Vietnam 2014 – Trip Report #4

These reports are from our very first trip to Vietnam in September 2014, so therefore prior to the previous trip reports!

Originally posted on TripAdvisor, this is Trip Report #4…

25-30 September 2014

So, time to leave Nha Trang and the Carpe DM hotel.

The hotel?

Good hotel. Spacious rooms and very clean and tidy. Location was also good with no noise from the street. Although, there is a bit of noise from behind the hotel in the morning. It backs onto, I believe, some sort of army / airforce base, which during the day is no problem at all. No noise apart from occasional games of soccer / football being played by groups of young men. Like I said, no problem at all.

But, in the morning, some kind of music is played over the loud speakers. A short blast at 5.00am followed by a much, much longer rendition at 6.00am. It’s not terribly appealing music either. With the windows shut it’s barely noticeable but if they’re their open, well….you’re going to be up in a hurry to close them.

I can’t really say that I’d stay here again, only because I wouldn’t visit Nha Trang again, so I’ll just say that I would recommend it. So….., helpful staff, good location, good size rooms. And very affordable. Recommended.

Anyway, our pre-arranged private transfer back to the airport arrived and we were off for our flight to Danang.

As it turned out, it was the same driver that had delivered us to the hotel a few days earlier.

Seemed like a nice enough guy but this particular morning he was either in a hurry or he’d had a really bad start to his day.

Umm, the best word to describe his driving? Downright dangerous!

On the plus side, we made good time. The down side, I had to change my pants when we got there.

Really was appalling and the hotel was notified of our concerns.

After another uneventful flight with Vietnam Airlines, we arrived in Danang. Promptly met by our driver, we began the drive to Hoi An to spend the next 5 nights.

I was interested to see what Danang was like. I’d read before we left that Danang is “just” another city. Now it’s unfair to have too much of an opinion on a place you are merely driving through, but it does seem to be just that, another big city. Apart from a pretty big impressive bridge, there wasn’t much else going on. Even on the outskirts on the main road to Hoi An there wasn’t much to see. I knew the beach was to my left, and pretty close, but you can’t see it. There seemed to be kilometres of fencing clad with building companies and resort names on it. The type of fence they put up when they’re building, or about to begin building.
I get the feeling there will be a lot more resorts here in a few years’ time.

We arrived in Hoi An late morning and checked into our hotel – The Hoi An Lantern Hotel.

First impression as we pulled up?

Wow! What a great looking place. Heaps of character.

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Such character!

Inside we were given cool drinks and made to feel extremely welcome.

Taken to our rooms; kids again had their own – woohoo!; and our first impressions were still on the money.

Not big rooms, but big enough. Very happy with our choice.

Time for lunch so we headed into town for something to eat. And a bit of a look.

The place seemed very quiet; not a lot of people around. It wasn’t until later that we found out why. Hoi An virtually goes to sleep at lunchtime.

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The streets look completely different during the day, compared to at night…!

Understandable when you see what time they start, what time they finish and how hard they work.

So, our first day was spent walking around exploring.
This was done both with the kids (if there was something in it for them, like food or an ice cream) and without the kids.
Still frustrated and annoyed by this at this stage but getting to the point where it really wasn’t worth the fight.

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A random guy in the street offered to take our photo.  While smiling, I was also ready to start running if he took off with our camera…
HA ferry
Little local ferry.

Met the lady at the “shop” a couple of doors down who sells beer, soft drink, chips etc. She tried to charge me more for cans of Coke after she had told me the price. I questioned her and she quickly apologised.

I smiled, she smiled (sheepishly) and all was good.

Now this is one of those little things that you remember. Those little things that end up being special moments.

I could have decided then that I wouldn’t return to her because she had tried to rip me off.
Instead, I went back again later to make another purchase. She remembered me.
She added up my purchases and it came to something like 97 000 dong.  I gave her 100 000 and she went to give me change. I told her to keep it. She seemed surprised but very appreciative.

I continued to return to her at least twice a day and there were times when she gave me a token discount.

We developed a relationship over the time we were there and she got to know our family and we got to know hers. Whenever we walked past she would wave and say hello.

Like I said, it was just one of those little things but it is something I will remember.

Our first full day (which happened to be a Saturday – AFL Grand Final day as well) we did much the same as the day before. Spent a fair bit of time walking around the Ancient Town; which incidentally took us a while to actually figure out where it started; where Lisa got sucked into having a dress made. She also had her first experience at bartering for things.

Let me just say……she’s not very good at it.

Had lunch at the hotel (to appease the kids) which was nice but not something I really enjoy doing. Much prefer to be out and about.

Saw a few minutes of the Grand Final and then had a swim in the pool.

pool at HA Lantern
A lazy afternoon.

So, around 24 hours into our Hoi An stay, I have to say I was a little disappointed.
We had heard so much about the place – all positive – and had spoken to people who, when they visited Vietnam, only ever stayed in Hoi An exclusively.

Maybe I was expecting too much. At this point, I didn’t really get it.

And the street hawkers and shop owners were starting to get to me a little.

