Hoi Ann… is situated just over half way up Vietnam. To get there we got on board a sleeper bus. What is a sleeper bus? Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, instead of seats you have bunk beds, instead of a floor you have Vietnamese people crushed together and instead of a normal driver you have a mental person. These buses head of every night up and down Vietnam, they are pretty comfortable. If you close your eyes its also pretty relaxing. but as soon as your eyes open and realise the bus driver is overtaking trucks on blind corners above a 50ft cliff drop into the South China Sea, its not so relaxing.
Top Gear…about the only thing I know about Hoi Ann and its suits, this is the Milan of Asia. Suit shops and beaches an interesting yet exciting combination. What I didn’t expect was how European the town was, the architecture and cobbled streets could have been halfway up the French Alps. The river that splits Hoi Ann in two is connected by a Japanese bridge that reminds you that you are in Asia. As you walk to the end of the bridge at night time, the colours of the lantern’s decorated in Vietnamese art illuminates the dark ally ways and street corners.
Hopping on a scooter, weaving in and out of people and cars you can make your way to the beach. As you scoot past the fields and houses in this working town, the farmers tying up the cattle or the ladies collecting the grass you can see glimpses of how the country used to be before the tourism boom, before the money from the west transformed the coast of Vietnam. Not complaining because I probably wouldn’t be here if it didn’t happen, just nice to see how it would have functioned a few years ago.
From the beach you can see right up the coast, along to marble mountain, Da Nang then the Hai Van Pass leads all the way into the distance. During are time in Hoi Ann we got burnt on the beach, Myhila departed us and we got suited and booted at kimi’s. Another day we rented out scooters and with no passports, no filling out forms just a good old promise we would bring the scooters back before 8:00pm and set off towards Marble Mountain. Thinking there would be steps or a path to the top, we equipped ourselves, flip flops intact. Big mistake, steps were slippy the marble stone and sweat from our feet meant it was like ice skating up Everest. Fortunately with tomb raider like moves we conquered the sheer cliff face and made it to the summit (ps. events describing the mountain climb may have been exaggerated). The view from the top was worth it, the shack like shops and houses growing out like roots from the base of the mountain. The beach stretching for miles north and south. The sea big and blue like always.
5 nights in Hoi Ann was not enough and as me and mark left to Hue and Chris went further to Hanoi both big cities I knew I was going to miss the passive landscapes of Hoi Ann.
Hue… Mark and myself pretty much just stopped in the old capital to get a break from travelling, the itinerary for the next 3 days…watching movies and eating KFC. The old capital didn’t have much to do, maybe that’s why it got demoted. A political city, it had the feel of the old communist era and a sense of the past. The citadel was the highlight, the old palace of the dynasty’s that ruled Vietnam in their war torn history, doors created high enough to let elephants in and out. It was a good pit stop before the 16 hour sleeper train to Hanoi.
Hanoi… Finding Colgo in the backpackers hostel was a good reunion the emotions ran high, not really, but was nice to see him again. I wont go into to much detail on Hanoi because its not really that great, another big city. The highlight Hanoi is going to Halong Bay. Its pretty hard to describe this place without actually being there, it’s stunning. The rocks and shapes of islands is incredible, hard to believe people believe the world was a mistake or big bang when places like this exist. Pirates of the Caribbean and James Bond; the man with the golden gun, had been filmed here. The national park is packed with other tourists, thousands, each on there separate pirate ships, all floating around taking in the landscape. Yet when you drop anchor for the night and watch the sun fall behind these mushroom like mountains you somehow feel like the only person there.
Vietnam is a special place, beautiful and friendly people, interesting smells and amazing food the country deserves more time. 3 and half weeks its hard to get off the tourist trail, something everyone should do. I guess for now that will have to do. Back to Thailand, Good Night Vietnam.