After a 24 hour bus ride from Hanoi I finally arrived in the middle of Vietnam to a small city called Hoi An.
As I was dropped off by a taxi in An Bang Village at 6pm it was completely dark, minimal street lights and there was only a few locals around none of who spoke English – I don’t like arriving at places at night, something always goes wrong and I anxiously panic. After heading down the wrong unlit bushy allyway looking like a crazy person, giant backpack with my trusty headtorch attached determined to find my hostel, eventually the local people directed me where to go and didn’t try to sell me anything in the process.
My home in Hoi An was Under the Coconut Tree – a homestay/hostel in An Bang Village that was only a short walk from the local beach. The accommodation was beautiful – small beach huts made from bamboo surrounded by banana and coconut trees. I stayed in a 21 room dorm with no door, beds outside with just mosquito nets, showers outside – I knew straight away I would be very happy here!
I thank my lucky stars that two familiar dragons were still in Hoi An that evening by a fluke (Rob getting food poisoning – well timed Rob). James arrived at my accommodation on his motorbike to take me into town. I have never been on the back of one of these before, mopeds yes, never a motorbike. I pretty much screamed the whole 10 minute journey… but I trust this guy completely and loved it! Thanks for not killing me James.
We eventually found Rob and some 3000 dong home brewed beers (cheapest so far – 8p!) then I was treated to an Indian dinner, cakes and card by these fab boys.
Rob and James are having the time of their lives at the moment. Like others they’ve embraced Vietnam the best way and purchased two motorbikes in Hanoi and their working their way down Vietnam and the stories and adventures they’ve shared along the way just made my little tours feel insignificant because I truely admire their bravery to just sieze the day, hit the road and see what happens. They may have lost a wallet, damaged a guitar and fallen off a couple of times but they’ve got back on, dusted themselves off and the smiles on their faces when they anticipated the next ride were contagious. I really need to do more adventurous things and I’m really eager to tick off a few items on the travel bucket list! We will see. I’m noticing a few safe patterns in myself that I need to break out of.
So on the first morning in Hoi An, the 18th November I woke up in paradise, a bed covered in a thin white mosquito net under a bamboo hut listening to the sound of the sea. Bliss. I had coffee and banana pancakes for breakfast and was looking forward to a relaxing day at the beach with nothing but my thoughts, a bit of blogging and a book. Sounds good right? I had thought so, I had anticipated and planned this day for a long time but today I genuinely just wanted to get back into bed and roll up into a ball. It was my birthday and I actually didn’t want to be by myself, I didn’t want to talk to new people in my hostel, I just wanted my friends and family with me and no beach in the world that can replace that to be honest. But I just planned to keep trooping on and see how the day pans out. I could be in worse places so I needed to quit my whining and start making an effort.
As I sat on the beach for a mere hour, the skies opened and it began to rain…a lot! So I went back to my hostel and sat and read for a bit – it was clear that everyone around was checking out today so I just kept myself to myself. As I sat there, the Bob Marley background music suddenly cut and Happy birthday music began to play out (please be for someone else, pleeeease be for someone else) and the staff brought out this…
I hadn’t told anyone, so my passport on check in must have given it away! But how incredibly sweet, but so cringe for the sad girl sat alone…awkwaaard!!
That afternoon I met Niels, not Neil, Niels (Yay new friend!). He’s dutch and travelling for 4 months around South East Asia. I found him in our dorm trying to communicate with the cleaning staff but using Google translate on his mac. Unfortunately I’m not sure they can read so he was struggling. As Neils and I began talking, a cleaning lady leaned out of our bamboo dorm room to pick me a couple bananas from the tree then they proceeded to make Niels and I eat some weird gooey sweet spicy snack and we all sat on the floor in the room with them eating. As they’d shared their food with me it made sense that I shared the only food I had – birthday cake from James. It was a really nice experience as these ladies were so nice but did not speak any English but we still conversed like we understood each other.
Niels and I then went for a walk on the beach and started to play a game where we search for random stuff on the beach. Apart from finding a dead little piglet (sad times!!) there were some bizarre things – about 100 odd shoes, bottles and in tact light bulbs.
That evening we met 4 gorgeous Aussie girls who had just checked in and were playing a random board game they had made up the rules for. I could tell I was going to love these girls from the start, they were so full of energy and their sense of humour just matched mine. Niels and I headed off into town on Charliiiie (his newly named Bike) with some other people in the hostel – 10 minutes later we got “lost” and we headed back to the hostel and found the girls for dinner. It turned out to be an even better birthday then I could have ever planned! I’d known these people for a couple of hours and they truly took me under their wing and showed me a class night and a birthday I’ll never forget.
Now there are a few things I would recommend to do whilst in Hoi An based on what I did:
1: Wherever you stay in Hoi An, go to the local An Bang beach – No one bothers you and even in the bad weather it’s truly a breathtaking site.
2: Eat at Chip Chip and fall in love with Mr Chin and his kind family who run it and give you free desert and spring rolls.
3: Rent a bicycle and scooter to town or explore (believe it or not I actually rented a scooter for a whole two days without injury).
4: Get yourself some tailor made clothes…and haggle!!!!
I might have overdone the tailor made clothes, but in my defence I’m planning ahead – two cocktail dresses (for the weddings of 2015/16), denim shorts and a matching top and short set. What I loved about this experience was that I sketched out every item I wanted so it was like I was a designer for a few days and these were my little creations. The worry was were they going to come back the following day as planned.
I was very happy with everything I had made, a few alterations on the fit but all in all some really lovely outfits. Everything except for the denim shorts were shipped home via sea mail – I hope they make it back to the UK!!!!
The rest of the days are a bit of a blur… Marble Mountains, bonfire, too many trips to the tailors (but resulting in a free dress), shopping, getting soaked in the rain… all amazing memories that went way too quickly. People really are making this experience for me and I had a blast meeting some new life long friends.