Hoi An, Vietnam
Morning run, to the beach – other side of the Islet – along the beach a little, back to the river and over the dragon bridge, then back. Late, but still given breakfast, perhaps from thanks in playing with the youngster again. And the hospitality that had last night seen me drink tea that was brought this morning meant I drank coffee. Number four of my life, I think. Roughly.
Bus to Hoi An. As ever, tourism has a reality gap. Online is full of horror stories about the buses, danger and scams, but here people are on them all the time. I sat and waited for the local bus – just missed one, went the wrong way off the bridge, which is my unerring instinct. Just started typing this when a Vietnamese man pulled up and chatted, keeping me occupied till the next bus came along. I think he may have happily touted for the right to take me to the marble mountains and on to Hoi An, but mostly he chatted, so without the usual hard sell, I didn’t spot it till too late. Almost a pity, he was so nice I would have happily paid him. Then the bus came, honked and they laughed as I dashed for it – my friend was, in any case, by now distracted by a fare.
On the bus the other westerners argued over the fare. Again, online there is much talk of how it should be 17k and foreigners are charged 40 or 50 and more for bags. I just wasn’t going to argue over a price of £1.50, but the conductor was worn out or made forgetful by talking to the Belgians and Americans behind and missed me out. A little later he came for the Chinese ladies ahead of me. But still not me. We got to the bus station in Hoi An and I let others off before me. Possibly he’d remembered and was going to ask me at the last – was he standing in my way? I paid, though. He may have thought it a tip for good service.
Those online hate paying more for the bus. But 50k is cheap. And to turn, as some say they will, to paying for a taxi to ‘avoid this hassle’ seems a bizarre way round. Yes, pay a form of transport for which you have to agree a fare and which is therefore open to more profiteering, rather than the cheap and easy bus.
Hoi An. Unerringly, I walked the wrong way – this is despite my GPS doing a fantastic job of telling me where I am. But I had a couple of hours to kill and walking the long way round wouldn’t hurt. Found a restaurant on the islet near my hostel that didn’t beckon me in, ate, felt relaxed.
The town is pretty and she knows it. Walking towards the old town, thronging with people, are plenty of advertising signs; Hoi An has somehow managed to be at one time, selected as being in the top 10 small towns in Asia, and the top 20 cities. Plenty of people looking to sell things, though peace and quiet not impossible to find, whether by paying for a heritage ticket and diving in to one of the old houses, meeting halls, museums or temples which accept the ticket, or by heading down to the river. Sitting near ladies plying their boats up and down the river for tourists’ sake, I felt a bit odd being left alone – why, why are you not selling to me? None of the temples or houses were staggeringly impressive, but better to have a look in to a few than none at all. Other than them, every building is selling something – some workshops, shops, restaurants and cafes. Although the town is pretty, I preferred the anonymity and lack of westerners of Da Nang.
The evening was something else again, with riverside stalls and lights all over. Thronging, yet again, which made me evening run an exercise in dodging to start with. Sitting by the river was a pleasure, and my hostel was very close to the old town but outside the main strip, which was a fabulous location. With more time I’d have followed the river round and explored the thin bridge over to the next island, but otherwise a day was enough for me. On to Nha Trang.