26.10.2010 - 29.10.2010 25 °C
Sometimes it is inevitable to set your expectations too high when you hear other people talk with superlatives about a place you’re heading to, but just like in Laos we were hoping this would be the Vietnamese Jewel. We board our bus with glee because for the first time this is not an overnight trip and better yet a it would be only a couple hours long. A very comfortable ride too, lounge like seats right next to each other, perfect for reading, napping and even looking out the window. The road is winding and we stop for some food and drinks and just as we get back on board the clouds have turned darker and once on the road it starts to pour. We cross the old DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) and the G.I. town of Danang where progress and globalization has already started to lmake its mark. The shoreline is being developed if not overdeveloped with resorts and golf courses making us sigh with concern about what it will be like in a few years. We veer off the main highway and shortly after we reach Hoi An. Although slightly dark we can see outside and it does not look very good. Under the pouring rain we get off the bus and start to walk to the hotel. The rain stops briefly after we have settled in our room, so it is time to feed our growling stomachs. We are not too far from the old town, which being a Unesco World Heritage, is the real attraction in the area. We cross the barrier blocking access to anything other than pedestrians and bicycles (or as the sign reads, ‘primitive transport’) and just down the road this little town starts to unfold. Ahead is the Japanese bridge and just over it quaint and dimly lit houses expand along the river. We find a restaurant and enjoy some of the local specialties; Ban Xeo (a fried rice pancake with pork and veggies), Cao Lao (a nice brothy soup with noodles, bean sprouts, veggies an slices of pork), fried wonton and white rose (steamed shrimp and veggies served on a plate with rice paper, to wrap and dip in a tamarind sauce). The town is not big, and the next day in a few hours we have covered it all, but we decide we want to stay another day. Under the glaring sun the little washed out yellow chinese houses shine and embellish every street in this town.There’s bakeries, French and Italian restaurants and a local market serving more of the region’s specialties, plus weather permitting a nearby beach on which to enjoy seafood. The river is also very active, with tours on the river and commuter boats to and from the nearby villages. In the evening we seek one of the best restaurants in town according to the sometimes fallible Lonely Planet, Cafe 43. But this time is spot on. Draft beer for 3000 dong (or about 20 cents) and a set menu for two for 100 000 dong (or 5 dollars), yet is not the price that wins us over, or the friendly and happy staff, but the flavour of every dish, simply mouthwatering even just by thinking about it! Just as we finish dinner the rain arrives, and we make use once again of our weatherproof gear as we are going to meet some fellow travellers for a drink. We have beer this time for 4000 dong and wait for the rain to stop, however the tide is the one flooding the local establishment and shortly after 11 we head home. It is breakfast once again on the terrace of our hotel, but the weather has not improved, yet we decide to explore the surroundings, this time by motorbike. Helmets on and when in Vietnam… finger ready on the horn! We reach the marble mountains, yes because of the stone but also to find some pagodas and caves to explore. Marbled out and despite the gray skies we make it to the beach have a wander and seat at one of the empty restaurants along the shore. Crab and grilled fish before heading back. In the evening we visit for dinner ‘The Streets’ restaurant, a local initiative that trains street kids in the area of hospitality to provide them with a better future. It is time to leave but as is not until the evening in yet another sleeper bus we have the whole day to enjoy around town and we get a little trigger happy with our cameras. We are now beach bound baby!