And then I was suddenly about halfway through my Vietnam trip! Time moves so same quickly here…. Judging by the experiences, I could’ve easily been in Vietnam for well over a month, but because I’ve been rather busy, I’ve collected all these experiences in only 2 weeks. Ah well, I’m still very much enjoying myself!
As I said in the previous update, I went and had a suit made in Hoi An immediately after I arrived. Don’t ask me how, but somehow, 8 hours later, there was a custom made suit, and two shirts waiting for me. It’s weird to live in shorts and tank tops for 2 months, and then look in the mirror and see this grown-up looking back at you. It was weird, but I have to say that it looked really good!
(I’m sorry that you have to turn your head/laptop/monitor/iPad/iPhone/tablet/smartphone/TV/other kind of screen, but the pictures don’t want to be right-side-up, no matter how nice I keep asking)
There were a couple of things that still had to be adjusted, so the elderly Vietnamese tailor-shop-owner was happily dancing around me, chalking down all the adjustments, and within 15 minutes, I was ready to go again. Because we had a cooking course the next morning, we arranged that we would once again be back at the tailor at 7PM the next day, and then it was time for food. It was time for a cheat-meal. Meaning: no rice, no noodles, yes fries! We went to a fish ‘n chips place, and it was really good! That night we strolled through the old city for a bit, and then called it an early night because of the cooking course we had coming up. When we got back to the hostel, and tried to extend for one extra night, I ran into a problem: they were fully booked. Whoops. So i had to find a new hostel. Ah well, sleep first, worry later.
Somehow someone somewhere decided that the appropriate time to start a cooking course was 8AM, which I don’t particularly agree with, but we had booked, so we might as well go. Had some breakfast, checked out of the hostel, and we were off. The first stop was a local market with vegetables, fruits and both the living and the dead kind of meat. We strolled past each and every imaginable part of a pig, and we saw 2 live chickens getting sold to some person on a moped. After the market we had to get in to a round (don’t ask me why it was round, I can’t imagine round is the best shape fora ‘boat’) bamboo raft, and we went fishing.
Or so I thought. We got a rod, some bait, and as far as I know, that’s generally fishing equipment. But, when the old Vietnamese woman that steered the boat went ‘fishing,’ she pretty much immediately caught a crab. Which apparently was the thing that was supposed to happen.
After quite a lot of near-misses, I finally managed to catch one myself. With a grand total of 4 tiny crabs (which were all released as soon as we left the raft again) we floated/rowed the last bit, to the place where the actual cooking was going to happen. It was quite a hassle. I am not used to cooking using so many different ingredients, nor cooking taking any longer than 20 minutes. But I overcame those ‘problems’, and I found out it’s well worth spending a little more time and adding some extra ingredients. The result was delicious! We made spring rolls, noodle soup, filled aubergine and some crispy pancakes. Very much nom.
(I already ate the spring rolls before I could take a picture, but they looked perfect and they were great as well)
Pretty much no-one was able to finish all their food, but I enjoyed it so much that I just kept eating. It was too good not to eat.
After the cooking course we were dropped off at the hostel again. Everyone went their own way, and I had to find my next hostel. Backpacks trapped to my back, 40+ degrees, walking to the other side of Hoi An. I can’t recommend that by the way. Drowning in my own sweat, I arrived at the next hostel, and it was a nice change. They had hammocks, which is always a big plus, and it looked more chilled out than the first hostel. It was located away from the general backpackers area, but way closer to the actual nicest part of Hoi An. After checking in I claimed a hammock, and read some Game of Thrones, and then succumbed and ended up renting a moped once again and racing to the beach to meet up with the rest.
(Don’t ask why the picture is upside down, I honestly don’t know, and I’m totally at a loss on how to rotate, so deal with it)
I raced me, myself and my moped back to the hostel, washed the sand off, and raced to the tailor for the second fitting session. I tried everything on, stretched, moved, tried to find a reason to not accept it, but it was perfect already. So I now own a suit. Because the average suit doesn’t particularly like being carried around in a backpack, I opted to have it sent back home. It’d have been a waste if I would’ve instantly ruined it by carrying it around with me for almost 1.5 months… After fitting we had a ‘family dinner,’ with a bunch of people I met at the Dalat Family Hostel, and afterwards we went to the old center again, because that’s by far the nicest area in Hoi An, especially at night.
After getting back in the hostel, I wanted to add an extra night to my stay, but the reception had closed for the night, so I had to wait for the next morning.
And indeed, you guessed right… When I tried to extend, I was told they were fully booked. Great. 3 nights, 3 different hostels, 1 city. I still didn’t return my moped from the day before, so I packed my bags, jumped on the scooter and drove to my new hostel. Checked in, got on the scooter again, and returned it to my previous hostel. Then, I had to walk the entire way to my new hostel, which was conveniently located at the other side of the town (once again). On my way there I tried to get some information on how and where to rent a moped to drive the famous Hai Van Pass, because I wasn’t going to not drive that myself. After arranging the moped-hire, I got to my hostel, picked up a free bike, and went to some island just south of Hoi An. After cycling for 15 minutes, we were suddenly surrounded by rice fields and locals, and we pretty much didn’t see a single tourist there. After cycling there for the better part of the afternoon, I shortly went back to the hostel, met a Dutch girl there, and invited her to Family Dinner part 2 (I randomly met some guys from the Family Hostel while I was having lunch, and we decided to meet again for dinner). After dinner, I joined the guys at their hostel, where we did a makeshift karaoke session (someone had his guitar with him). After getting back to my hostel way to late, I noticed a problem. The 24-hour reception was closed, and there was a huge lock on the gate. I decided against sleeping on the street, so I parked my bike outside, climbed over the gate, and silently sneaked in to my room. It wasn’t optimal, but it worked.
