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On the beach at Hoi An

We were out early for our last spot of beach and headed for a walk up and down. The local fishermen here use coracles for fishing and they were all lined up along the beach. It’s amazing to think that someone can go out in a basket with a large fishing net, haul in a catch and not sink. Different coloured flags were tied to the nets in each coracle so they can easily identify their own nets when they are out at sea.

The beach was almost deserted. There were a couple of local men doing their morning exercises and just one or two boats already out fishing. It reminded me a lot of Mahabilapuram on the east coast of India. Soft sand, long beaches (this one runs for over 30km), wide enough so that there is lots of space but not so wide that it’s miles to get to the water. As we walked we said again how lucky we are to have the opportunity to be here and to have this experience. The sun was shining, we had warm water splashing at our feet while we walked along a golden palm tree lined beach.

We stopped at a café on the beach for a drink and got thoroughly ripped off. The menu’s have no prices and knowing the local rates for things we stupidly assumed they would apply at the beach but not, things cost twice as much here as they do one hundred yards down the beach on the main road from town! The vendors appeared as usual all wanting us to be their first customer in the New Year and to bring them luck. We left the café telling the owner we would tell everyone we met how she had ripped us off and that it would not bring her good luck. She really didn’t seem to care.

Stef had a last dip in the sea and then we headed back to our room to shower, pack and wait for our lift to the airport. We have to go to Danang, about an hour’s drive north from Hoi An. Our car turns up early and before long we were off, not really wanting to leave the beach but knowing that there are still lots more adventures waiting for us to come.

As it is still the Tet holiday we struggled to get a flight and had to slum it again on business class. Our plane was a large one and we had really comfy seats and good service. But the highlight was the in flight video show. They have cameras mounted somewhere outside the plane so as we took off and landed we got a pilot’s eye view – fabulous! We had clear skies for most of the way and I took a couple of photos of the landscape as we passed over the beaches. The sun then started to set and there were beautiful views of the clouds lit up by pink and orange sun rays.

We soon landed at Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC is much easier!) and there was a noticeable increase in the temperature and the density of the heat. Here we are staying with family so we haven’t had the usual soul searching about where to stay and the prospect of turning up at a hotel that’s grotty. Tim and Erica (Tim’s brother Andy is married to my sister Caroline) have very kindly offered to put us up for a few days. We took a taxi to their compound and were all (Tim and Erica included) surprised that he found it first time round.

Dragon fruit

We worked out that it must be fourteen years since we last saw each other. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t recognise either Tim or Erica but I needn’t have worried. As our taxi pulled up to their door a very Sarney style figure was lit up through the doorway and it was definitely Tim. Erica said she also knew that I was very definitely a Voogd. We were given a very friendly welcome and we instantly felt at home.

They have a bright and airy house on a mainly ex-pat compound on the outskirts of HCMC. Throughout it is decorated with Erica’s collection of textiles, wicker, wall hangings and countless treasures that she had acquired in the two years that they have been here. They are soon to be packed up and shipped home to the UK, along with Tim and Erica who are coming back to colder climes after being ex-pats for the last eleven years. Our room was the largest we have stayed in for ages with a really comfy bed and an en suite bathroom. It was a real home away from home.

We’ve been in touch by email over the last few weeks and Erica had picked up on our need for a taste of home. She had prepared a real treat for us – a full blown roast chicken dinner with loads of veggies and all the trimmings. It was fabulous and went a significant way to curing and easing some of the pangs of home sickness that haunt us (me more than Stef) from time to time. We sat around the table chatting and really just getting to know each other a bit before heading off for a great night’s sleep.