It's worth mentioning that the weather did not follow us from Hanoi immediately, so we were able to bask in the warmth of the sun once more and take full advantage of having a pool
. Eventually we made our way out on the streets to explore and see what Hue had to offer. It was a little disappointing as there is a grid of about 4 streets that make up the eating and nightlife area but otherwise it is just a sleepy little town. Thankfully there were around 4 bars that offered free pool tables and so we picked up where we had left off in Cambodia and began honing our skills once more - while drinking lots of beer, obviously! We met a group of 3 friends in the Why Not? bar, a staple across the whole of Vietnam, who had been in Hue a week as one of them had an abcess on her foot from a mosquito bite. The poor girl had to go to hospital twice a day to have the wound filled and bound, a horribly painful experience, all the while using a translator on a laptop to find out what treatment she needed from the non-English speaking doctors. She had 2 guys with her who were looking after her but it must have been a pretty scary experience and shocking from something so innocent as a mosquito bite. By the time we left Hue she had been told she had to stay for another 10 days treatment, each day costing $150! It was sobering to see how easily something like that can ruin your plans and we both felt grateful that we had not suffered anything more than an upset stomach on our travels.
We left Hue after 2 days to head to Hoi An, the tailoring capital of Vietnam and home to some of the most quaint architecture we have seen in the country. Despite having bought an open bus ticket that would have allowed us to get to Hoi An, we decided instead to embark on a motorbike tour from our hotel in Hue. There were lots of hand written reviews from previous customers and we felt reassured that every one of them recommended the trip as a much more pleasureable way to travel and see the sights along the way. We would each be driven by our own driver on the bike, with our backpacks strapped behind us as a backrest
! The morning of our departure dawned and with it came black clouds that darkened the sky. The previous night had seen one of the most torrential rain storms we had experienced in Asia and we had got soaked while out for dinner, but had hoped it would clear up for our journey. It wasn't to be so we prepared for the worst and donned our hastily bought and terribly unflattering ponchos! I think my guide took pity on me for looking so ugly and allowed me to wear his proper anorak...Tom wasn't so lucky.
We set off and within minutes my guide had roared off leaving Tom and his guide in our wake. After 5 minutes that dragged on for an eternity while I kept checking behind me to see if they had caught up, my fears of being taken into the middle of nowhere and raped and murdered were kept in check as they finally pulled up at the traffic lights next to us. I won't lie, I did get a bit scared as I realised there would be absolutely no way of contacting Tom if we were to be separated! Thankfully we stayed at the same pace after that and soon came upon a fishing village where we stopped to take some more photos before the rain finally came. And come it did, it actually hurt my face as the rain drops whipped at it and wearing sunglasses was actually the most sensible thing in order to see. Our next stop was a waterfall that we could also swim in if we wanted to, but the rain made me think twice about being in damp clothes for the rest of the ride
. The falls were pretty but couldn't really rival the ones we had seen in Laos, and they were a funny mix of natural rocky falls and built wooden platforms and bridges. It seemed as if there should have been another purpose for the constructions as there were so many platforms and covered awning areas, and yet there was no one there! Perhaps they were used as a community gathering point but in that weather there wouldn't be much need for it.
As we left the rain was mental and I was a bit concerned about the bike as we were riding on rough roads with big old holes and ruts in them. I needn't have worried though as our guides were extremely competent and never once took any risks while we were on the back. Thankfully the rain eased almost as quickly as it had come and the rest of the day was actually quite bright, with some sun at times. We pulled up on the side of the road to see the view across a beach, and Tom said his toe was feeling a bit irritated. I had a look and he had a leech between his toes, feeding on his blood all black and squishy. The guide ripped it off and stamped on it, and poor Tom's blood was spread everywhere! We checked the rest of his toes and found 2 more nestled happily between them, it was disgusting. I got a bit grossed out as they were so black and fat with his blood, plus when the guide pulled them off the wounds bled like nobody's business
. Tom was quite calm throughout, although it was hurting him a bit. Had it been me I think I would have thrown up! The guides poured petrol on them to clean them up and then used a torn cigarette to stop the bleeding with the tobacco. They were very efficient and we were on the move again in no time!