The next morning I had the first breakfast buffet here in Vietnam. Quite a few hostels include free breakfast, but usually you can only choose one thing from the menu, whereas this buffet was just all you can eat, which was quite a nice preparation for the full day of riding on a moped that was ahead. Because that day was the day I was going to get myself across the Hai Van Pass on a semi-automatic motorbike. It took some getting used to the first five minutes, but after that, it felt amazing. Driving a semi-automatic was so much more fun than driving an automatic bike! It feels so much more ‘involved’. The trip was great as well, way too hot, but amazing views and all sorts of local villages that I passed full of people that were excited to see foreigners.
By the end of the trip, every single part of my body was sore, my head was aching horribly, and I was exhausted, but it was all very much worth it! After arriving in Hue I picked up my backpack (my backpack got delivered to Hue by the scooter rental company) and then the people from the rental company dropped me off at my hostel. After I walked in, I was greeted by a Vietnamese mom and her little kid. When I was getting walked to my room, the mother was in front, and the kid (I guess he was about 3 or 4 years old) grabbed my hand (or rather my finger, his hand wasn’t big enough) and he showed me the way. Met my roomie just as I was going out to get some food, ended up talking way too long with her, but after 2 hours of talking it was time to get some food (or so my stomach tried to tell me). While I was eating, the waitress approached me, explained that she was a foreign languages student, and she asked me whether I was okay with talking for a bit, so she could practice her English. Of course I was more than happy to do so, so we had a nice conversation about random stuff. After dinner, because of the exhausted-ness, I just went back to the hostel, read some and slept some.
The next day I had the brilliant idea to rent a bicycle. Because I spent the entire previous day on a motorbike, I didn’t really feel like renting a motorbike, and I figured a bicycle would be nice for a change. The first part of the journey was flawless (except for the fact that I underestimated the hilly-ness, and my bike didn’t have any gears). Although the warmth-index was 52 degrees I made it all the way to two of the tombs. The first tomb was not as impressive as I’d hoped, but that was probably because of the fact that I’ve been spoiled by beautiful and very impressive stuff these last few months…
After the first tomb I cycled to the second one, which was much more impressive. On the way to the tomb there was suddenly an older Vietnamese woman on a scooter driving next to me. She noticed I was struggling getting up the hill, so she offered to scooter me up. I love how friendly the locals are around here! The first tomb was just a tomb, but the second one was way more than that. The second one was a whole area with all kinds of buildings, some river flowing through, and then of course the actual tomb. Walked around there for a bit, and enjoyed the environment.
Then I planned to head to a pagoda, but that didn’t happen… My bike broke down, while I was 7km out of the city, so I had to push my bike all the way back to the hostel. Which would have been horrible even without temperatures that felt like 52 degrees. After well over an hour of struggling I managed to arrive at the hostel. Unfortunately there was not enough time for me to go to the pagoda, so I had to skip that, and instead went to the imperial center of Hue. Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam, and the imperial center was where the royal family lived and worked during that time (if I remember correctly). Spent some time exploring there, but then I had to leave, because I had the bus to Phong Nha coming up. On the way back to the hostel a Vietnamese man came up to me and asked me if he could try his English on me, because he planned to go to Australia to work there, and provide for his family in Vietnam with the money he would earn there. Spoke with him for way too long, so had to rush back to the hostel, but luckily I’m in Vietnam, so minivans that pick me up between 16:30 and 17:00 don’t arrive until 17:30, so I had still more than enough time after I got to the hostel. Ah well, you get used to it. After arriving in Phong Nha I had to spend one night in a hostel opposite of the hostel I wanted to go to, because ‘my’ hostel was fully booked. The hostel I wanted to go is the place to be in Phong Nha. Everyone stays there, and that is the only place with a great atmosphere I’ve seen in the area. Ah well, one night waiting is manageable, so I just went to my room and got some much needed sleep.
The next morning I didn’t do too much. Got my free breakfast, watched an episode of Daredevil on Netflix, checked out and walked to the other side of the road to check in. I immediately noticed the change in atmosphere, or actually, the atmosphere. The hostel I slept the previous night was kind of dead, while the new place had people everywhere, friendly staff and nice music going on. I very much don’t regret changing hostels! After checking in I just jumped into a hammock, with a view over the pool, and finished book one of Game of Thrones. Later that afternoon I joined pretty much half of the hostel in going to the ‘farmstay’, to watch the sunset from over there. I just got back to the hostel, and it’s time to join the people downstairs now. Tomorrow I’ll probably rent a scooter and get myself to the Phong Nha Cave. Should be good!