Trip Start Jul 11, 2005
62Trip End Apr 04, 2006
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If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home
- James Michener
Moving on we arrived, all together this time, in Hoi An after a 4 hour bus trip from Hue. I seem to remember the bus trip from Hue the last time taking in some amazing scenery as we passed over high mountain passes. Seemingly now the Vietnamese have gone and built a series of tunnels through the mountains and although it modernises the country and speeds up the costal drive it does so to the detriment of the views, something I had talked up to the boys and was disappointed we didn't get to see.
Although the drive to Hoi An might have changed the town itself hasn't. It still has its laid-back riverfront area, the cozy cafes, the restaurants selling gorgeous food, the arts and crafts shops and of course the clothes shops offering tailor made clothing for low, low prices. I know because I had a suit tailor made last time I was here. But no extravagances like that this time around.
Hoi An is an important, picturesque and enchanting river port 30km south of Danang on the Vietnamese coast. It is rich in history and has a unique character; it was a contemporary of Macau (remember there?), attracting Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese trading vessels and even today, when overrun with scruffy backpackers, it retains the feel of centuries past. Its magnificent collection of almost 850 older structures and intact streetscapes just beg to be explored. They include merchants' homes, pagodas, public buildings, a Japanese covered bridge and a whole city block of colonnaded French buildings. In 1999 the old town was declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO, classing it as a well-preserved example of a 15th to 19th century Southeast Asian trading port whose buildings display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
Wanting a pool
We spent the first few hours in town trying to find a suitably priced hotel with a pool. Pat had read somewhere that even reasonably prices hotels in Hoi An come with one. I'd been here before and knew better. But he, and the boys, were having none of it; the temperatures had heated up since we left the north and they were liking the idea of a place to stay with a pool. But one hot hour later we settled for a hotel without. The hunger and the desire for a beer seemed more appealing than continuing to traipse around the streets of Hoi An and bartering over accommodation rates, which we all deemed to be too high, in every pool-boasting hotel we walked into.
That night we followed the recommendations of our guide book and had a gorgeous traditional meal in a restaurant called Lac Thuan. It was here, over our meal, that we came to a realisation; we're moving very quick and might possibly have to move even quicker hence forth. Because Pat and Dave only had 3 weeks to get from Hanoi to Bangkok we knew all along that it would be a whirlwind trip. But it really hit home, when we drew up an itinerary for the rest of the trip sitting in the café that night, exactly how fast we were moving and how little time we could afford in each location from here on out. It really is a here today, gone tomorrow sort of trip... but that's okay; we're having fun nonetheless. And it still beats working. To finish off our 1st night in town we searched out a local Bia Hoi joint for some low-key and overpriced beers. Yep, we even considered Bia-Hoi overpriced. Imagine that. This was probably the first time in Vietnam where we felt we were getting ripped of.
When in Rome..... or Hoi An
The next day we got brave and decided to hire motor bikes. It never crossed my mind to hire one the last time I was here. Maybe I had more sense back then? You certainly do harden up after a while. Or get more stupid. Here I was taking the plunge onto the manic, everybody for themselves roads of Vietnam armed only with a questionable helmet and an ever-present voice in the back of my mind reminding me that I had no travel insurance. Stupid? Of course not (in hindsight). The day passed without much incident. We took advantage of our new found freedom, making our way to the nearby Marble Mountains and neighbouring China Beach. Check out the photos for more.
The rest of our time in town was spent continuing to eat well (if you're in town check out Cafe 19.... amazing food & beer... and cheap, cheap, cheap) and preparing for the upcoming overnight bus trip to our next stop, Nha Trang. Not a trip I was looking forward to. The high rollers, Pat and Dave, after a long will we, won't we debate decided to join myself and Cal on the poor mans bus rather than get the comfy overnight train from Danang, a $20 taxi ride from Hue. Good job boys; we're a team, remember? Little were we to know what lay ahead. Read on.