Other than breakfast, which is included in the Romance Hotel room rate and is good, I have been living on ham baguettes, phở and chicken curry in Huế. The quality of the restaurants here is low, and they cater to backpackers for the most part. Last night I went to Missy Roos for anything and wound up with ham baguette again. Although extravagantly reviewed, probably by Australian friends of the owner, they have never heard of mustard. While settling the bill a large rat darted through the open dining room. Not even the gay German couple sitting next to me got excited, although they saw it too – their server kept on with their order for Greek salad as if nothing had occurred.
Seattle is a port city and I’ve seen the occasional rat there but the only time I saw one in a restaurant, at a Bento place on University Avenue, the owner went crazy chasing it around the place. At Missy Roos – which has the cheek to offer cooking classes – the attitude is: Hey, everybody’s gotta eat, even vermin.
Every restaurant I’ve been in here has the standard 1000 item menu, so you know that there is nothing they are really any good at. Jack of all dishes, master of none.
So what am I doing? Moving to Hoi An tomorrow, an even more downscale Vietnamese city near the beach, 100 miles or so south of Huế.
I went for a walk along the beautifully named Perfume River, and ate at a crummy restaurant that purported to float on the river. (1000 item menu; watery chicken curry). The riverbank is lined with gaudy aluminum boats with dragon heads at the front. The tour buses dump out their customers and they pile into the larger boats for a one hour tour.
The smaller wooden boats hustle marks like me off the riverbank. $5 for 1 hour tour! What will I see? Everything! How about 100,000 dong for one-half hour? Sure! Just get on the boat! I decide to test the limits of the young hustler’s agreeability and draw a crude picture of a water skier in my notebook, and show it to him. Can you do this? Sure!
His mother is the hostess for the cruise (she laughed at the picture) and his father is Master and Chief Engineer. Once on board I immediately wish I was on shore, because it’s boring and the woman uses the time to try to sell pictures, postcards, trinkets and assorted junk. I buy a cold Coke but tell her I don’t want anything else. I ask them to go across the river to where a smaller river empties into the Perfume but, after seeing this, I’m done and back across we go, about a 15 minute trip. When I realize I only have a 200,000 dong note, this is the occasion for more bargaining – the cost of the trip is now 200,000 dong. No, I say. OK, 150,000? OK, but that has to include the Coke. Done deal, smiles all around. Total cost of the boat ride on the Perfume River: $7.44, but the best part of the whole excursion was the bargaining.