21 October – Can Tho – Hoi An
The alarm does its requested job at 6.30am, and we get ourselves organised doing the final pack up thing.
As well as try and prepare for those goodbyes that I hate so much.
We head out for a breakfast of banh mi with cheese spread, some fruit, and of course a caphe sua da.
But I’m not really concentrating on the food; it’s all about taking in the last hour of being at Green Village.
As well as spending time with some pretty special people. People that I really do consider good friends.
Breakfast done, the time has arrived to do it. And as I knew it would be, it is tough.
Thy’s husband, Hiep, who we hadn’t spoken to much, is also there. The last time we were here we’d only seen him briefly because of his job, and this time we’d only seen him for a few minutes when we first arrived.
I shake his hand, and as I do, he says, in a rather softly spoken way, “I remember you and your family from last time”.
It wasn’t really what he said, but more the way that he actually said it. I certainly wasn’t expecting that, and I found it incredibly touching.
Geez, and if it wasn’t already difficult enough to leave…..
It really did mean a lot to me, and I’m not sure he’ll appreciate just how much.
We continue with the goodbyes, including the animals; and yes, the cats as well; and then Thy suggests we take some photos.
Of course! I wanted, and planned, to do that, but I was so caught up in the moment that it completely slipped my mind.
We quickly rectified that little oversight.
The taxi Thy ordered finally arrives, a few minutes late, which was both good and bad, and he’s actually driven all the way down the path beside the canal, and then into Green Village itself.
He’s done well, when you consider how narrow that path is.
The inevitable can’t be put off any longer and we get in the car.
I think the only thing that made that slightly bearable was the fact that, as far as I’m concerned, we will be back at some stage.
That being the case, we bid everyone ‘see you later’.
We head into Can Tho, and then back out towards the airport. Forty minutes after leaving Green Village, and 170 000 Dong, we pull up outside Can Tho international airport. Yep, international airport.
While it’s not terribly big, which isn’t a surprise, it does look pretty new and modern.
Check in takes a bit longer than it should, and then security uses up more time than you’d think it would.
The world we live in, I suppose….
Finally into the departure lounge and I can see signs for Gates 5, 6, 7 and 8. Which is good, because we need Gate 7. I’m just not sure what happened to Gates 1, 2, 3 and 4….
We find a seat and begin the waiting thing. Fortunately we’re not here too early, and in hindsight, it was probably a good thing that check in and security took a while, because there is very little to do and see at Can Tho airport.
The call finally comes for people to start boarding, and initially, it’s for people sitting in rows 16 – 39.
Being in row 34, that means us, but sure enough, pretty much everyone gets up.
Seems it might be a little crowded up the non-pointy end…..
Eventually everyone gets themselves sorted; still took far longer than it should; (and yes, I probably need to let that go of that at some point, but I’m not quite ready for that at the moment) and we actually take off a few minutes early.
Not lucky enough to have a window seat, I still manage to see a fair bit of Can Tho over the guy’s shoulder who is sitting next to me.
So many rivers, so much water, which is probably not that surprising considering what part of Vietnam I’m looking down on.
Still, it was all very interesting. Until he pulled his blind down.
Aaaargh, there should be a law against that…..
View lost, I turn my attention to the goings on in the plane itself.
A guy over the other side of the aisle, with his young daughter, asks a flight attendant for a sick bag.
“Oh great, here we go….”, I think to myself, as the prospect of the smell of vomit seems a certainty, as opposed to a possibility.
A sick bag is procured in record time; as I would think would always be the case when one is asked for; and the guy then proceeds to fill it with rubbish.
Phew, and lesson learned that you should never make assumptions…..
Lisa then puts her fold out tray down. It’s a little floppy, and while it’s still usable, it doesn’t sit as well as it perhaps should.
Well, this is a little like missing a meal; it’s a rather big issue, apparently.
She looks at me in a kind of, ‘can you do something about my tray?’ type of look.
