25.07.2008 - 31.07.2008 35 °C
We waited for an hour in Hanoi to be picked up for our first sleeper bus experience. At last the mini bus pulled up packed to the brim with people although i had an executive seat up front between the driver and the guide... It was cosy Poor Rob was stuck in the back under all the bags with his head perched in some blokes armpit.. I guess that must have been pretty cosy too! The benefit of this was that we were first off the minibus and the first on to the sleeper bus and therefore we managed to get seats together. You can imagine how delighted i was to be stuck next to Rob for a solid 12 hours. Needless to say i popped a sleeping tablet not long after we set off.
I found our first sleeper bus to be more comfortable than i expected but poor Rob, well how do i say it?? Well he just didn't fit in ( to the sleeper bed that is). I slept like a baby the whole way and it wasn't long before it was dawn.
Sunrise over Vietnam countryside
A poor & slightly odd French couple had to sleep on the floor for the entire journey as the bus company had over booked. I really don't know how they did it! We arrived in a place called Hue at approx 8am and had a 6 hour wait until our connecting bus. We were happy about the unexpected wait as we had a lovely breakfast and a good chat with an English couple (Andrew & Emma) who we met on the bus the night before.
We arrived in Hoi an at around 5 or 6 in the evening 24 hours after leaving Hanoi. We found accommodation in the same place as the English couple as it happened & ended up going out for a lovely Italian ha ha! It was Bellisimo!!
We loved Hoi An from the offset, walking through the old streets the night we arrived with a huge thunder storm flashing in the distance the whole time was a sweet 1st impression. We really explored it the next day in the blazing heat....thats pretty much all we did the time we were here was walk and shop and eat! Its one of those towns that makes an immediate impression on you. The streets are all lined with either tailors (about 500 of them), cobblers (about 200 of them), souvenir shops (just shitloads of em!) and art galleries too. Obviously there's a fair few bars dotted around as well that help with the heat and the resulting thirst!
Hoi An street
The first day walking around we strolled through the local market just by the river in the soaring heat. Its the type of heat where ya just taste salt all day long! Horrible i know. I couldnt even take my own shirts off at the end of each day, it took intense games of tug of war between lorraine and my shirt every evening to free me! Well back in the market anyway the smells, and colours, and eh, smells were pretty intense as well, even with my own renowned lack of smell i was overwhelmed by it at times! The market here by the edge of the river was were we were first introduced to the other side of Hoi An that we'd somehow missed in the walk there, the Vietnamese salesmen and women! Their tactic is a good and intriguing one, if they shout at you loud enough you just might buy something!
Market in Hoi An
Shopping in Hoi An was an experience in itself. The competition between the different shops is fierce. You see the problem is that everyone sells similar stuff! It wasn't long before we became accustomed to the heckling from the owners - 'HEY YOU!! YOU BUY!!' Although it made for some hilarious & at times heated bartering sessions. I think the Vietnamese are more agressive in their manner than anywhere else we have visited to date. On one occasion myself & Rob were trying to buy a simple pair of rubber flip flops... Suddenly the owner of the shop & her daughter stampeded onto the street screaming with utter enthusiasm & pushed us into little plastic seats on the edge of the road. We actually had to tell them to relax because they were scaring the living daylights out of us!
That was a funny experience where Lorraines bartering skills really came to the fore! Ya see, i cant bargain, i just cant! Im too lazy and, well lazy to push it cheaper so when they were selling me flip flops 2 sizes too small for 5 times what they were worth i just went with it. Lorraine stepped in and saved me here - "Are ya kidding- they dont even fit him!!" BAM! Sold! Saved.
With the beauty of Hoi An, and it really is gorgeous, there's not much else to do once you've seen the sites but buy stuff....and the sites are the shops to an extent!
Hoi An by the river at night
We wanted to pick up some artwork so went browsing the galleries one day. We saw a couple of really nice pieces (sounds like i know what im talking about!) in this one place and had agreed a price of around $60 for the two. Thing is we didnt have the money on us so when we told the artist we were goin to the bank machine he was pissed?!?
