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Tourist Toy Town

I prefer Lego...

View Around We Go on LauHot10's travel map.

We were both pleasantly surprised when we climbed aboard the bus. It seemed really new and when we found our seats there was a neck pillow and a blanket waiting for us. It appeared this wasn't going to be as bad as we thought, the seats reclined quite a lot and so perhaps we wouldn't have a completely sleepless night. A conductor came round to check where we were going and then we were given little bottles of water and packets with wet wipes in them. It was definitely the best coach we had been on so far, and it got better.

We stopped at a service station and we loaded up on snacks as it was nearing dinner time and we weren't sure when it would stop again. I'd munched down a fair few pringles by the time we stopped at the next place where they were waiting for us. Everyone began to sit down at the tables and we were directed to do the same. Then they brought out the food; rice, vegetables, a couple of meat dishes, squid and soup. I was a bit too full to take advantage of what turned out to be a free meal, but Adam munched down his share. The value of the ticket now looked even better.

It wasn't a perfect nights sleep by any stretch of the imagination but it was good considering. Even Adam, who finds it near on impossible to sleep in a sitting position, managed to get a few hours of rest. We woke early the next morning and around 7am we pulled into another roadside restaurant for breakfast. The day before we had been given a free toothbrush and mini toothpaste so everyone tended to their oral hygiene before eating. Now we were no longer full of naughty snack food we were ready for our bowl of noodle soup and glass of ice coffee. Everyone seemed to leave a bit of theirs and we wondered if it was considered rude to finish your meal completely, as if it implied that you hadn't been given enough. To be on the safe side we both left a little at the bottom of the bowl.

Back on the bus it was only another couple of hours til we reached Da Nang and everyone disembarked. We still had a little way to go though because we were heading for the small town in the East of Vietnam called Hoi An. Before we got a bus there though we wanted to organise our bus to Ha Noi in a couple of days time. As usual there were a few people that were incredibly desperate to help us and these ones got a bit physical as they grabbed our arms and gave us a whack on the shoulder to get our attention. None of this did much to endear us to them though and I was reaching the end of my tether when Adam returned to say he'd found someone who spoke English. He'd managed to sneak off while I was being hassled and I followed him back to a women who said there was a sleeper bus which we could take and it turned out not to be too expensive. The only problem was we couldn't buy the tickets now, they could only be bought 24 hours (or less) before the bus departed. We would just have to hope there were some left on the day.

Now that we were a little clearer on that we went to look for the bus to Hoi An. Having been on the best coach, we now got on to the worst bus. It was a little like an American School Bus but one that was about 25 years old and had been severely mistreated. We got seats at the front and waited for it to move, which it after a while it did, just very slowly. Once we were out of Da Nang it picked up speed and I dozed off, only to be shaken awake by the grubby conductor boy who wanted his money. We discovered later that he'd charged us over a third more than he should. Soon enough though we were there and more people were waiting to rip us off.

Tourist buses take you down into the heart of old Hoi An but the local bus stop is a little distance away so we had to get two motorbikes to take us. It is often only when you make return trips, or have spent a little time in the place that you realise just how much you over paid. It is difficult to haggle when you have nothing to base your prices on and they hold all the cards because they're your only means to getting where you need to be. We drew the line though when they took us to specific hotels, obviously looking for their commission. Having asked to just go to the centre we paid them the agreed price and walked off to find some accommodation on our own.

There is a lot to choose from in Hoi An although plenty of it is full because it is literally teeming with tourists. We saw quite a few in Ho Chi Minh but it is different in a city because you're all spread out, here it was concentrated into a small town and to be honest it put us off straight away. This wasn't helped by the fact that Hoi An is an odd little place. It didn't feel like Vietnam at all but a cross between a small Mediterranean town and for those of you who know it, Dicken's Heath. For those of you that don't it is a town which was built from scratch and everything is new but they try to make it look as though it's been there for years, so all the buildings are built in different styles. It kind of feels like a toy town, a bit Stepford Wives. This was the feeling I got about Hoi An. The old town itself is really quite pretty, it has narrow tree lined streets, with small, stone buildings.
It is very quaint indeed, but the surrounding area has been, and is in the process of being extending with the single purpose of housing the increasing number of tourists.

We had found a room which was nice enough, a little on the small and expensive side but it had a balcony which was pleasant. We went out for a late lunch and then returned sleepy to the hotel after our night on the bus. In the end we decided to do our exploring in the morning, so we bunkered down for the night, had a few beers and went to sleep.

Renting bikes seemed to be the best way to see town so this is what we did. It is easy to get around as the traffic is light and most of the old town is restricted to feet and bikes.
We paid the inflated price and peddled our way down to what we presumed is a man made canal. On one side there is a row of buildings and it really did look like a purpose built holiday resort.
A very picturesque one, but the history of the place seemed to have been lost. There is however an ancient wooden, Japanese bridge, and so we went to have a look at that. It is very beautifully carved and when you walk across there is an inbuilt room with a shrine and heady smell of incense wafting out.
There is no denying that these little streets are picture perfect, especially with the sun beating down from a blue sky. If I was here on holiday I would probably be very pleased but it didn't really feel like travelling to us.

As we headed back to the room we planned to pack up and catch the bus to Ha Noi. Things changed a bit though when we ended up getting lost. It turned out that if we had kept going in one direction we would have found our way back, but everything looked so similar and there were no distinctive landmarks. After cycling up and down roads for a little while we stopped a white guy on a motorbike, he turned out to be a very friendly Australian and he pointed us in the right direction. By the time we made it back to where we rented the bikes I was really dehydrated, the combination of hot sun and a few beers the night before had left me feeling rough. We glugged down a can of Ice Tea and some water and then headed back to the room.

I wasn't feeling like catching a bus for another 15 hours or so and luckily we could afford to stay another day. We stayed out of the sun for the rest of the day, just venturing out for lunch and then dinner. Hoi An had had a bit of a negative effect on us, we both found the atmosphere of the place a little depressing and when we went to sleep we were both looking forward to reaching the capitol and finding the real Vietnam once more.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 05:20 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world

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