25 October – Hoi An
Up at our fairly usual time of 7.00am, give or take a few minutes, which seems to be a recurring theme.
I’m not sure why it always seems to be around 7.00am, because it’s certainly not a conscious thing. It kind of just happens.
Anyway, whatever the reason, we head downstairs for what has become my usual breakfast; fresh fruit and caphe sua da.
We get talking to a girl from Germany who is travelling solo around Vietnam, and unfortunately she’s just received the news that her Grandmother has passed away.
She’s now cutting her trip short so she can head back for the funeral. Obviously there’s never a good time for these things, but having to deal with it when you’re such a long way from home would just make it so much harder.
Breakfast done, we head back upstairs to get organised, before meeting up with Gary and John out the front at 9.00am.
We’re soon out in the countryside of Hoi An once again, and it’s not long before we come across a local market. We’re probably no more than three or four kilometres from the Ancient Town, but it feels a world away.
So different, so local, so real.
Not long after, we come to Tra Que vegetable Village, and once again, it’s a place I’d heard of but never visited.
It’s an area devoted to the growing of vegetables and herbs, for selling, by the locals of the nearby village.
I’d describe it as a type of market garden; small scale farming, I suppose.
Anyway, plots of vegetables growing wouldn’t ordinarily excite me too much, but there was something about this place. Watching the locals tending their plants, it all felt very peaceful, perhaps even tranquil.
A bit of an oasis between the madness of Hoi An central, and the beach at An Bang.
I really didn’t know what to expect, but what I found, and the way I felt about it, really surprised me.
Hmmm, moved by vegetables. That’s never happened before….
Now slightly concerned, we head south from An Bang beach.
We find Hidden beach, which obviously isn’t that well named seeing as we found it, and venture out on the sand to have a bit of a look.
It’s in between Cua Dai and An Bang beaches, but not as ‘commercial’ as them. While there’s plenty of sand there, you can see some signs of erosion. It’s certainly concerning, having seen Cua Dai the other day, and I wonder how it will look in a few years’ time.
In fact, in the back of my mind, I wonder how far North this erosion issue will spread. Could it eventually impact Danang?
I really hope not, but whatever the cause is, it needs to be addressed. And soon.
Back on the bikes, and back out on the main road, we pull up outside a café. Yep, caphe sua da time!
Coffee ordered, we head through the building and back outside to a table overlooking the beach.
Yep, there are worse places to savour a caphe sua da, or anything, than here.
Palm trees, crashing waves, sun shining, cooling breeze, caphe sua da, and spending time with two very generous blokes.
Yeah, it was pretty good.
Suitably re-caffeinated, we continue south and drop in to Cua Dai beach. And like the other day, I’m really struggling with what I’m looking at.
I don’t know, said it all before I suppose, it just makes me angry and sad at the same time.
Back on the bikes, and now south of Cua Dai, we go past all the resorts on the water. Including the abandoned one, which was a little eerie.
We then come into a small local fishing village, which is where the lighthouse is. Well, it was just chalk and cheese, to what we’ve been looking at. The contrasts of Vietnam, thing.
We stood on the edge of a small wharf and just took in the scenery. There were a couple of older locals nearby, and while there was the obvious language barrier, their attitude and friendliness towards us was just so welcoming.
Again, just a handful of kilometres to the west, and the main motivation for an interaction is financial.
Here, there’s no ulterior motive, and no strings attached.
Just so genuine.
But, and not for the first time, I wondered how long it would remain this way.
The fact that I could see countless round coracle boats full of tourists over at the Coconut Village, from where I stood, didn’t help with my doubts.
Eventually, and unfortunately, it was time to head back to Hoi An. And that also meant that we had a ‘goodbye’ to do.
I’d reached out to Gary, because he was a Hoi An local, a few months before our trip in the hope he might have been able to recommend a guide to take us over the Hai Van Pass.
In the end I was able to get things sorted myself, but I left the possibility out there of perhaps catching up when we got here.
The fact that the catchup happened with our coffee yesterday, would have been more than enough for me, but Gary then made the offer, along with John, to show us around areas of Hoi An that we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see.
And for that, Lisa and I will remain eternally grateful.
The ‘goodbye’ done, we got ourselves organised to head back out to An Bang beach for one final time.
Sorted a couple of bikes, and headed off, while keeping an eye out for a place that could perhaps help us with the still, much needed, watch battery.
We passed a place that seemed promising, but alas, it was closed. Of course it was…..
Mental note taken; yes, I know, fraught with danger…..; of where it was located, in the hope it might be open on our way back from the beach.
Still don’t know why she can’t just look at her phone if she wants to know the time….
We then head off in the rough direction of Hai Ba Trung, but this time through the rice fields between it and Cua Dai road.
We’d actually come back through this area with Quy and Niet after our Hai Van Pass trip, so were reasonably confident of working out which way to go.
