Day XXX – April 17
My bus to Hoi An leaves Hue at 8am and arrives around noon.
I check in to Hop Yen Guesthouse, again just one hostel with a dormroom in this town. It’s where the bus droppes us off.
When I arranged my check-in with the strict lady of the house, she shows me to their dorm in the attic, three flights of stairs up. In a sterile looking room, four beds are lined against the wall, some other travelers belongings are scattered around, and I am pointed to the metal construction in the corner.
Up there I meet Jenna [19, UK] who spend 6 weeks in Hanoi teaching, just unpacking. And by proxy we’re now travelbuddies, for as long as it lasts.
Right away we plan a trip to My Son tomorrow, sharing the rent and responsibility of a bike; yay, it’s going to happen!
Before I came to Asia I don’t think I knew of My Son. I first heard about it when Madison was giving me tips, back in the Gibbon Treehouse. Then again when I was on the Halong Bay Cruiser; the UK lady and the French girls were jubilant about it and told me I HAD to see it. So I figured it’d be a nice daytrip when in Hoi An.
It’s like most things. Kuang Si I didn’t know about before I came here.
You hear about them on the road, when crossing travelers going in the opposite direction. Talk of place to be or have been is usually the first thing to come up.
Honestly, I had no more than a general idea of main landmarks and towns I wanted to visit, but most of what I saw, I did because of mouth-to-mouth and not what I read back home.
Also I’ve told you that before this trip I wasn’t a fan of Lonely Planet. The one I’ve carrying with me is completely worn down by now, so much have I been flipping pages, crossing, adding. Hardly a day goes by without it advising me on one thing or another. On the back it presumptuously calls itself the backpackers bible, but I’m starting to agree.
After freshening up, we go for a walk around the neighborhood. Hoi An is absolutely adorable, small and with a Mediterranean sort of feel that makes us crave a dive.
We rent some bicycles to check out the beach, a 15-minute ride along a river and a view to die for.
The beach itself is littered with fat, red tourist and local ladies persistently trying to sell snacks, shawls, massages etc.
The palm trees attempt at that tropical vibe, but the sky holds too many clouds today to be convincing. And that greyish ocean doesn’t appear like it either.
The water feels so great though! And it’s oh so nice to sit by the shore, to hear the ocean roaring in and out, to gaze at the vague mountains in a far distance.
And here’s for a little comedy: the locals just challenged some tourist boys to a game of football.
Later, when we get back to town and start looking for dinner, we’re once again confronted with the aggressive sales techniques that seem to be part of the Vietnamese culture, even in a calm town like this. So called Easyriders –a name some drivers that do mountaintrips gave themselves- and other mototaxies never let you pass them by without offering a ride.
Asia is tailor area, Vietnam being the main producer, and Hoi An the capital. Only 1 out of 10 retailers aren’t in the textile business. But should you ask, even they can still provide any piece of clothing or shoe you’d desire.
Other than that, this originally fishermanstown thrives on tourism. We see many families walking the streets.
As we stroll the quiet side of the quay, we let ourselves be dragged in to this empty restaurant. We didn’t have much of a lunch so we’re early anyway. Does give us the best table; just up the stairs, looking back to the other side of the river that’s completely covered in lanterns and cute little lights, and still feels like we’re sitting outside.
The menu is filled with all these local delicacies like fried fish in bananaleaf, springrolls, white roses (a jelly shrimp dumpling) won ton (a cushion of fried dough with a meaty stuffing and grilled fruits on top) and cao lao (a thick, shrimplike noodle) And it all tastes exquisite!
So on top of tailortown, Hoi An also receives a golden medial for foodie-heaven!
As our table is right next to the street during dinner we’re being served a pile of ‘free bucket’ flyers to give us direction after.
The first we look up, is in a little alley on the other side of the river, on one of the islands in the center of town. It’s nicely decorated, with a fancy bar, a pooltable in a reasonable state and dark red walls covered in greetings from all over the world and praises on the place. It is deserted though, and the music doesn’t give us enough reason to stay. Next.
A few bridges later, in an alley even further back, feeling even more deserted, we finally find the place. Old & New bar, it’s walls also covered in writing, this pooltable a lot less in one piece, we find some garrulous crowd sitting at the bar and end up staying till well past midnight.
Jenna found a flirt so I walk home alone, and for the first time I don’t feel completely safe. Alone and with my semi-pro camera that I usually leave in a locker when going out, right here in my bag. No less safe than I would in the same situation back home though, just to clarify.
The quiet streets with many dark corners and little noises around each of them, and the many taxies still driving around, each asking me if I need a ride…
But of course I make it to my bed safe and sound, and before I fall asleep I hear Jenna come in and crash.