Smiles are Free
Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
144Trip End Nov 19, 2011
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Where I stayed
Tran Ly Hue
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
At 7:00am the sun was already blazing and the air was steaming with humidity. I grabbed a rickety bike from Grassland and made the longer than anticipated ride to the bank only to find it not working. Not having a clue where the next one was located, I headed in the general direction of downtown Hoi An, caught in the middle of rush hour traffic as scooters and bikes honked their horns in reaction to my quick lane changes and general erratic riding, as I was feeling the time crunch. Ten minutes later, I felt a sigh of relief as I happened upon another ATM…only to have my hopes crushed as it was also not working
Not really understanding where I was in relation to where the hotel was, and having just withdrew way more money than intended, I sped towards the general direction of what I thought was the hotel. Another 15 minutes passed and I started noticing that the landscape was completely unfamiliar. Naturally, I was lost. I pulled over and hailed a cab, hoping he could somehow carry both me and my bike to the hotel in his Smart car size vehicle. He pointed me in opposite direction and wished me luck as I must have looked like I was in a state of disrepair. As I was finally nearing the hotel, I saw John from afar, standing almost in the middle of the street, craning his neck to make sure I was real and not an apparition. Assuming we had completely missed the bus to Hue, I slowed down and with a head hung low, pulled up to John. The conversation went something like this…
"What happened?? You are covered in sweat and your face is bright red!"
“Words do not do justice to my little bike excursion I just had
“How much money were you able to get out…$100?”
“I withdrew $500, accidentally.”
“What? We don’t even need half that, we are leaving Vietnam in a few days.”
“Don’t get me started….I assume we missed the bus?”
“No, it’s not coming for another half hour. They gave us the wrong time AND it’s late.”
Needless to say, it felt like the day was half over and it was only 7:45am. Given we had some time to kill, I headed over to the buffet for some coffee to add to the baguette John had saved for me
To my delight, the Tran Ly Hotel in Hue was a short walk from where the bus dropped us off, and it welcomed us with signs advertising, “Smiles are free!” The staff was the friendliest we had encountered in Vietnam as they were brimming with excitement to take our bags up 3 flights of stairs to our room. They also handed us a refreshing welcoming drink while introducing the attractions their city had to offer. It was a convivial reception in dark contrast to where we had just come from and it just reminded me that any hotel is capable of great service despite an inexpensive stay; i.e. $15.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the city, snacking on ice cream and coffee, lazily taking in the sights. Our evening finished off with several beers, decent Italian food, and in true John Gascon form, heavy conversation about the state of the world.