Vietnam 

A Continental Cuisine Series

Vietnam Journal

Part 4

We rise early to get to the airport on time for our hour flight to Da Nang. The coach picks us up and head out of Ha Noi. Its 6 in the morning and the city is just awake. The misty, cool morning is a welcome change from the warm afternoons we have had. As we make our way out street food vendors are setting up for the morning Pho rush. Small fires are being wafted with fans and ladies with bikes laddened with fruits wait by the roadside. More women with long flat poles across one shoulder with 2 reed baskets at each end struggle down the pavements and roads packed with fresh herbs and vegetables.

I see congee sellers, a sort of thick rice porridge and also ladies with steaming baskets of sweetcorn peeled for you as a breakfast snack. As we progress out we pass the flower market, again many people strapping boxes and bags of flowers to bikes and scooters. Its an impressive sight.

We check in, say goodbye to Tuong and wait for our flight. I wander around the small airport and sip sweet tea. There is a television in one corner and I see a football match is in progress. As I get closer I see its Cardiff v Leeds, and wonder to myself if the 2 or 3 guys watching have ever been to Leeds or Cardiff.

The flight is quick, and we land in rain. We are met at the airport by a wonderful chap called Phoc, pronounced fok. He is very funny, Mr Phil Vickery this and Mr Phil Vickery that, he even thinks Mr Phil Vickery can stop the rain tomorrow.

As we head out the The Nam Hai he chats about the American's being here in the war years. He explains that a large rocky out crop we pass called marble mountain was a hideout for the Viet Cong. He was very proud of the fact that even when it was bombed they still survived living in the tunnels.
The Nam Hai is a resort built on a long stretch of coastline the Americans called China beach. It was where the GI's came for R&R. Now its all been bought up for developing luxury hotels and golf clubs, many yet to be built.

The hotel is impressive, and quietly understated. The drive is long and lined with deep green plants. Phoc explains the health club as we pass by and we pull up under a huge canopy. The greeting is superb with many staff buzzing around offering green tea and semi dried shards of ginger and mango.
After check in I'm taken to my room, sorry bungalow in a covered stretch golf buggy. My room is one of many others that sleep more people have their own pools and gyms. Its spacious, very clean and has all the mod cons. The bathroom area is to the rear of the long room and has good sized indoor and outdoor showers.

The sunken bath is next to the bed and desk in the main room, I like it. The bed linen is crisp and very comfortable as are the bath robes, probably the best I've worn anywhere. A member of staff knocks and offers to explain the workings of the room to me. I ask do you have an adaptor for a UK plug. She says 'Yes of course' with a beaming smile and produces one from a drawer. The room is packed with everything one needs, iPod, good telly, great lighting, comfy bed, outside seating area and view of the crashing wave's right from the bed.

I shower, and then head off for a lunch with JD the crew and Caroline the Hotel PR for the UK at the beach bar. The restaurant and kitchens are open planned with very high ceilings and lovely feel. Its split into two areas, hot cooking and preparation and cold preparation and pizza making.

Two large swimming pools run along two sides of the restaurant. From where I'm sitting I can look right out to sea.
The menu is as impressive as the hotel, but we let Albert head PR for the hotel order for us. He orders for me a local beef salad and a Pork Baguette called a Banh Mi, very popular in Vietnam, a throwback to the French rule here for some 92 years. More about this later.

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Both are good, the salad fragrant, light with local herbs (from their own organic garden) and a sweet and sour dressing very popular here in Vietnam, its finished with peanuts and is very nice. I love it. The baguette is a softer version of the European offering, wider and larger. Its packed with thinly sliced bar b qued belly pork, marinated in a spicy sauce, spring onions and more herbs. Its served with a beansprout and finely shredded carrot salad. This again has a pungent fish sauce, lime peanut dressing and is fresh as a daisy.

After lunch we head off to meet a man called Jack Sparrow, yes I know what you are thinking. He's a fisherman, and so is his dad Captain Cook, yes, yes I know. Apparently he lives in a small fishing village called Phouc Hai some 20 minute drive away. We drive inland from the coast and along a long straight road splitting 2 large rice paddies in half. We stop for Matt to get shots of locals fishing for small fish in the water filled paddies, plus a few water buffalo, the best tractor here in Vietnam. A local guy riding a scooter stops and asks us what we are doing. We tell him, and then JD asks if he can take me for a spin on the back so we can get a few passing shots. He agrees and I borrow his sister's helmet. You wouldn't get that in London!!!!!

We meet the pair of them and discuss what the plan is for the following day, they are charming, funny and speak great English. We plan to sail into the jungle were the Viet Cong hid whilst occasionally attacking the American troops who had a set up a small camp, about hundred men close by. I would also try my hand at net fishing. By the time we leave its now raining very hard, we wonder if the filming will go ahead tomorrow. The forecast is not looking promising; still it can change pretty quickly. We eat in the hotel again that night simple food I had green mango salad and pork on padan leaves both delicious. Off to bed.

 

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