Crossing Paths in Hoi An

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  , Quảng Nam,
Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm catching up a little with the blog thing. I fell behind back in Hong Kong and since then I've been fighting a losing battle but I am soon to catch up with where we are now. Hue cost us. The two computers for the multitude of backpackers is just not enough. In most of the upmarket places, all the customers have their own laptops - so the computers are always free - anyways, Hoi An gave me a chance to catch up and now I've fell behind again.

Taking a short 3 hr bus trip from Hue, we dropped in at Denang to get rid of a few people and drove past China Beach (where all the American GI's would take R&R during the war) and onto the small village of Hoi An. Hoi An wasn't originally on our schedule but some good comments from people on the journey south and a couple of emails from Cian and Jen heading north suggested it would be a good place to spend a couple of nights somewhere quiet, and a chance for us to meet up and catch up with the aforementioned Irish folk.
Hoi An is a small place and has not got too many roads so how the bus company managed to drop everyone as far from all the hostels/hotels is beyond me. Once again it is all about commission. The bus pulled into a hotel that looked very nice and everything but it isn't where we had reserved - in fact it was right on the edge of the town. The Xe On moped drivers know that buses drop off here and so they are all parked up waiting to get your custom. In the boiling heat, we stick to our story "we like the exercise (It's a hell of a lot less scary walking than on the back of a moped with our backpacks I would like the think)". The lovely commission sapping hotel gave us all little maps that were not to scale and managed to miss out all the roads (where any other hotels might be) so we ended up walking down the wrong road. When we found ourselves surrounded by nothing but countryside, a few ramshackle sheds and a strange little boy ("Her-oh, Her-oh", "Yeah, Hi"), we thought we should look at our lonely planet map. We stopped and the strange little boy walked up and stood right next to me looking over my shoulder. I put my foot on my bag strap in case he decided to make a snatch and dash, but I think he was just a bit weird. We found out we had taken a wrong turn as most of the roads are little more than dirt tracks but appear like the A41 on the hotel map and so turned round and headed back. It didn't take us long to find the hotel.

Phouoc An is a nice place. Not as per the pictures but nice. It appears to have a sister hotel which is more central and with a bigger pool (If I laid flat with tippy toes extended and reached out I could probably reach the whole length of the pool). The staff were friendly, gave us a welcome drink and then showed us to the pleasant room with a nice big bath (first bath for 7 weeks). Big room, cheap mini-bar, Star-Movies on satellite. We were set. The restaurant all but deserted but we had a nice little meal there, nothing special (we wouldn't go back but only because there are so many options).

Day 1 we chilled in the afternoon. Lunch, a bit of a stroll and then a film- and bath for me. Through email we had arranged to meet Cian and Jen at about 7, they would email to confirm as Cian was getting clothes fitted. Hoi An is a hot-spot of tailors who can make pretty much anything you want in extremely short time for very cheap. You show them a cut-out from a magazine and they produce high-quality (if you choose the right shop) tailored clothes in lightning quick time. Mimics, but brilliant ones.
At 7pm, I hadn't received an email from Cian but we did shortly after 7.15. Cian had to go back for another fitting and so would be late. I emailed that we would head out and gave a rough idea of where we would be.
We decided to eat not where we said but hoped for the best that they would find us anyhow. After a nice burger and some beer we spotted Cian and Jen and they sat down with us. It was great catching up and we had a few beers for ridiculously cheap (30 pence a bottle) on the extended happy hour (4pm - 10pm). Considering it had only been a few weeks it is amazing how much you can do. Their travels had obviously been different to ours but it's nice to be able to compare experiences too. They had spent time on a beach in south Vietnam which we sadly just don't have time to do, but at the same time they had probably lost some of their trip later on in exchange. I very much enjoyed the evening and seeing friendly faces from early on in our trip, again in a new country is very special. Strangely, the day before in Hue we had bumped into a guy we had gone on the Terracotta warriors tour in Xi'an. It's a small world after all.
At 10.45pm the cafe ladies wanted to shut up shop and so ushered us out politely. Very quickly we noticed most of the town was shut. It appeared the people went to bed and the cockroaches all woke up, as they were everywhere scuttling all over the place. 
This quiet town is not a place for partying thankfully. We said our goodbyes to the energetic pair and headed off to the hotel. We're not sure but we may meet again on the trip, who knows.

The doorman was fast asleep inside the door and had tied the door shut with some rope. Kate managed to wriggle it open and I tied it back shut then stepped over the doorman waking him in the process. He half grunted and then back to sleep. Anybody to visit Hoi An, please be aware that it appears most hotels have this policy of shutting up at about 10.30. Don't get caught out.

Our second day in Hoi An was back on the tourist trail. We visited the little old town and popped into some of the traditional houses and temples that are being maintained and re-built. A very cheap and enjoyable day, although the heat makes it difficult to pay attention to all the information. We took in a dinner at a different restaurant and to bed early.

Hoi An is an enjoyable break to the sameness of big city life. We found it refreshing and full of nice little bars and restaurants. The cafes directly by the hotel were lovely and all served good food and cheap drink ('fresh' beer half pint for 3000dong - about 10 pence). The old town is very special and offers a glimpse into the past but this place is in danger of growing too fast and losing it's charm. Hopefully they will do a good job of maintaining the old buildings and not turn it into a group of streets packed with souvenir shop after souvenir shop all selling the same thing.

Cheap and cheerful, but two nights the charm.
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