Well, the good news is that we eventually made it. The better news is that we did actually get a little lost in the process.
It really is an underrated experience, that getting lost thing. You just get to see so much more.
Along, for the most part, fairly narrow concrete paths. And nice and flat, which is always good when you’re sans engine.
Water buffalo, cows, birds, lush green fields. And not a US dollar holding tourist, nor a touting tailor to be seen.
Peace and tranquillity; I loved it. And I think, for a few minutes anyway, the lack of a functioning watch just may have been forgotten….
Along a path in the direction I think we need to be going, and all of a sudden the concrete runs out. The path continues, but it’s now a very narrow dirt track that falls away into rice paddies on either side.
That’s okay, I’d still be happy to continue, but it’s the rather comfortable looking cow laying on the track up ahead, that makes me think twice.
They’re pretty docile animals, but he does have rather sharp looking horns. And seeing as Lisa refuses to go first, we decide to turn around and find another way.
Eventually, we find Hai Ba Trung, and turn towards An Bang beach. Over the last little bridge, and past a small local restaurant, and two realisations hit me.
One, we haven’t had lunch, and two, if we’re going to have lunch, then I don’t really want to be hounded by the vendors at the beach.
Very pleased with my forward thinking, we turn around and head back to that small restaurant.
There’s only one other couple there, also tourists, so there’s no shortage of tables. We take a seat to ponder the menu, while our fellow customers tuck into burgers.
Perusing the menu I discover they do cao lau, which I’d heard a bit about, and is apparently a Hoi An specialty. Seeing as we’ve not had it before, well, I don’t think we’ve had it before; you know me when it comes to food…; now is going to be the time.
So, cao lau, along with some spring rolls. And because it’s still a little early, a couple of Cokes.
Yeah, it was. Loved the spring rolls, and enjoyed the cao lau. I don’t know, I just don’t get that excited about food. Having huge expectations probably doesn’t help.
A bit like going to the movies, after people have told you beforehand how fantastic the movie is, and well, you just know that it’s never going to live up to the hype…..
Well, happens to me….
Anyway, it was all very enjoyable, and a nice little respite in the shade. And no doubt much more peaceful than actually up at the beach.
Back on the bikes and we’re soon at An Bang. We return to ‘our’ bike looker-after lady, and then head back up to our girl with the sun lounges from the other day.
Hey, if it ain’t broke….
It’s a bit cooler today, and the water is probably rougher than when we were here on Sunday, but we still head in for a swim.
That done, I leave Lisa to her own devices, and go off for a walk. No real reason, I just like walking along beaches.
Not far past where we’re sitting and there’s not much in the way of beach activity. You can see Danang in the distance, but between here and there, there’s not much to be seen.
Well, apart from under construction buildings and cranes.
Oh, and rubbish.
Yep, lots of rubbish that’s been washed up on the beach. Including a number of light globes, which I suspect might be from squid fishing boats.
Regardless of where they’ve come from, it’s not an ideal thing to have on a beach.
Just re-confirms the issues Vietnam faces…..
Having seen enough, as well as completed my not so daily exercise, I head back to find Lisa and resume my sitting on the sun lounge thing.
Not quite ready to leave, and because our girl offers beers on her menu, the not difficult decision is quickly made.
But, all good things must come to an end, so we set off to retrieve our bikes. And once again, our bike lady has done a great job.
Back along Hai Ba Trung, and then cut through the rice fields again. This time we managed to find the same path that we’d gone along the other day, so getting lost didn’t happen.
Still wasn’t totally sure where we were, but we weren’t really lost.
Eventually back into ‘suburbia’, and like a kid who’d been promised a treat at the end of the day, the watch battery subject pops up.
Attempted to retrieve mental note, and not surprisingly, it’s not where I left it. Not knowing what part of the road we’d re-emerged from the rice fields, also wasn’t helping.
And then, probably due more to luck than anything, we finally come across what we’re looking for.
Lisa heads in while I look after the bikes.
70 000 Dong for a battery, apparently.
I have no idea what the going rate for a watch battery is in Vietnam, and to be honest, at this point, I don’t really care.
I just need Lisa’s watch fixed, and quite possibly, I need it fixed more than she does.
The young guy proceeds to do his thing. And keeps doing it….
“What’s he doing?”, I kind of mouth from the street.
“He’s cleaning it”, Lisa whispers back.
“Does he have to?”, I say, noting the time and the fact that I have both beer and Le waiting for me.
But, he’s already started, and the only thing worse than a non-working watch, is a half cleaned watch.
So, I wait patiently, which, if you find that hard to believe, you’re right, because I didn’t.
Watch eventually cleaned, its hands once again moving, and its owner looking like a kid at Christmas, we were finally on our way.
Dropped Lisa, as well as the bikes, back at the hotel, and headed out for my afternoon ritual.
Le is already there, and it’s not long before my beer is as well.