My response is along the lines of, ‘what do you expect me to do?’.
Seeing as if I did happen to have had a screwdriver in my pocket earlier, do you think I would still have it after we went through security at the airport?
Apparently my response was not what she was after, and she is now annoyed with me.
Which just adds to the overall annoyance level in this part of the plane.
I’m annoyed at the guy with his blind down, Lisa is annoyed at me with my lack of an appropriate response to her tray issue, and I’m now annoyed at Lisa due to the realisation that she is getting more and more like her mother every day.
Could possibly be in trouble with that one….
Needless to say, the rest of the flight was fairly quiet. Which was good, because it gave me another opportunity to see how Vietjet go about things.
Seriously, apart from the apparent tray problem, I couldn’t fault them on both the flights I had. The plane was new and clean, the staff were friendly and efficient, and there was more than enough room between the seats. And, contrary to what is often mentioned, both flights left on time.
Yep, would have no hesitations in using them again.
And it then got even better. We were back on the ground at 11.05am, taxied to the gate, alighted the aircraft (sorry, just showing off now), retrieved our checked bag, walked out towards the airport entrance, immediately found our driver, walked to the car and got in.
And the time when we were actually sitting in the car?
Well, I thought so.
We headed off through Danang and eventually turned onto the road that runs beside the beach. There were two main things that I remembered about this area from last time; the beach itself, and the resorts that were either being built, or were already there.
It was the resorts, or more accurately, the sheer number of them, that blew me away last time.
Well, it happened again this time.
Resort, after resort, after resort, after resort under construction, after vacant land that will soon have a resort on it, after resort ad nauseum.
All the big multinational chains as well, including three Vinpearls.
Yep, amazing, incredible, unbelievable. But just not in a good way, in my opinion.
But what do I know, apparently it’s what the tourist wants….
We eventually start coming into Hoi An, and while it all looks reasonably familiar, I’m not completely sure where we are. I see a road that I think I recognise, and while our driver doesn’t have a lot of English, we have had a couple of brief conversations with him.
I ask him if this particular road is the one that takes you to Cua Dai beach. He seemed to know what I’m saying, and a few minutes later we pull up at Cua Dai beach.
Okay….., that wasn’t what I was trying to say, and while this would have been good if we were actually staying at the beach, we weren’t.
I tried to apologise for confusing him; he’s probably still scratching his head over why I wanted to see the beach for five seconds; and we made our way back towards town.
At least now I had my bearings.
We eventually pull up outside our home for the next five nights; the Ruby River Villa (now the Ruby Hotel); and head in to look after the formalities.
A glass of tea while we do that, and straight away we are made to feel very welcome. My initial thought is that I think I’m going to be very happy here.
We make our way upstairs to do the unpacking thing, before then heading out to walk into the Ancient Town.
We find the Lantern hotel, which is where we stayed last time, and it all starts coming back. We then kind of find, sort of knew roughly where it was, Phuong Banh Mi, which is a rather well known banh mi place.
And judging by the people hanging around it, as well as inside ordering, it’s pretty popular.
Yep, lots of tourists. But not all behaving, or dressed, in a way that I would consider appropriate for a place like Hoi An. Or most of Vietnam, for that matter. Bali?, perhaps, but not here.
But that’s probably me just getting old….
Seeing as it’s lunchtime, and seeing as I have the job of keeping a certain person happy, I head in to order a couple of banh mi’s.
They have a heap of people working there, which is not really surprising considering the number that are ordering, and it all runs reasonably smoothly.
Well, as smoothly as it can when tourists are trying to order things they invariably know very little about.
Yes, I understand it can be a little daunting at times, but seriously, I did feel a little for the workers.
Transaction complete, we continue our walk towards the main part of town.
And the banh mi?
Oh yeah, good! Well worth the wait.
On we go, and while I’d heard reports of Hoi An being overrun with far more tourists than what we’d seen three years ago, I wasn’t really prepared for what we were about to see.
