We have just done a Vietnamese cooking class. Normal form - visit to the market with the chef to buy the ingredients then prepare and eat the food. There were just the two of us in the class so lots of personal attention and time to ask questions. The market, as all markets in asia, are a profusion of colour and smell. Each stall, virtually identical to its neighbour (same, same, but different as they say), is arranged with artistic consideration to best display the quality and variety of the foodstuffs on sale. Visits to are always an experience and one becomes practised in the multifarious ways of saying "No thanks" to the pushy stall holders plying their trade.
In a shady courtyard covered with trees with orchids draping from the branches we prepare Papaya salad, banana leaf salad, fish in clay pot, chicken on lemon leaf and a desert soup made with lotus seeds and wash it down with a pleasant white wine.
Our days here have been lazy and we are taking our time to enjoy them walking, motorbiking and emersing ourselves in the towns atmosphere. We both love it and could easily live here for a while!
Today we hired a motorbike (getting reasonable at using the geared versions now) and went to the Marble Mountains near Da Nang - 5 large stacks of limestone of various sizes just rising out of the plain just outside the city. The largest has hundreds of rough hewn steps to take you up to the top and here one can wander along between shrines, pagodas and caves. The shrines are housed in smooth teak sided buildings surrounded by bonsai creations, in cathedral like caves or tucked away in small intimate caverns and are all impressive, peaceful and inspirational. Were it not for the tourists (and there were only a few) then this would be a wonderful place to get all goddy in.
The paths wend their way beside limestone rockfaces draped with vines, vantage points, where one can overlook the community below which is almost exclusively stone mason shops and lovely pagodas of various heights and provide multi teired roof spaces for dragons, griffins, and various deities to perch upon.a
Our visit was made even better by some fairly ignorant Aussies who kept on about the swastikas someone had carved on the Budhas (If unsure why this is funny then look it up), warned one another about the monks who they thought were kung fu specialists and who later poured coke on a 10 inch grass snake they found it on a path because one of them thought it was thirsty otherwise it would have "ran away".
And so with one last hit of Vietnbamese coffee (a rich dark brew that is mixed with generous serving of condensed milk) we await the night train to our next destination of Dalat.