Monday, 29 July 2013

Nha Trang to Danang to Hội An

Our overnight train was unfortunately 3 hours late into Danang and by then our small supply of cookies was well and truly gone and we were quite hungry as it was past midday. We tried to find an open café on our way to the bus station but everything was very pricey for what it was. We spied an old lady making some sort of phô and we decided to stop and try some, not only because we were hungry but also because we wanted to get our packs off our sunburnt backs, even if it was for only a few minutes reprieve. The phô turned out to be quite tasty despite huge grizzly chunks of beef on the bone and some strange blood cake floating around, which was probably a prized ingredient, but one that we chose to discreetly leave on the side.

Elaborate fountain in a pagoda courtyard
Too soon we had to re-hoist our bags back on our backs, but at least now our bellies were no longer growling. We continued onto the local bus stop and waited for the ‘yellow bus’ to arrive as we’d been instructed. When it finally raced around the corner we were literally thrown aboard as the bus barely came to a standstill before accelerating away again. The rest of the trip became an entertaining battle for us to pay what we knew was the actual cost of the ride and what the cranky lady tried to get us to pay. She tried to get us to pay 20,000 VND each and also for each piece of luggage, so 80,000 VND all up even though we knew locals only paid 15,000 VND each but that foreigners were usually 20,000 VND but luggage was free (if it wasn’t on a seat). After some negotiations back and forth she finally accepted our 40,000 VND, but only really because she needed to go and collect money off new people who had jumped on when the bus slowed down at the next stops.

A nice local guy joined us on the back seat and instantly struck up a conversation. He proudly told us that he works for Amway, and makes a lot of money compared to when he used to be a sculptor. He was interesting to talk to and made us realise how much work is involved in the beautiful Buddha statues and other idols that most shops sell. He said he would often work on one piece for months and there was always a risk that you’d chisel incorrectly and ruin the whole piece. Working for Amway was less stressful and paid him more than he’d ever earn sculpting. He of course tried to sell us something but thankfully that was only just before his stop so we didn’t have avoid that for too long.

We shook off the touts when we exited the bus on the outskirts of Hội An and walked to the main hotel street just outside of the Old Town area. We finally settled on Phuong Dong as the owners were very friendly, the place was clean and tidy and there was an excellent looking café just across the road. We headed straight there for a pre-exploration coffee and the exuberant owner told us that she runs the café by day and a restaurant near the Night Market each evening so we decided to try it out. When we told her this she gave us a big hug which would have been nice if it wasn’t for our sunburn!

We strolled around the beautiful town, admiring the ancient houses and streets and getting ourselves orientated and just soaking up the atmosphere. As dinner time approached we headed to the Night Market area and found the lady’s restaurant and enjoyed a tasty dinner with one of the local delicacies – white rose – and some fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls (the best we’ve had). We ordered a ‘fresh beer’ as it was advertised everywhere and for bargain cost of 20 cents, we decided we had nothing to lose! It was very refreshing and perfect for a warm evening by the river.

We hunted down what had almost become a daily ritual of red bean ice cream for dessert and set about wandering the streets all lit up at night, window shopping in the still open tourist shops which actually had some really cool local art and creations. Nearly everywhere was advertising happy hour and we decided that we should partake so we found a place with river views, ordered ourselves some B52’s, and settled in to enjoy. When the drinks arrived they were so small it was laughable, but they were actually so sweet we were glad that they weren’t much bigger. Our practically sleepless night on the train caught up with us fast and not long after we’d polished off our thimble sized drinks we turned in for a good night of catch up sleep, eager to explore Hội An more fully the following day.

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