Unfortunately Trung couldn’t make it, so we just sit and do the usual.
It’s a pretty busy place, and because they also do take away food, they have quite a few locals calling in to pick up their orders.
If the local is really lucky, his food may not be ready when he arrives. That then gives him time to have a quick beer while he waits.
Kind of win – win, for all concerned.
And that was the case for one guy who turned up with his kids on his motorbike. He got his beer, one of his kids got to practice a little English with me, and I got to interact with them all.
There was also one of the other patron’s sons who gave an impromptu drum session.
Chopsticks on plastic chairs and metal tables, never sounded better. He was actually very talented.
Eventually, and unfortunately, the time came to say goodbye. I hated it, and really struggled with it. Le had been so friendly, and so keen to take me under his wing, as such, and the fact that he’d now made me feel that I didn’t really want to leave Hoi An, was testament to what our friendship meant to me.
Yep, he, along with Gary and John, had helped show me a different side, actually, a better side, to this incredibly ‘popular’ place.
Happy with my night, happy that Lisa had a working watch back at the hotel, but a little down about the goodbye, I headed back ‘home’, to get cleaned up for dinner.
That done, we made our way towards town, avoiding Cua Dai road after the last two nights.
For something different, we head across for a look at Cam Nam Island. Not really seeing any potential possibilities, along with it now starting to get a little late, we pull the pin on that idea and walk back towards the North of the Ancient Town.
We soon find a fairly basic looking local place and decide to give it a go. After all, it’s just food.
Turns out they only do a couple of dishes so we have cao lau, seeing as we haven’t had it since lunchtime, and com ga (chicken and rice).
Along with a beer each.
Again, like it pretty much is all the time, the food is good. But again, like it is pretty much is all the time with me, I’m not screaming from the rooftops about how good it is.
But I did really enjoy the beer!
Hey, look at it this way; if I ever rave about the food, you’ll know I really, really enjoyed it.
Remember the rice paper rolls in HCMC? The lunch in the Mekong? And the dinner at Wang’s parent’s place the next night?
See, I can get excited!
Anyway, food and beers done for the grand total of 110 000 Dong; pretty good I thought for this neck of the woods; and we head off to the night market on An Hoi Island.
Ahhh, the night market….
Three years ago it was so bright, so colourful, so vibrant, so busy. Tonight, perhaps partly because three years later I know what to expect, and partly because there may not be as many here, it just feels a little ho hum. Even a little lack lustre, perhaps.
I struggle to get overly excited by tourist souvenir markets at the best of times, and really, apart from a handful of items, I just don’t think there’s that much worth buying in the souvenir department in Vietnam.
Lisa did spot a necklace that she wanted to buy for the girl, so in the interests of haggling in the correct direction, I was left in charge of proceedings.
80 000 Dong, apparently.
I offered 40 000.
“What!!!!????”, is the reply, with a bit of a smile, followed by, “Okay, 60 000!”
“Ummm, we’ll think it about it”, I respond, as we start walking away.
“Alright, 50 000 Dong”, is the next offer.
“Okay, deal!”, I say with a grin, having had my fun.
The vendor was happy too, and that’s the way all haggling should finish.
All marketed out; yep, didn’t take long; we walk around the corner and find a bar to spend the money I’ve just saved, and then some.
Yep, An Hoi Island, a ‘2 for 1 cocktails’ sign; this is going to hurt. But not as much as if we were back home.
We head in to check it out and Lisa begins the ‘more difficult than it should be’ cocktail selection process.
No guesses as to my choice; a beer, of course.
Yep, there’s nothing wrong with a simple life…..
We get chatting with an Irish couple, who are living in Bangkok, and it ends up just being a really enjoyable night.
Although, not as long a night as both us and the Irish couple would have liked, with last drinks called around 10.00pm, and polite usherings towards the door by 10.30pm.
While a little disappointed, I wasn’t overly surprised, seeing as I know that Hoi An does shut pretty early.
The Irish couple, however, were quite perplexed. Coming from Bangkok, it’s probably not surprising that it would seem a little strange.
In the end, it probably wasn’t a bad thing. Those ‘two for one’ cocktails had gone down rather well, and while Lisa was okay, another may have pushed the boundaries.
My wallet had also had enough; two plus two cocktails, and three beers – 300 000 Dong.
Yes, cheap by Australian standards, but right up there for me in Vietnam.
We bid farewell to our newly acquired, and now quickly lost, friends, and headed out for the walk home.
Gee, Hoi An is so different late at night. So dark, and so quiet, with only a handful around. A little eerie, perhaps, but not in a bad or scary way.
We eventually get back to the hotel and finish off the night doing the usual beer / Trip Advisor thing.
It’s been a good day, and one that was certainly welcomed after some of the stuff from yesterday.
But, it has just confirmed to me not to completely write off Hoi An just yet.
But we shall see…..