That night we ventured back into town. As we entered, it seemed different.

There were more people around and the place was lit up.

It was more vibrant.

We found the bridge that takes you across to the island so we headed over there.

We found the night market which is set up down the middle of the road.

The people. The activity. The lights. Yep, the lights!

Wow!

It was like we’d come to another place.

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Perhaps what Hoi An is best known for.
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Happy kids and Lisa.

Spent some time walking around the market and it was here that I found out, that while Lisa struggles with the bartering thing, I’m actually not too bad. It was more by accident than anything.

I picked up a little Buddha for a closer look and the stall owner pounced.

Offered me a price.
I put it down and said I was just looking. (Bare in mind that up until this point we hadn’t really bought anything. We were still only a week in and we didn’t want to be lugging stuff around for another 3 weeks)
He came back with a lower price.
I said no, I was just looking and wasn’t interested.
He came back with yet another price as I was walking away.
Thank you, but no thanks…..again.
As I kept walking he came back with yet another price.
This one made me stop. Too good to refuse so I bought it…..even though I really didn’t want to.

I enjoyed it. It was fun.

Lisa and the girl were in their element too. So many things to look at. So much to buy.

Unfortunately the girl follows in her Mum’s footsteps when it comes to bartering.

After my Buddha experience, I was promptly made Chief Barterer person.

I had read that it’s best to do it with a smile. Be light hearted about it and have some fun with the whole thing.

It’s true. I had many laughs along the way.

Had some dinner near the market and just spent more time wondering around people watching. It was a great night.

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The Japanese covered bridge, lit up at night.

When we got back to the hotel I said to Lisa that I now ‘got’ Hoi An. I now knew why people raved about it.

Yes, it’s very touristy, but it has character. And class.

The other thing that I think it has, and is probably the reason some people spend time only in Hoi An, is that it’s easy.
Plenty of tourists to interact with, plenty of English speaking locals and none of the intimidating traffic that HCMC and Hanoi has.

It is an easy option. But there is something about the place.

The next day we visited My Son.
Did the bus – My Son tour – boat back to Hoi An thing.
Very interesting place and I think it helped that we had a guide that was extremely passionate about it.

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My Son
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While it’s been cleared, you can see how easily My Son could be swallowed up by the jungle.
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Boat ride back from My Son.

Arrived back at the hotel mid afternoon and relaxed in the pool for a bit before going back into town for dinner.

Next morning I was up early and back in town just after 6.30am. I’d been told watching the local traders setting up their market stalls was worth a look.

Worth the early start?

Absolutely!

Amazing sights.

Amazing energy.

Not some contrived touristy thing. Just real life. So interesting.

The fruit, the vegetables, the seafood, the meat. The smells.

People going about their lives.

Fascinating.

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Eating while working.
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Love a Vietnamese market!

Loved every minute of it and felt sorry for Lisa and the kids who were back in bed still sleeping.

Oh well, their loss.

Finally got back to the hotel and it was decided we would spend the day at Cua Dai beach.
Hired bikes from the family next door to the hotel (20 000 dong each) and we set off for a leisurely ride.
Took us 15 – 20 minutes; we weren’t going quick; and as we approached the beach we were directed to a shelter shed on the left side of the road.
You aren’t allowed to take the bikes to the beach itself, you have to leave them here apparently.
We locked the bikes together and paid the storage fee (5000 dong per bike…..I think…)

Headed over to the beach, hired deck chairs, had some lunch and spent several hours there.
Lovely beach with a great view and it was nice to have some down time.

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Cua Dai beach.  Didn’t realise it at the time, but sand erosion was becoming an issue.  Apparently, and unfortunately, it looks vastly different now…
bike ride back to HA
After cooling off at the beach, it was time for the hot ride back.

Later in the afternoon went and organised the train tickets to Hue with a travel agent down the road. It was the same agent that we had used for the My Son tour. The young girl was extremely helpful and nothing was too much trouble.

Although she couldn’t for the life of her understand, firstly, why we wanted to go by train and not bus, and secondly, why I insisted that we have tickets for the hard seat carriage.

I think she thought I had something wrong with me.

I stood my ground (had Dirty Pierre constantly on my mind – couldn’t let him down….) and eventually convinced her that I was quite, well reasonably anyway, sane.

Our last full day in Hoi An was spent, initially, hanging around the market watching one of the stall holders plucking hairs out of various parts of Lisa.

Not for the first time she had been ‘lured’ in. Slow learner……

Oh well, it gave me an opportunity to try what I thought might be impossible – find size 12 thongs (flip flops for the non Aussies apparently….) for the boy. His broke the day before.

Well, took a while, but achieved the ‘impossible’.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and people watching with the now slightly less hairy Lisa.

Our Hoi An adventure had come to an end and the following day it was time to make our way to Hue.

I intended to do Hoi An and Hue together but the Hoi An story has gotten a little out of hand.

It will have to be in instalment 5.

Cheers,

Scott

morning market HA
The colours, the smells, the vibrancy!

 

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