it when you’re swimming, a muddy rivery taste instead of salty.
We hired bikes from the place we’re stopping at and they were, to be honest, a bit crap. No brakes and flat tires. I think if we go down the beach again we’ll hire bikes from somewhere else.
It’s a straight road down there but that doesn’t mean that won’t be subjected to some very testing conditions, such as the schoolboy who very nearly ran into Nel on his bike, oh no. No looking left and right, no sign on his face that he even had the faintest idea that he was cycling down a road.
In Vietnam when you walk down the street, if you’re Vietnamese, and someone is walking on a direct intercept course with you there is no deviation, no stepping aside or slowing your pace, in fact no recognition that there might be an obstacle, somehow they *just* miss each other. By the breadth of a hair. Same on the roads, but you stop wincing and closing your eyes. After a while you begin to understand that however inevitable the horrible crash is, it never happens. Effect doesn’t necessarily follow Cause. They seem to have very little influence.
We booked a trip out to the Marble Mountains yesterday.
The Marble Mountains are not really mountains, they’re five hills, great protrusions in an otherwise flat landscape, but they *are* made of marble, and limestone, and the one we climbed was pierced and holey as the kinds of cheese you used to see in Tom and Jerry cartoons, and these hollows and holes housed temples and statues.
Also, during the American war, what we call the Vietnam war, a hospital which hid five hundred Vietcong just a km away from the Marble Mountains airbase. They would have been able to hear the American planes, and the guide told us that the Vietcong had tunnelled to the base through rock but I’m not sure that’s true. I mean why would they, if they were a hospital?
I get my information from Wikipedia so it’s probably not true.
The Marble Mountains from the outside and the inside.