Hoi An Travel Blog› entry 5 of 5 › view all entries
Once again, I was up at the crack of dawn, to catch an early flight. I had organised with the Hotel to book a private taxi for 6:30. It was waiting when I got downstairs. The man couldnâ€™t speak any English, so most of the trip was done in silence. He also wasnâ€™t in much of a hurry, driving through Hanoiâ€™s deserted streets at about twenty kilometres an hour. We eventually got to the airport, I checked in, cleared security and went to grab some breakfast. The only food available was essentially â€˜instant phoâ€™, which I suppose is the two minute noodles of Vietnam.
Flight was pretty uneventful, apart from entertaining a baby in the row across, with one of my koala toys, which I ended up giving to her. The airport was pretty small, and had no stores, I literally walked in one side of the room, got my bag, and walked out the other. I ran into a red head English girl, who I had had Pho with in Hanoi. She was on her way to the other side of Hoi An, so we agreed we would probably run into each other there. Outside the terminal there was a man waiting, with a sign reading â€˜Alex Henderson, as Alex had booked the Hotel. He was friendly and spoke to me a lot in his broken English, pointing out sights along the way.
The drive was about 40 minutes, and soon enough, we were at the Green Fields Hotel, a large establishment, with a pool, free wifi, and free cocktails for an hour each evening. My room was very big, and had the usual TV, fridge and such. Alex and Caitlin werenâ€™t due to arrive until around midday, so I settled in, catching up on my blog posts. The wifi in my room was sketchy, so I headed to the reception area, and after about 15 minutes, ran into Alex and Caitlin. It was awesome to see them, although they seemed a little flustered. As it turned out, there was no private taxi at the railway station to pick them up. We said our hellos and headed out to get some food.
It was really nice to see someone I knew, even though it had only been 5 days. It is quite strange traveling alone, whilst being very liberating. You have experiences and meet people that you simply wouldnâ€™t if you were traveling in a group or as a couple. We caught up, sharing stories, and catching up on the news, including the bushfires, which was quite sobering. Caitlin had been getting up to date reports from her mum, so there wasnâ€™t much I told them that they didnâ€™t already know.
We lounged around for the rest of the afternoon, eventually heading into town to get some food. We ended up at a riverside restaurant, which supports a local charity, The Blue Dragon Foundation. It assists local street children, allowing them a decent education, through support of their families. The meal was good, as most food in Hoi An was, and we got chatting with a local man called Nam, who as it turned out had been helped by this charity, and now owned a shoe store in Hoi An, which he runs with his wife. His English was top notch and he was a really lovely guy. We got a photo with him, and promised to drop by and visit his shop.
We headed out to a bar that was recommended in my travel guide (www.wikitravel.com), it was called â€˜Before & Nowâ€™. It was amazingly well decked out with awesome artwork on the walls and some cool light fittings. The beer was slightly more expensive than normal, but the place was full of young westerners, so that was to be expected. We were planning a countdown to midnight, as it was Caitlinâ€™s birthday, when we were approached by an English girl handing out fliers. She was promoting a beach party that was run by the same owner as Before & Now. She promised Caitlin a birthday bucket, and we were sold. So at eleven thirty, we rolled out the front and were led to a minivan. I still cant believe this, and I have photos to prove it, we managed to fit 27 half drunk western tourists in the van. Once we were in like sardines, we set off to the beach resort, complete with pounding dance music and people taking myspace-esk shots by sticking their cameras out the window and pointing them back into the van.
We arrived and were greeted with a candle lined driveway. The prices were a little inflated, but the setting was quite nice, so we didnâ€™t mind. We met two guys from Sydney and a guy from Adelaide, who were on a tour. We were all a little fixated on a couple of Danish girls who had also decided to come to the party, and as such, see the photo below. The beach party was complete with pounding music, and a lot a quite inebriated backpackers. We counted down to midnight and sang Caitlin happy birthday. Much of the rest of the evening will remain under wraps, not because it was controversial, just a normal beach party in South East Asia. I arrived back at the Hotel at about 4am, with a very drunk girl from Adelaide, a quite cool Chinese Canadian girl and three other randoms. We all agreed we would share the pain of our hangovers together tomorrow.
I am now starting to get into the traveling thing. It takes a bit of adjustment to get the currency conversion right, and also your firm but pleasant denial of goods and services from street sellers, including very persistent taxi drivers. I have had to start tightening my belt, as I have been spending way above my budget. I hope everyone at home is safe and well, and I hope you are all enjoying my blog.
Day 5 â€“ Friday 20th of February â€“ Green Fields Hotel - Hoi An, Vietnam
We slept in, as it was Caitlinâ€™s birthday, and we had had a pretty epic night, with the beach party and such. Lunch / breakfast was at the same place, Green Moss CafÃ©. We then headed into town to have a look around. Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage listed town, and as such, all of the building in the old quarter are original, drawing on French and Chinese influences, both of which have occupied Vietnam at one time or another.
We stumbled upon a newer section of the old town, where believe it or not, the waterfront precinct was landscaped and designed, with sculptures and large street lamps. This was unusual for Vietnam, as civil works is not one of their strong suits. As it turned out, Hoi An have launched a lantern festival in January of each year, and we missed it by about 2 weeks. The lanterns were still hung around, including several barges in the middle of the river with various types of lanterns, including a very impressive flower. Whist we were sitting there, school finished, and we were surrounded by hundreds of school children, including one naughty little boy who was trying to reel in the large flower lantern barges by pulling on the power cord. We headed back to the Hotel, for a swim and a relax.