Yep, it had certainly changed.
Big tour groups, of mainly Chinese, congregated around all the tourist attractions.
Each one trying to take a photo, but not being terribly successful, seeing as they were all getting in each other’s way.
It was kind of interesting, a little intriguing, but also quite funny.
Over the bridge to An Hoi island, and seeing as it’s been quite some time since this morning’s caphe sua da, that’s the objective.
And right there, in amongst a pretty touristy spot, is a café full of locals.
Establishment found, we take a seat and begin the sipping, savouring, people watching thing.
Continuous lines of tourists, essentially being led by the nose, dragged from one attraction to the next.
And when they weren’t doing that, they were attempting to buy food from street vendors.
Yes, attempting. Wouldn’t have thought it was that difficult, but they managed to make it that way.
A small sweet snack was the desire of at least one of them, but yeah, it didn’t really go to plan.
Why? And why was it all too difficult?
Trying to pay with US dollars, is why.
Customer asks price. Vendor obliges, but then has to try and explain how much change, in Dong, customer will receive.
Customer is trying to do the maths in her head, but can’t quite work it out.
Vendor tries to simplify it.
Customer is still confused and begins to get frustrated with vendor. Customer’s touring colleagues are now also scratching their heads in confusion.
Vendor tries again; customer still doesn’t get it. Both customer and vendor are now frustrated.
Customer leaves without purchasing.
Vendor is left shaking their head.
Geez it was funny.
But still more proof of why you should never pay for anything in Vietnam in anything other than Dong.
Yep, strange hey, seeing as Dong is Vietnam’s official currency and all….
Caphe sua da done, we begin our walk back by doing a half lap of An Hoi island, before heading back over the bridge.
One thing that hasn’t changed in three years, is the town’s charm. It still has heaps of character, and it’s still just as pretty as 2014. It also still has it’s ‘in your face’ street vendors, but it’s fairly easy to deal with them.
So yes, while it has become a bit ‘Disneyland-ish’, I still like the place.
My problem though is, I’m just not sure how long it will be before the whole thing starts to get on my nerves.
And while we’ve only been here a couple of hours, I know it’s definitely a case of ‘when’ that will happen, rather than ‘if’ it will.
We pick up a few beers from a small local place on the way back, and then bump into Phuc, the owner, when we get back to Ruby Hotel.
We’d ‘spoken’ several times by email, leading up to the trip, and he’d been very quick responding to any of our queries. He’d come across as very friendly, and now meeting him in person, he was exactly how he’d seemed.
We had a bit of a chat, and then headed upstairs to cool down a bit.
That done, it was time to do the beer thing.
Leaving Lisa behind; not that she wanted to come anyway; I headed back out. But this time I walked around the block behind the hotel in the hope of finding something more local.
Walking along the fairly main, but not really that main, road just around the corner from the hotel, I started to become aware of buses going past.
I’d heard about them; it wasn’t something that we’d seen on our last visit; but this was the first time I’d seen them.
And hmmm, there were a few going past.
Turned off that road and kept walking. And walking.
Damn it, no local beer place!
Eventually the road took me back to the road that heads into town, and whaddya know, there’s the Lantern hotel.
Good, I know where I am.
Not wanting to go back into town, I start walking back in the general direction of the hotel.
Past a pig that had been unloaded from a truck and was in the process of being weighed on a rather large set of scales on the footpath. He wasn’t very happy about the whole thing, and he was certainly letting his handlers know.
Pretty big he was, too; 120 kilograms, according to the scales.
Perhaps he was just annoyed at being weighed in public….
Anyway, I thought he may be about to have a fairly bad night, but instead, they bundled him back in the truck.
And then, a bit further up the road, I see it. A very local beer place, not surprisingly, full of locals.
I cross the road and go to sit down on one of the small plastic chairs next to the footpath. While I do that, I receive a few ‘looks’ from the locals who are a bit surprised that I’ve chosen this particular establishment.
