Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hoi An & Nha Trang

In Hue I met a girl in the hostel. I was answering some of her questions across the room cause no one else seemed to know the answer, and we found out that we both go to Hoi An the next day. It turns out that government wants Hoi An to remain a posh place and so the city doesn't have any hostels ... i.e. it's not backpacker friendly. We decided to go there together and to share a hotel room. I didn't read enough on the bus, and had no idea which guesthouse to stay in, but of course it's never a problem as when the bus stopped at the station the hotel people came right to it, and we got a nice hotel room for $10 (hey, it's cheaper than a hostel!) with free transportation to it.
At first it was awkward to be in the same room with a stranger, but we soon discovered how much in common we have, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.
Her name is Penny. She had an accident in Vang Vieng. She was dancing in the bucket bar, fell down and scratched her leg. 2 days later, on her birthday, she woke up with fever. Went to the hospital, they cleaned the wound, gave her antibiotics and sent her back. 2 more days, her leg is 3 times the size, blue and black and Penny takes the first flight to Hanoi where they schedule an emergency operation. Turns out that when she fell, a small piece of wood got stuck in the leg, which they didn't take out in Laos, and it got so infected that they almost had to amputate the leg. No wonder that in LP it says, for medical emergencies fly to either Bangkok or Hanoi.
Now she's walking, and even though she has 3 holes in her leg and one is 2cm deep, 3cm long an 1cm wide, and you can see all the vital life processes happening inside, I've never once heard her complaining.
That day we just went to dinner in Ganesh restaurant, which had the best Indian food I've ever eaten! Don't forget that I just spent half a year in India. Too bad I only had 2 spoon fulls before I started shaking and trembling, got a headache, couldn't concentrate, couldn't eat and I was hot and cold all at once. 2 weeks of constant go-go-go finally caught up to me. Between travelling, reading/planning the trip and writing the blog, I didn't get more than 6 hours of sleep per night. Every day now for a few days, whenever I feel sleepy, I look at my watch at it's 5:30pm!! That's it, energy reserve for the day is gone. Never had that in my life! Did I say that before ... damn 1 month visas!!
Next day was a sight seeing day in the old quarter, which is cute, charming, colourful, flowery, sits on the river, and it's traffic free in the evenings. We bought a ticket for 5 sights which all the places accept, but it was so hot that we didn't finish ripping the ticket apart. We went to assembly hall, not an interesting museum, made a clay pot, saw them making wood sculptures and lanterns, walked into an ancestor home. It turns out that they're very tricky. They give presents to the ancestor spirits, but it turns out that they can eat it 3 days later. What kind of sacrifice is that?
(LP) Failing businesses often call in a geomancer (feng shui expert). Sometimes the solution is to move a door or a window. If this doesn't do the trick, it might be necessary to move an ancestor's grave.
Next day John who I met in Laos in Luang Prabang came to Hoi An. He's on the way north, while we're on our way south. We rented bikes and went to the beach. Got lost cause there are no maps, and instead of 4 kms, we rode at least 10 in the boiling heat. Tried to ask the locals where the beach is. The locals don't speak English, so it was another game of charades. Beach/ocean/water/waves/swim???? I tried to show breast strokes, they didn't get it ... a few people later someone finally got it. Turns out they don't know how to swim with breast strokes, they know doggy style when he put 2 hands in front of him and started splashing around :) Why do people who live near the beach don't know how to swim? I got tired of riding, stopped by the taxi to ask for directions. They told me to turn left on the traffic light. We were on the straight road and no traffic light in sight. No more riding, I took the first left and we ended up on a very nice almost local beach with no hassle and only red mouthed women selling peanuts. They also chew betel nut in here, but all their teeth are red, and lips and it drips from the sides of their mouths, much more disgusting than in India. Also at least in India only men did it. Yuk!!
Finally we had a chance to go out, and finally I dressed up. Too bad dressing up means wearing the only dress and the only pair of heels that I have. Oh, and it also means taking a shower :) Taking a shower while travelling is almost a privilege. Sometimes there are no showers, sometimes they're shared and disgusting, sometimes there is no water, sometimes it's only freezing water, but usually you're so exhausted that you don't even remember what a shower looks like anymore.
First we went to pick out a suit for John. He ordered 2 suits from the best quality material, with 3 shirts, all custom made for $200. I don't even know if that's a good price or not, because guys are not as picky as girls, and John ordered it in the first shop that we went in to. Ordered at 8pm, picked up at 3pm the next day. Now that's fast service!
