27.01.2012 - 30.01.2012 26 °C
We arrived in Hoi An in the afternoon and set out to find a cheap hotel. We ended up at Hop Yen II. The room was quite small and stuffy with tiled walls and floors but it was good enough. We had heard from a few people that Hoi An was less of a touristy than Da Nang, however we found the town to be quite the opposite. It still had a really lovely atmosphere but the number of scooters zooming around was a pain.
We wandered around the Old City for awhile and walked across the bridge to An Hoi Island. The Old City area was really nice and it gets closed off to motorists in the afternoon. After our walk we went back to our hotel for a four hour nap. When we woke up and went downstairs one of the staff members said to us "Have you been sleeping for that entire time?" like we were crazy. We didn't get up to much after that except getting some snacks and watching a movie in bed. Maybe we are crazy.
We woke up next day with the intention of biking to An Bang Beach. We got breakfast in the Old City at Cafe 19. I had pumpkin soup and spring rolls which were great. We then decided we would walk the 3-4 km to An Bang Beach instead. It was a long walk and there were no footpaths next to the busy road. We passed rice fields and cows and water buffalo while the locals driving past us waved and said hello or laughed at us.
Once we got to the beach it was quite windy and cold. We had a snack at a seafood restaurant before deciding to walk back to town. We'd started a game at this point where we each chose a certain playing card and the first to see their card on the ground won that round. Playing cards were strewn absolutely everywhere in and around Hoi An.
We went for dinner at Cafe 57 near our hotel. The staff were lovely and their young child was watching cartoons so we watched too. We then walked down to the river (which looked even nicer at night all lit up) and tried to find a bar to have cheap drinks. I ended up getting a blue lagoon cocktail for 59,000 dong. After one drink we went to the bar next door for even cheaper drinks - a long island iced tea for 39,000. After that and a few games of cards we went looking for somewhere more upbeat. We stumbled across an Aussie bar but it was very crowded and expensive so we ended up walking home and going to bed.
We had planned to go to the more popular beach but it was really cloudy and cold the next day which was a bummer so we went for a late breakfast down Le Loi Street instead. Then afterwards we decided we'd hire some bikes and go down to Cua Dai beach anyway! Our bikes cost US$1 for the day. We rode down the very busy streets for about 5 km and it started raining. I almost got hit by cars and bikes and always struggled to turn left because I just couldn't get used to riding on the opposite side. Once we finally arrived we had to pay 10,000 dong for parking. We then strolled past the shops and down to the beach. The crappy weather kind of ruined it. There were a lot of plastic chairs set up on the sand for eating at beach-side restaurants. We went to two different restaurants for snacks before heading back to town. On return we tried to book a train out to Nha Trang but the trains were booked up for weeks so we booked a bus instead for 600,000 each. We also booked a day trip to My Son for US$8 each via bus and boat with lunch included.
We woke up at 7:00 am and I had caught a cold. We waited outside our hotel for our My Son tour bus to pick us up. We'd gotten on a bus and the driver had said he was going to My Son but we were soon left thinking we were on the wrong bus. A local got on the bus and checked our tickets and then made some phone calls and 20 minutes later we pulled over and we were told to get on a different bus. Thank goodness that got sorted so easily! Once on the right bus we had an hour drive to My Son. On arrival we all sat down and our guide explained a lot of information about the area to us. We then wandered around on our own. The weather was overcast and mildly raining but it made the area look more lush and spectacular. The temples were all covered in plants and moss and most of it didn't look like it had been maintained for tourists like the temples in Luang Prabang (which look more modern). There was still a little bit of rubbish around but it was the first time we'd seen bins outdoors in the entire country.
