We left Dalat bunged with a cold but full of optimism for our next destination Hoi An, a place we have yet to hear a bad review about. We broke the journey up a little by stopping at the entirely Russian dominated Nha Trang, a beach resort city that was nice for the night we decided to stay over but we left glad it was no longer than that. Maybe given a little more time we would have explored the interesting looking islands but as Tet is approaching we are starting to struggle to get around due to planes, trains and automobiles being booked up in advance by Vietnamese coming home for the new year.
The majority of the first day in Nha Trang was spent trying to secure over night coach tickets to Hoi An which proved very difficult and in the end left us with considerably lighter wallets. We started the night with the intention of sampling some of Nha Trang’s nightlife however after choosing out of the two bars that were on offer and listening to music that would have had me running straight for the exit in the UK we called it a night slightly dissapointed with the evenings entertainment. In the morning we took our breakfast baguette and iced coffee with us to the beach to start off the day before walking towards a patch of green we saw on the map hoping for a park to read and relax all day. The park had been turned into a construction site and we had walked for two hours to get there, thankfully we found a delightful little cafe on the way back, covered in plants, trees and the perfect place for us to waste a day waiting for the bus. I have just started re-reading Game of thrones 3-5 which I might finish by the time I’m home, and Sarah book swapped to get Jane Eyre. We grabbed street food on the way back to the coach and for the umpteenth time the Vietnamese lady tried to scam us into paying double the price of the food. I’m usually not one to make sweeping generalisations but the people here are ruthless with money, never missing an opportunity to massively overcharge foreigners. I have lost count of the amount of times traders have tried to short change us and scam us into paying ridiculous prices. On the whole it’s left us feeling that the Vietnamese aren’t the friendliest, save for the odd exception who restores our faith.
Our arrival into Hoi An was early, giving us the whole day to explore our immediate vicinity, dotted with buy/sell/rent motorbike shops which after a while had caught my attention. We found a company that rented bikes in Hoi An and allowed us to drop the bike off towards the end of our journey in Hanoi, but all the larger bikes were already booked up for Tet and we decided it would be silly to attempt the journey on a scooter. It was Valentine’s Day and I had found us a nice restaurant in the old town which served glorious food including Hoi An specialities such as white rose (shrimp dumplings) spring rolls and won tons. All washed downed with a glass of red from the vineyards of Dalat that we had driven through just days before. I completed the gentleman’s act by purchasing Sarah some flowers from the flower market where we yet again got screwed over but I was determined to get some tulips to go with the lovely card Sarah had made me.
There’s almost no street in the town that doesn’t have at least one tailor selling shirts, jackets, suits and coats of varying materials and styles. I took the opportunity to get fitted out for a jacket that had caught my eye and agreed on the material for a bargain price. After enjoying our breakfast served to us by the lovely people at the mango garden home stay (in contrast, some of friendliest most wonderful people we have stayed with) we headed off into the old town of Hoi An. Yet another UNESCO world heritage site to tick off the list, the old town is a beautiful mix of Japanese, Chinese and French influenced architecture preserved to now provide homes for numerous bars, restaurants, shops and more tailor shops. A world away from the bustle of Vietnam’s big cities with very little traffic able to squeeze it’s way down the old narrow streets leaving them free for pedestrians to explore. It’s a ridiculously photogenic town, dotted with flower arrangements and lanterns that make it a treat for the eyes after dark. The evening was spent hopping between donut stalls, browsing the river and picking up my new tailored jacket before heading to a backpacker hostel for a pub quiz we spotted earlier in the day. We met some nice people and had some beers (one too many for one girl who spent the whole night dancing on the table… during the quiz) we’ve been away for over five months now and that became evident as soon as any questions were asked regarding current affairs. Our team of four was pretty woeful, coming in last prompting us to pick up our coats and head for bed.
Our time in Hoi An was drawing to a close, we woke up slightly cloudy and chose to stay in bed to watch finding nemo on HBO. When we did finally rise there was just enough time left to stumble into old town once more to sample some delicious street food, the speciality here is Cau Lau, marinated pork with noodles and fresh salad. Some of the people aren’t the friendliest we’ve ever come across but damn they can cook. We had our final beers and headed back to the home stay where the wonderful owner was waiting for us with a plate of fresh mango and watermelon in celebration of the coming New Year, she’s a real diamond. So now we head off in the direction of another UNESCO world heritage site, the caves at Phong Nha and we’re both excited. Oh and we will be making the journey on our newly purchased machine, I finally gave in and bought a motorbike so we have the freedom to roam wherever we please! Let’s hope she can handle two heavy westerners with two heavy backpacks over the legendary Hai Van Pass (see top gear)
Find out how it goes on the next blog.
Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/127744759@N08/CQ799n