Walked around for a long time picking a restaurant. There are so many good restaurants, but they're all expensive. Ended up in a so so one, but at least on the terrace overlooking the river. The owner came to our table and offered us to come to his village to see what a traditional village is like, how they live, how they plant rice, it sounded very interesting until he started pushing so much that we declined. Next was a "why not" bar, there is a "why not" bar in every city in Vietnam. We got picked up by an expat manager on his bike who went around town collecting people. He said that there are at least 35 people in there, and drinks are free till 12. There were hardly 10 people, and drinks were 2 for 1. I told him that he spent way too much time in Vietnam. The music was good though, and we played 2 rounds of pool. On the way back to town we stopped at another bar where we all had munchies and ordered 3 slices of cakes at 12 am :)
Next day after another wonderful lunch in the Ganesh restaurant where I especially went to the kitchen to tell the boss and his chefs that they make the best Indian food, Penny & me took a night bus to Nha Trang.
My seat was in the front of the bus and 4 guys, I'm not sure who, were smoking near the driver, I thought, one is ok, but as soon as they put down the first cigarette, they took the next one. No, no, no, it's not going to work. I got up, pointed my finger at a cigarette and then to the road, not in the bus!!! 2 of them quickly threw their cigarettes out, but the other guy aggressively took me by the hand and put me down on my seat. Vietnam is definitely the most aggressive country in SE Asia, I think they have that mentality after the war. At night I couldn't sleep, I was only comfortable in one position on the side where my nose touched the seat which was all saturated with cigarette smoke.
Arrived at Nha Trang at 5am. Took 2 taxi bikes that drove us to some hotel. When we arrived I got scared, 2 girls alone in the middle of nowhere going down dark alley on 2 separate bikes, but of course in the morning it wasn't scary anymore, as we were in the middle of a side street full of nothing but hotels. The owner when showed us the room, entered into it with a cigarette in his mouth, at least him I could kick out :)
Welcome to Nha Trang, the Russian capital of Vietnam. For some reason Russians always choose the worst places, I have no idea how much the marketing people were paid to promote these places. Pattaya, Phuket in Thailand, Bali in Indonesia, there is nothing there, and amazing beauty just a few hours from that place, but anyway, everything's in Russian. Russian restaurants, all menus, all stores selling expensive jewellery and leather, convenience stores sell vodka with black caviar, everything as it should be :) Some girls said that in the airport the "welcome to Vietnam" sign was only in Russian, there wasn't one in English :)
The beach is not impressive at all, and full of too many Sheraton and Hilton high rises. The water didn't look clean and I didn't feel any urge to go in.
Next day took a boat trip. Half a day cost $15, and please take a few seconds to guess how much a full day trip cost ...................................................... you guessed wrong! It cost $7. Yes I know, I had eyes as big as yours. It cost less because there are more people. What a nice day we had. We went snorkeling twice, even though I've seen more garbage than fish, too bad, as it was even in a protected area. I snorkeled in a t-shirt, it's some rule that I have, and thank god for that rule because everyone who snorkeled was as red as a lobster. I saw 2 fish that I didn't see before, that's always exciting, I thought it was another garbage artifact, but it was a thing that looks like a rope with some things coming out of its mouth, a needle fish, parrot fish, but not much coral. Pretty much everywhere I snorkel there isn't any corals left. Please don't buy any dry corals or souvenirs made out of corals. They're much more beautiful in an ocean than dead on a shelf.
We then had a lunch followed by a happy hour with free drinks, followed by an entertainment program of a singing lady boy :) He then called out tourists from different countries and made them sing some famous song. That Vietnamese guy knew the words for all the songs in all the languages. Russians were singing "Katusha" :). I was looking at one and only Russian couple. They always argue, very aggressive towards each other. I can't even imagine how can you talk like that with a person you love. They're the only ones who don't smile, who don't want to have fun, who don't know any English. The whole world is on that ship, and they're the only ones who can't even say a word in English, who don't know how to use chopsticks. I know that the show was childish, but everyone is having fun ... join in!!


  1. Yana

    Thanks for another very interesting story.
    The places you visit seem so beautiful.
    It looks like you had great weather too.


  2. Sounds lovely. Hope you and Penny have more adventures together. I think it's better to share these experiences with other people, at least for awhile.