After somewhat of a dull week, we kept fairly busy over the weekend. On Saturday, we set out for the village of Hoi An, which is just south of Da Nang and a very popular tourist town. We decided to take a city bus to get there as a taxi both ways is pretty expensive (~ $25 each way). It took us a while to find the bus schedule, but with the help of Google maps, we eventually we found the route and hopped on. After you board, a man comes around to collect the fare. We were prepared with our 72,000 dong (18,000 per person or $3.21 for all four of us), but when he got to us, he wanted 120,000 dong (30,000 per person or $5.35 for all four of us). Not being able to speak one another’s languages, arguing about the fare was pointless. We had read articles online about the inflated fee for foreigners that suggested pointing at the fare on the exterior of the bus door and insist on paying the actual fare. But, as the bus was already in motion, again, there wasn’t much we could do. We ended up paying the 120,000 and made the trip feeling a bit taken advantage of.
We arrived in Hoi An in the early afternoon and spent the day walking around town. We visited a Japanese covered bridge, some traditional Vietnamese workshops, and some small art museums. RJ and Ty sampled some sugar-coated donuts and I tried a mango cake. Our goal was to be Hoi An after sunset as we had heard from many people that evening was the best time to visit. Every building in the old quarter is surrounded by lanterns and in the evening they are all lit. Vendors will also sell you a floating lantern to launch in the river for $1. The streets and river become awash in color and create a beautiful riverside walk.
We had nice day overall in Hoi An, but it did make me appreciate Da Nang a bit more. Walking around in Da Nang, you have the freedom to walk slowly by cafes and markets at your leisure. In Hoi An, we had a return to the pressure of buying something at every stall and eating at every cafe. I think some of the cafes in Hoi An have even caught on to lingo that might entice tourists; we heard “all local food” and “all organic” at many of the cafes we walked by.
On Sunday, we were invited to the clinic director’s home for dinner. We had a fabulous five-course meal. It seemed odd to take pictures at a family dinner, so no pics, but the food was amazing! We had squid with mint leaves and star fruit, clams in a lemongrass and beer, beef and tomato on cabbage, beef and lettuce wraps with wasabi and soy sauce, and pork and shrimp pancakes and probably something else that I am forgetting. This was followed by ice cream and karaoke. Minh, the clinic director, has two children, 11 and 14, who were a lot of fun. Jennifer, 14, spoke just about perfect English and sang her heart out. She was surprised when we told her that we don’t have a lot of karaoke in the U.S. She asked, “Where do you go to sing?” and was shocked when we said we really didn’t sing in public or among friends all that often. (I purposely neglected to mention Ray and Rob’s duet of Total Eclipse of the Heart.)
Monday night we had our first real sickness. RJ ended up with some kind of tummy bug and a bit of a fever. Thankfully, it passed quickly and by Wednesday he was mostly recovered, although still a bit tired. Since RJ was recovering on Tuesday, he and I missed out on a clinic field trip. Ray and Ty, along with most of the clinic staff, made stops at two orphanages and the Vietnamese Treasury followed by a large group dinner. They had a good time and got to see a whole different side of Vietnam.
We made another stop at the English cafe and the boys got to hold some lizards owned by one of the employees.
We changed hotels again this week and moved back to the beach so most of our evenings have been spent in the water. When I don’t venture into the water, I usually wind up with a visitor who wants to practice speaking English. Interesting way to meet new people!
We are headed into our last week in Da Nang. On October 31, we are heading to Nha Trang, Vietnam, followed by Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh City. I would guess mid-November before we’ll be off to Cambodia.
Tour boats in Hoi An.
Street art in Hoi An.
Ray and I at a lantern shop.
Ty and “Burt” the lizard.