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Day 41: Hue to Hoi An

The trek to Tailor Town

sunny 37 °C
View RTW 2013 on WorldWideWill's travel map.

My smugness at having booked the same bus as my friends for a dollar less didn't last long, as I realised that there were 2 separate buses headed for Hoi An and I was now facing the 4 hour trip alone. I drowned my sorrows in a honey-covered stack of banana pancakes and with my guard dropped I also ended up spending 100,000 dong on a (rather cool) pair of "Ray Ban" wayfarers from the hippy on the street.


We joined a sleeper service on its way down from Hanoi and feeling bold I ventured to the back of the bus and found that the five upper tier loungers in the last row were all empty, with no armrests or gaps between them. Still a little spaced out from the bed bug insomnia I bounced up, and within seconds had myself stretched out across the width of the bus with a sleepy grin on my face. This didn't last long. Once again the Vietnamese roads and our ex-rally driver made sure that I was treated to impromptu chiropractic treatment instead of rest, though fortunately the drive along the coast offered some of the most beautiful views I have seen across the paddy fields to the sea and these kept me entertained.


At 10:30am we stopped at a roadside shack for a "lunch break", and with the temperature already pushing 35 °C the little local woman was amused to see this sweaty Englishman attempt to correctly pronounce 'ca phe nau da' without pointing at a menu. A failed attempt to find the toilet brought me to a barred window and as I walked past a little boy appeared and allowed me to take one of my favourite photos so far (even if it was on my phone, see below). Back at the table I extracted a very gooey and misshapen cereal bar from my bag (the last of my UK-bought Jordans stash) and had a delirious few minutes giggling to myself at how much it & I had in common: contains nuts; store in a cool, dry place...


My iced caffeinated beverage arrived only moments after the bus driver had announced our departure (15 minutes after ordering) and I made the mistake of taking an extra minute to enjoy it in the fresh air. When I got back on board my face flushed with rage - our driver (who had now been replaced for the second leg) was spread face down on my super king chair bed with his bare feet resting on my bag. Perhaps fuelled by the coffee I ran up the aisle and made a loud re-entry into my seat, indelicately repositioning his legs in the process. Unfazed, he simply changed the angle of his body to leave me with just one of the five seats and promptly fell back into a loud, snoring sleep. This guy was a pro.


We passed through Da Nang and finally arrived in Hoi An a little after midday. The usual circus was there to greet us off the bus, largely made up of commission hungry touts trying to entice people into their mates' hotels. I'd had the Sunflower Hotel recommended to me by my roommates in Hue, but despite being told that it was at least 2km away I waved off the taxi driver who was loading my bag onto the back of a moped and started walking. A helpful observer approached me a few paces from the bus and whispered that the hotel was only 400m down the road! The short version of the next hour's events is that there was a bed for me but not for Russ & Rachel (who had yet to arrive on the other bus), and after much fun and games they checked into a hotel up the road and I had a swim and lunch by the pool at the Sunflower before heading up to check into my room.


I've found many things in hostel beds over the last couple of months (mainly hair, insects, odd socks and the occasional bit of food), but I wasn't expecting to find a sweaty, hung over bloke wrapped in the sheets. The rest of the room didn't look hopeful, I quickly spotted the plate of yesterday's chicken wings responsible for the room's fragrance and the occasional moan identified the location of several other suffering residents. Once I'd shaken him awake the guy explained that he was supposed to have checked out at 10am and had cunningly gone down to hand in his key at reception before returning to bed to sleep off the night's frivolities at some crazy club nearby. He didn't seem to understand my frustration at having nowhere to take an afternoon nap and told me to "chill". So I took a chilled walk down to reception, told them that my bed wasn't made or empty and jumped into the free shuttle bus to the Old Town.


Hoi An at night is one of the most wonderful urban sights in Vietnam. Much like the atmosphere in Siem Reap, the town comes alive after dark and the night is filled with the sound of live music, the smells of street food vendors' carts and the sights of the old buildings lit up in an orange glow and perfectly reflected in the river that runs through the centre. Hoi An is famous for its tailors, and the streets are lined with mannequins stood in front of impressive shop fronts like well dressed soldiers on parade. The buildings are all in a French colonial style, with beautiful stone balconies and wooden shutters, and as I walked through with my camera I felt like I had gone back in time. Trip Advisor recommended Lantern Town for dinner, and I enjoyed a veggie Vietnamese noodle dish overlooking the river while watching a family of kittens attempt to jump between the rooftops. I treated myself to a rather foul coconut donut on the street for dessert, and then haggled for a cheap Viet star cap before heading back for an early (and thankfully, empty and clean) bed.


Posted by WorldWideWill 18:32 Archived in Vietnam

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