We got back on the bus and drove down to the river for lunch on a boat. We had rice, vegetables and tofu which was decent. We stopped off at a carpentry village but there wasn't much too see. The carvings in the shop were nice but it was very much a stop for getting tourists to spend money. Once we arrived on An Hoi and finished the tour we stopped in at a cafe for a snack on the way to the hotel. This time I tried the potato soup (30,000 dong) which was pretty tasty - tasted like potato so I guess that's what you want. It was raining and locals were all trying to sell overly priced rain ponchos to tourists. They actually were very nice about it and as soon as we declined they didn't hassle us any more. This was unlike one local who wanted us to buy his clothes - he'd came up to us earlier in the morning telling us about his family store - a few hours later he called out to us from down the street and came running to us to ask if we'd been shopping yet why not. Once back at our hotel we settled in for another nice nap. For dinner we walked back down to the Old Town to Faifoo Restaurant. We sat on the balcony and I got a banana shake (purely mushed banana) and the set menu for 100,000 dong which had spring rolls, vegetable soup, salad, cao lau, and tofu in tomato sauce. It was delicious and good value at AUD$1 per bowl. The staff were lovely as well and have a policy of "if you don't like it you don't pay". We then bought some baguettes and fruit from a street stall and peanut butter and snacks from the mini-mart for the long bus ride ahead of us the next day.
Never ever book a bus from Hoi An to Nha Trang - even if it is through a travel agent and even if they say it's not what we had to deal with. We were told to be in front of our hotel at 6:00 am which then changed to 5:45 am during the booking. We got up super early and had to wake up the staff to let us outside. We waited for over half an hour before a man on a scooter approached us and told us our bus would be another 5 minutes. Okay that's tolerable I guess. 5-10 minutes later a mini-van pulled up. I was thinking I'd prefer a mini-van at first, but when we got on there were already 7 people crammed in the back seats and they were cramming everyone's luggage on the floor at everyone's feet. We asked if we could sit in the front seat - mainly because I get car sick and secondly because it would probably have a little more room. We were told/yelled at not to sit in the front, so we went to get in the row behind but he said/yelled no to that too so we got in the row behind that. Three others were picked up with us and they got to go in the row in front of us (but not the front seats). We then picked up another person, and then another two, and then yet another two (those last two got to sit in the front so I was fuming).
So we had 17 people total in a mini-van that only had 15 seats. One man had to sit on the luggage by the door and another man was stuck sitting on a wooden stool. There was also so much luggage that the guys organising us on the bus took the luggage of four people on our bus and put it on another bus. One of the couples who got on last were asking the men if the mini-van was temporary as we all assumed it was because we were squashed in like sardines and couldn't move (we were also promised a big bus when we booked). After ignoring the question several times we were then assured we would be changing to a bigger bus. We were then told right before leaving that we would be on the mini-van for 4 hours before changing - not ideal in any sense (it was a 12 hour trip all up).
So with not much choice we headed off all very unhappy with the situation. Half an hour or so into the drive the guy seated in front of me asked for a toilet stop and 10 minutes later we pulled over. We then headed off again and another hour later I was busting for the toilet so we asked the driver to stop. He said in 4 minutes. During that time we passed 4 perfectly good petrol stations with toilets. At this point some bushes on the side of the road looked equally as good. We still hadn't pulled over so we asked again and he said 5 minutes (5 minutes after he'd said 4 minutes). I'd had enough, I said "No, I need to go NOW" and he didn't listen so there were then about 4 of us yelling at him to just stop the damn car (after passing yet another 3 petrol stations). He finally stopped at a bus stop with buses and a restaurant and I was fuming as well as about to explode. The toilets were absolutely disgusting. They were squat toilets but full of brown water so the entire floor was the toilet. After that we waited around for ages and then we realised we weren't changing to the bigger buses next to us.
We got back on the mini-van half hour later and headed off again when we were finally told the truth: we were going the entire 12 hours on the mini-van. We were all angry, feeling ripped off, and extremely uncomfortable and it was worse knowing we still had most of the trip to go. The rest of the way went as smoothly as it could (stopping for toilets every hour). We waited at one stop for nearly an hour though and I'm pretty sure we were speeding the entire way. We got very close to oncoming traffic whilst overtaking every few minutes. At the next stop the toilets were even more disgusting and brown liquid was flooding out so another girl and I decided to just go in a bush behind the toilets.
With 5 minutes left of the trip the driver suddenly cranked some dance music and turned on flashing lights in the van - I'd say that was the best and strangest part of the day - disco bus! We then arrived in Nha Trang at the opposite side of the city than we were supposed. So we had to get a taxi. It was a fairly expensive taxi but we were incredibly happy to be off the van. We arrived at Sakura Hotel and the staff were absolutely fantastic and the location seemed good. Phew!