"Brilliant well we'll just go to the atm and get your money..."
"You making a joke out of me? You think you funny?"
"you think you funny? pay deposit then you can go."
"whoa! we're goin to get you money. calm down we'll be back in a minute."
"NO! You pay money now!"
"We dont have any money...We're goin to get it....to give to you...money can be exchanged for good and services...thats how it works!"
He just got real angry so we told him where to go and just left. The people here are really really lovely, they are, even with the shouting ad stuff, its just you can sense the pressure they're all under to sell stuff. In one shop just a minute later one of the girls started crying when we left her shop without buying anything. We felt terrible...that was a bad afternoon!
The Japanese bridge in Hoi An
Hoi An is renowned for its tailor shops and there is literaly one of them on every corner. We both decided it might be nice to have something made. I picked out a little dress on the internet and brought the design to the tailor. They took my measurements in 2 mins and i picked up the finished article about 6 hrs later....now thats what i call efficient!
That and the dress looks hot too! The tailor shop just handed me rakes of Next catalogues and said they'd make any of the suits for me.....i just figured i'd go home and buy them in Next so didnt bother getting anything done!
Cyclos in Hoi An
On our last night in Hoi An before the dreaded bus trip to Saigon the next day we strolled down to the river to find a top notch spot for dinner (its our new custom that on our last night in a spot we live it up somewhere fancy!) and we somehow caught some sort of local festival/talent concert/school play with loads of kids on a stage singing songs and dancing to a packed crowd. They were crap but the atmosphere was great!!
"its true!" says Lorraine beside me!
Ohhhh fancypants dinner!
It was a great way to end our time in Hoi An which we really really loved. The place is amazing, beautiful and sweaty at the same time! Like great sex! Not that we'd know anything about that of course Mr and Mrs Lynders!
Soooo! Moving on to Saigon and the nightmare of the bus. Ill need a minute here to get myself together.....
I think the worst part about getting sleeper buses is waiting for them to arrive. Its utter madness. Ya see the problem is there are no assigned seats so its kinda like a Ryanair flight (1st come 1st served) except the Vietnamese arent afraid to use their elbows! The plan was Rob would carry both the bags to the hold while i jump on the bus and get 2 beds together. Bear in mind we had a 27 hr journey ahead of us so we wanted to make sure we were next to each other, Turns out our ingenius plan was the same as everybody elses ingenius plan! Rob and the lads stood at the back with bags chatting and having a laugh while the girls fought for position. I was covered in bruises.....i went as far as bribing the bus driver at one stage to try get on first! But so did everybody else! The bastards.
We got a seat no problem, i dunno what Lorraines goin on about?? I had a great laugh with all the lads! So we're crammed into our little cocoons, terrified of crashing with the lunatic driving of the country and just plain pissed off not being able to feel your toes anymore! Its like sleeping in a luge.
We were on this bus for TWENTY SEVEN HOURS. You are in a constant state of semi sleep. Trying to read. Trying to talk. Trying to listen to music. You cant do anything properly. You're hypnotised, in a trance. The suns sets and rises, and sets again....and you're still on the fookin bus! I had no idea what day it was, what time it was....WHO I WAS!!! It was horrible.
Sleeper bus pain!
We finally arrived in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh cit, whatever you want to call it. But the pain wasnt finished yet!
We were both in great form to get off the bus and had our accom booked in advance for once. We hopped in a cab and headed straight there. Except straight there was around the same round-about twice, down a couple of lanes a few times and right back to the bus stop where we'd started. "5 dollars please!". You had to admire the neck on the guy
We collapsed into the lobby of our hotel to check in only to be told that our room was gone cos we were late. Enter freak out! My eyes welled up and i grabbed my face. After 2 days on a bus and arriving in a huge city with no accommodation nearly tipped me over the edge. We ended up finding a nice place 5 mins away, bought ourselves a big KFC (after crossing the highway of death!) and watched a film. It was only for a few hours anyway as we were flying to Bangkok the next morning to meet Ste and Gemma....Yippee
Highway of death!