When dinner time rolled around, Caitlin wasnâ€™t feeling very well, so I headed out for some food on my own. I walked right into the old town, and sat down at a large restaurant with a few westerners and a few locals in the front. Once again the meal was very good, although this time, I got to chat to the guy who cooked it whilst I ate. He had average English, but spoke to me about how he had studied in Hanoi, and that he had a friend in Sydney. He was quite a friendly guy, and kept me company for the duration of the meal. At the end, he cleared my plate and was gone. There was a couple at the table in front, and the guy asked me for a lighter, I said I didnâ€™t have one, and then he asked where I was from in Melbourne. Turned out he was from Melbourne too, somewhere out towards Oakley. They were traveling South to North, so we shared a few tips. After a good chat, I headed back to the Hotel.
On the way back, there were a number of stores still open, which I later found out is because usually the family lives out the back, so they just hang at the front of the store anyway. On the way, I took a few long exposure shots of a few intersections and shop fronts which are now up on Flickr. When I got close to my hotel, there was a family at a street stall. They had a young boy, of not more than five or six, who showed some interest in my camera, which I had around my neck. I took a photo of him, and then showed him on the screen. He was pretty entertained, and so I passed the camera to him, and showed him how to take a photo of me, which he found even more amusing. He then took the camera from me, and took a photo of his dad and his mum, which he showed them proudly. I showed him some of my other photos, then said my goodbyes. His dad reminded me that if I needed a bike or a motorbike, I should come and see him. I agreed and waved goodbye.
I love the Vietnamese, they are so friendly and always smiling. They are always willing to help you out, then sell you something, but they always help you first. I am looking forward to returning to Ho Chi Minh, and also visiting an old High School friend, Hai An.
Till next timeâ€¦
Day 6 â€“ Saturday 21st of February â€“ Green Fields Hotel - Hoi An, Vietnam
Due to us still recovering from our beach party experience, we did very little today. We returned to our usual lunchtime spot, but that was about it for the daytime.
In the evening, we decided to head to a restaurant where Caitlin and Alex had done a cooking class last time they were in Vietnam. It was called the Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School, and was about 5km out of town. We had to make a reservation with them through our hotel, and lucky we did, because after our 5 minute taxi ride, we were the only people in the whole place. As it turned out, they had stayed open specially for us.
The setting was magnificent, alongside the river whilst the sun was setting. The restaurant was open air and had great furniture and lighting. There were frogs hopping about at the bottom of the stairs in and out of the light, provided by lanterns hanging above giant water filled pots. We all decided to splash out and ordered cocktails. The food was probably the best I have had on my trip so far. It was fresh and tasty, and quite memorable. I had a seafood noodle dish and shared some vegetable spring rolls.
After our meal, we thanked the staff profusely, and ordered a taxi back into town. We were headed for a place called the Cargo Club, which was a restaurant that served some of the best food in Hoi An. This is because they import most of their produce. Meat from Australia and New Zealand, and some other stuff from other places that I didnâ€™t really care to remember. They had a patisserie attached to the side, hosting a number of ridiculously good looking cakes, pastries and sweets. Alex and I got a slice of chocolate cheesecake, whilst Caitlin stuck with a lemon tart.
We almost needed to be rolled on our sides back to the Hotel, but once again, Hoi An impresses with awesome food.
Day 7 â€“ Sunday 22nd of February â€“ Green Fields Hotel - Hoi An, Vietnam
We decided today that we would head to the beach for the morning and then have a bit of a nice meal for our last night in Hoi An, and my second last night with Caitlin and Alex. We were going to hire automatic motorbikes, which I was amazingly down for, but unfortunately my travel insurance only covers a vehicle I have a license for in Australiaâ€¦ BORING! So we settled with normal bikes.
It was about three or four kilometers from our hotel, so we set out, battling with the traffic, which is not as crazy as Hanoi, but still very unsettling. We arrived in one piece and parked our bikes at the quite shifty bike storage place, that of course costs money. The beach was quite nice, although it had a very steep drop into the water and was a long shore trough, see I did learn something from Lifesaving at Anglesea. This meant that you would be dropped into a big hole as soon as you got in, then you could walk out and stand in water up to your waist or knees.
We lay on the sand for a bit, getting hassled by â€˜Lu Lu Number Oneâ€™ and her cohort, essentially ladies that wonder the beach and annoy you until you buy something. We collected our bikes from the storage and headed back to the hotel for a swim in the pool, to cool off, then some lunch.
At lunch, I noticed that my hands and arms were quite red and irritated. I put it down to heat stroke and went back to my meal. By the time we got back to the Hotel, I was sure that I had put on olive oil, not sunscreen, my back, shoulders, arms, hands, and left foot (go figure) were extremely hot and tomato red. I spent the rest of the afternoon rubbing cooling gel and moisturizer into my skin and praying it would be okay in the morning.
We headed out for last hurrah, to the Cargo Club, which had great western food. We all ordered Lasagna, which was funny, but it was so good! I have refrained from eating western food, whilst I am surrounded by great local food. After our meal, I skipped the deserts, but Caiti and Alex indulged, and we headed home.
Off to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) tomorrow, it is my last night with Caiti and Alex