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Published: June 13th 2010
We undertook the overnight bus trip from Nha Trang to Hoi An with a bit of trepidation. We had originally thought we'd take the train, but it turned out that it was going to be a bit awkward to catch and as far as we could work out, the train didn't stop at Hoi An but instead you had to catch it to Danang and then back-track in a bus or taxi to Hoi An. It also meant we would have had to get up at some ridiculous hour to catch it from Nha Trang.
So we ended up on the night or sleeping bus, which consisted of 3 rows of reclining double decker seats separated by 2 narrow aisles. At the back of the bus, however, there was a row of 5 seats altogether. It had been recommended to us by the son of the owner of the Orchid Hotel in Nha Trang that we book 4 of the seats in the upper row so that we could all sit together. It did however, mean that we were right at the end of the bus and so got to experience the largest 'travel' whenever we went over a bump,
Annelies getting ready to sleep
crest or dip in the road. On a few occasions we all went well and truly airborne, nearly hitting the ceiling of the bus, so we made sure we wore the seatbelts after that. The seats reclined almost all the way back, so Annelies and Thomas actually slept for much of the way, even during our midnight stop when all the lights in the bus came on. Alex and Mark also got a few hours, so when we arrived at Hoi An the next morning around 8am, we were reasonably well rested. Or as well rested as can be expected.
We were dropped off a short distance from our hotel (Thanh vân) and they had arranged for someone to meet and collect us there. We got a bit of a shock though as this young man was only on his motorbike. We ended up making two trips to the hotel, one with Alex and Thomas on the back carrying a few bags, and another with Mark and Annelies, with Mark precariously balanced carrying a fairly large suitcase in each hand plus a couple of backpacks. Fortunately, despite the weight and bulging tyres, it was less than a kilometre to
the hotel and we didn't have any mishaps.
After breakfast at the hotel, we walked down to the Thu Bon River via the small and solidly built Japanese covered bridge (Cau Nhat Ban), originally built in the 1590s and restored in 1986. We had lunch at a local café called Xu Xíu - translated it means 'tiny coin', which I guess is meant to mean 'cheap'. It was relatively true to its name and the food was ngon (delicious). Later, Alex took Annelies to one of the many tailors to have some denim shorts made for her, which involved another motorbike trip to look at different fabrics, with Annelies sitting at the front and Alex at the back. Alex also arranged for some clothes to be made up, including an outfit for a wedding in Melbourne we were all going to attend in March. There are also many cobblers or shoemakers (cordwainers for the sticklers) in Hoi An, so we also arranged for some shoes and sandals to be made for Alex and Annelies. One of Annelies' highlights of the trip was buying a pair of 'real' Converses.
Hoi An is a very touristy town, so we were
constantly hassled by vendors encouraging us to come into their shops or buy their wares, and this sometimes included under-age young children selling trinkets. Early one evening while we were having a drink at one of the street-side cafés, we were approached by one of these persistent children before she was shooed away from the café by one of the staff. Another child was dropped off the back of a motorbike out the front of the café and came inside only a couple of minutes later. However, he quickly dashed away being pursued by an official looking man who had jumped off the back of a motorbike and bolted into the café from across the road. The little boy escaped but had to leave behind his wares to avoid capture. It was all over in a flash but it appeared just like a chase scene from a film set.
The next day we did very little but shop, eat, and shop. We bought lots of t-shirts, shorts, bathers, table runners, mugs, platters, bags, and a bright queen-size bedspread. We also visited several art galleries and purchased a set of 4 small watercolour paintings, a set of 3 A4-sized charcoal
sketches and a couple of colourful canvas oil paintings, while Thomas also bought an oil painting. Mark has since framed the canvases, while we managed to find suitable frames for the others back home.
Hoi An received Unesco World Heritage status in 1999 with its distinctive architecture of the Old Town where traffic is banned at night. This made walking around the tourist areas relatively pleasant during the evening while lunch and dinner at the cheap eateries was also nice without the constant drone of motorbikes and cars.
The next day we all hired bicycles from out the front of the hotel and road out to Cua Dai Beach, about 5 km east of town. The bikes left a bit to be desired with the 'small' bikes a bit on the large side for Annelies and Thomas. Thomas did really well considering he had never ridden such a large bike before or used a bike with only calliper brakes. The seats of the larger bikes couldn't be raised high enough for Mark and kept slipping down on Alex's. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant ride with the road not too busy once we had left the manic traffic around
town. After a swim, we had lunch and rode back into town.
Alex and Thomas went to a Vietnamese cooking school the following morning where they made their own spring rolls, eggplant in clay-pot, cao lau noodles and Banh Xeo (Vietnamese savoury pancakes). They feasted on their dishes while Mark and Annelies had pizza and garlic bread for lunch.
On our final day in Vietnam, we took a short boat trip up the Thu Bon River where Thomas and Annelies were allowed to steer the boat. Afterwards, we visited Randy's BookXchange, a second hand 'genuine' book store on Cam Nam Island, which made a pleasant change from all the 'copy book' vendors around Vietnam. We had lunch at the nearby Lighthouse Restaurant, run by a Dutch man and his Vietnamese wife where we had great local food and a delicious apple cake for dessert.
After lunch we picked up our luggage back at the hotel and caught a taxi to Danang airport. Alex nearly left her purse in the taxi, but fortunately the taxi driver spotted it and handed it to her. We hopped on a short 1-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh, and then later caught
the longer 5-hour flight back to Darwin. We had a wonderful 3 week holiday in Vietnam and vow to go back there again one day to explore the north.
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