That’s good, because it means it’s the right place.
But before I can take a seat, a local sitting up near the back motions to me to sit with him.
No problem with that, so I do.
While he doesn’t have a lot of English, he has enough that we can have a bit of a conversation.
So, despite taking the long route to get here, I was now once again back doing my favourite thing; hanging with the locals, enjoying a beer, and watching the world go by.
And it is a strange little world that was in front of us.
A constant stream of tourists, walking or biking past, heading off to beer and food places that are just like the ones that they visit at home.
I don’t understand it, but each to their own, I suppose.
We actually talk about the whole tour group / tour bus thing, and he thinks it’s funny how they rush from place to place, spending an hour here, an hour there, having lunch at a predetermined place, and just generally having absolutely no control over what they do. Not to mention pay a premium to do so.
I then tell him about the Chinese tourists with their US dollars, saying that I had this urge to grab them and shake them, while screaming, ‘Dong!, Dong!’.
He laughs, and then repeats the story to his mates at the next table over. They all laugh, too.
I love it.
I don’t know them. I don’t even know their names. It’s not important
I can’t even communicate properly with most of them. But that also doesn’t matter; you don’t always have to talk to communicate.
But despite all of that, I have a connection with them. And that is what I love.
Beers done, I go to leave. But my mate wants me to stay for one more.
“I can’t, I have to go”, I say, with the thought, ‘happy wife, happy life…’, floating around in the back of my mind.
“See you again?”, he asks.
“I hope so”, I say. And I really do.
I give him a cam on, and head off, more than just a little happy with the world.
Back at the hotel I run in to Phuc again and take the opportunity to ask for a recommendation on some nearby local restaurants. He suggests the road that runs behind the hotel, which is the one that I walked down earlier.
Upstairs for a quick shower, and then we’re back out in the darkened streets. And sure enough, there are a few restaurants. Several seafood ones, which of course means we keep walking; that ‘happy wife, happy life’ thing….; before we see two lone western couples in a non-seafood one.
“Yeah, nah”, I say, before spotting one that is full of locals.
Before Lisa knows it, we’re inside looking at the menu.
It’s a bit hard to work out what’s what; which is all part of the fun; and we end up ordering what turns out to be a pork, vegetables and noodle dish, as well as some kind of chicken dish, which I wasn’t convinced was actually chicken. Didn’t matter.
Somehow, and I’m really not sure how this happened, we also managed to order some sort of tofu dish. Hmmm…..
We managed to get through most of the pork and ‘chicken’; they were huge servings; and then we realised that the tofu dish was yet to arrive.
Not particularly craving tofu, (not convinced it’s possible to do, anyway) as well as being rather full already, we tried to ask our waitress if we could cancel that meal.
She returned a minute later and said we could. “Cam on!”, said in a very relieved way.
So, two big meals, some rice cake things, some peanuts, as well as four beers; 245 000 Dong. Yep, pretty happy with that!
We begin the walk back to the hotel, and on the way, we go past a small local convenience store. Seeing as they sell beer, I give them the opportunity to do so.
Four x 450ml bottles of beer, plus a coke, grand total 72 000 Dong. Add a couple of extra cans of beer; total now 102 000 Dong.
Yep, I think I’ve found my local takeaway shop.
Back to the room for the usual, and while we haven’t really done much, it’s been a pretty long day.
But then again, it usually is anytime you catch a flight somewhere. Yes, you might only be in the air for an hour and a half, but it’s not really a 90 minute flight, is it?
Still, I have enough energy for a couple of beers before the sleep thing, and surprisingly, that actually gives me a ‘wow’ moment.
The Larue beer cans I just bought have ‘ring pull’ openers.
As in the whole thing comes off, as opposed to the thing just being pushed into the can.
I haven’t seen a ring pull can for….., well…., I couldn’t tell you.
Yep, I’m obviously getting old.
And yep, small things amuse small….., well, you know…..