We started to climb the road up in the mountains and the views were amazing, until we were enveloped by clouds and then it was quite spooky, you couldn't see much in front of you at all. We eventually climbed above the clouds but it was still quite gray and visibility was poor. We stopped at an old war bunker that had been used by the Americans in the Vietnam war. Amongst the pillboxes and other derelict buildings you could see bullet holes and evidence of fighting, with a a soldier's grave nearby. The clouds were still misting about and it added to the gloomy feel of the place, but it was quite cool and made for some good pictures. We moved on as it was a bit chilly and finally got to Danang, 30km away from Hoi An. After a slap up meal of rice, tofu, chicken, pork, noodles, vegetables and lots of chilli, we finally began the last leg of the trip towards Hoi An. We stopped at Marble Mountain, so called due to the amount of marble excavated from there and with shrines inside the caves within. There were many marble statues that were beautifully detailed and we climbed to the top of the mountain to see the view. The sun made an appearance as we got to the top so we finally got a bit of good light!
Our arrival in Hoi An was a joy after the 7 hours on the back of the bike, my bum and thighs were saddle sore and I couldn't wait to have a hot shower. Our hotel was a fair walk from the main town but the room was nice enough and it had a pool also
. Hoi An is a beautiful place and its streets are all filled with colonial architecture mixed with traditional Vietnamese. One of the first things we did when we got the chance was have a cup of tea, and it was the best cup of tea we'd had in weeks! That alone gave it the thumbs up for us even though it hurt our budget a little. It is much more expensive than anywhere else we had been in the country, and their main trade is of course personal tailoring. Every single shop, it seemed, sold tailored clothes and it was hard to tell which ones were the best quality as they were all very similar. You couldn't walk down the street without being called into shops offering the best price/fabric/deal and it was quite overwhelming! I had decided to get a dress made for our friends Jay and Annu's wedding in Thailand, and already knew the kind of thing I wanted. The beauty of Hoi An is that they will make absolutely anything you want, you can design your own piece or just point to a picture and they can mimic any style or designer. I chose to get mine made in Yaly, which is probably the most well known establishment and although pricey, the service was excellent. After showing the assistant, Amy the picture of the sort of thing I wanted, we chose the fabric, lining, beading and thread colour of my dress before I had measurements taken and even photographs of my shape. After that I had to have 2 more fittings and then in less than 2 days it was completed! I checked it thoroughly to see the stitching and everything was perfect like you would see in a shop. It was beautiful and I am really pleased with my purchase but I am afraid you will have to wait until next April for the reveal when I blog about the wedding! Here's hoping I don't put on any weight until then...
We spent 4 days cycling around the streets of Hoi An and its surrounding areas and came across the beach 4km out of the main town. It was really quiet and had lots of shade so we spent a few hours sunbathing there for a couple of days while we got into the mindset of our next destination; Nha Trang, the famous beach resort of Vietnam and home to sand, sea and most of all, sun!
As we stepped of the sleeper bus in Hue at 6.30am the usual scrum for luggage ensued while the many taxi drivers who had zoned in on us as soon as the bus pulled in desperately tried to sell us their hotel rooms, "Very good, very nice, only $12!". We weren't really prepared for a battle so followed someone into a hotel a mere step away. The room itself was ok but as soon as we went to shower there was no hot water, and it was at this point I think my patience at the constant struggle to find good accommodation wore thin. Instead of just sticking with it as we usually do, trying not to make a fuss, I was adamant that we found another hotel and it was one of the best decisions I could have made! All the taxi drivers were long gone so we were free to walk down the street and search for an alternative without feeling pressured. We soon came to a little alley and one hotel (Impressions) caught my eye due to it's courtyard swimming pool, we were sold! At only $12 a night we couldn't really ask for more.