09.01.2009 - 10.01.2009 16 °C
I was relieved to leave behind all the madness in Hanoi, and excited about the real sleeper buses in Vietnam! I had almost bought the ordinary bus pass because it was 15 dollars cheaper (always willing to go for the hardcore option if it saves a few bucks) but I finally came to my senses and decided it would be 15 dollars well spent if I could arrive to a new place well rested and without a stiff neck.
So I was excited about my fancy sleeper bus ticket due to take me all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. In fact I might have used the word 'luxurious'. Well, that certainly was before I laid my eyes on this fabulous form of transport, let alone tried to fit my bit-bigger-than-the-Vietnamese body in the tiny upper bunk bed. Good luck for anyone taller than me trying to travel on these! My biggest problem were all my bags. After somehow getting myself in the upper bunk, I had no choice but cover my body with my bags and the damned shoe box - one of my brilliant ideas was an impromptu purchase of high heels in Hanoi (I couldn't resist the haven of clean and nice Nine West store in the middle of the madness). And it doesn't stop there. If you're in the upper bunk, you have to deal with the air con blowing straight into your face. I, of course, had to choose the one bed that had a broken reading light. Lights off at 7pm and happy travels!
Well of course it really wasn't that bad, the sleeper is obviously better option than the normal bus. It was hilarious, because I boarded the bus expecting to find a little luxury! That I didn't find, but I did meet two Canadian girls Caileigh and Shauna, to share hotel with.
The weather was miserable. We were supposed to have four hours transit in Hue before catching another bus to Hoi An, but luckily that was cancelled. It was pouring down in Hue, so it was a fantastic surprise when another bus materialized at 8am to take us straight to Hoi An. I was only gonna have one night there anyway, so that bought me some extra time.
Hoi An is famous for two things: its many, many tailors and its beautiful old town that is actually a UNESCO world heritage site. Most people go to Hoi An to get some clothes made - the tailors can fix you anything you want, be it clothes or shoes. They have lots of catalogues and magazines, or you can just show up with your own pictures or designs. Caileigh and Shauna were both gonna get quite a few things done, and as I followed them to different tailors I was worried I wouldn't be able to resist the urge to start shopping... However, turned out I'm stronger than I thought I was! The girls thought I was gonna get bored with them, but actually it was great - I got to have the whole tailors experience without spending a penny! I was tempted for a while, after all you are bound to see a few nice things when you're leafing through a copy of Vogue, but in the end I didn't think it was so cheap, and I didn't wanna pay for anything before seeing it. So the temptation quickly passed and I decided to do my shopping in Kuala Lumpur, home to some of the biggest shopping malls in the world. Now that is a temptation I can't guarantee to resist...
Hoi An was very pretty. It has such an atmospheric old town, with almost all the buildings yellow. It was a great relief to be out of Hanoi and have less traffic (less motorbikes!) around. There were not many interesting sights, mainly we just walked aimlessly around. The whole town only seems to have tailors, art shops, restaurants and cafes. At night it was full of beautiful yellow light, just like old European cities with those lovely old-fashioned street lamps.
We stayed in a nice little hotel, and because we were three sharing we only paid 5 dollars each. The prices of accommodation is one bad thing in Vietnam - my guidebook can claim that there are rooms to be had for 5-7 USD, but I don't know when that information was checked because there just isn't anything for less than a tenner. It's all very nice, sure, but I just really don't need to be paying for TV and air conditioning, two things that I never use. Vietnam clearly doesn't have the same kind of array of cheap rooms like Thailand.
Shauna and Caileigh having lunch in Hoi An
Vietnamese fresh spring rolls are so good!
The next day when the girls were going around the tailor shops trying on their dresses and shirts, I walked around some more. I went to the fruit and vegetable market to pick up some snacks for the next sleeper bus and saw the Japanese covered bridge in the old town.
Even if Hoi An was beautiful, one night there was enough for me. That was plenty of time to see the place plus it was cold - I was in a hurry to get to the southern beaches. Oh how I missed the beaches! And the sun!