We had originally planned to stay in Hue for 4 nights but after 2 we realized that was 2 too many. We ended up staying 3 nights and booking a night in Hoi An instead. We departed Hue at 8am for our journey to Hoi An on the ‘Tourist Bus’. I use the term lightly but that is how it’s described by local travel agents. Keeping in mind that this is the 16th May and our 20th Wedding Anniversary, what followed was a minor disaster.
The Tourist Bus does in fact transport tourists around the country. ‘Open Tour’ is a company that runs open ended bus tickets, get on here got off there etc. not a bad idea if you like bus travel or want to go somewhere that the train doesn’t, such as Hoi An. However the buses are the worst run down excuse for transport we have seen. Most of the seating is broken and uncomfortable but worst still, any type of mechanical maintenance had been ignored to the point of making the vehicle obviously unroadworthy! Shortly after leaving Hue, the bus started chugging and making groaning noises and the driver stopped on 2 occasions to dive into the engine bay for 20 minutes before coming to a complete stop at a petrol station where we all vacated the bus. We waited 2 and a half hours before formulating a cunning plan.
I still had a card from a taxi driver that had taken us from the Hue train station to our hotel and at that stage we still had our mobile phone. We called and with the assistance of a local, our taxi was able to find us. The taxi itself was a battered little van barely big enough to fit the 4 of us and our luggage, not much bigger than a Mazda Bongo van if you can remember them. Any way our fellow travelers whom we had plenty of time to bond with during our spare time, instantly became envious and started crowding us as we were trying to clamber into the taxi with our luggage, “where can we get one?, is this one really yours?”. Needless to say we departed promptly without a backward glance to wave ‘bon voyage’.
The road ahead re-enforced to us how dangerous this stretch of road is up and over the passes, had we still been on the bus. In any case it was $50 well spent to arrive in Hoi An with some of the day still left. However this is where the phone went missing, between the time I phoned the taxi and when we arrived at our hotel, settled in and prepared to go out and explore. We searched high and low but it never turned up.
Hoi An was well worth the journey for. It is a very picturesque postcard kind of place. Our hotel was across the river from the old town and a short stroll to everything. The old part of town is closed to motor traffic making it seen part of yesterworld with only bicycles and cycloes and pedestrian traffic. The old town is smattered with historical buildings, museums, pagodas and tourist shops with tailors, cobblers, tinkers and many restaurants. With bougainvillea sprouting on just about every street corner and in between, the French and Chinese architecture and the dominance of the golden yellow and white color of the buildings creates a charm about the place even with the moldy walls and faded grandeur. Of note is the Japanese bridge, the local market area and the river district. The town takes on a completely endearing char when the sun goes down and the light of the lanterns come into their own.
We only stayed the one night but stayed in town the following day until about 4pm before moving onto our booked accommodation in Da Nang about 20km north. As it was our anniversary, we did plan on a 5 star break. The Lifestyle Resort truly lives up to that with massive grounds and scenic pools that run off into the distance and a edgeless pool at the end that appear to be joined the ocean. Our rooms balconies open onto a butterfly aviary and a worth the 5 star tag. We enjoyed the pool and had dinner in the restaurant. The food was top class as you would expect in a 5 star and we finished with liquid nitrogen ice cream which is a spectacle in itself. They mix a cream mixture and other ingredients with the liquid nitrogen at the table producing an impressive cloud of toil and trouble.
Fortunately our 5 star provided a complimentary shuttle service to Hoi An so the following day we decide to go back. As we arrived in Hoi An, I received an email from my good friend Frannie that amazingly, one of my old sailing buddies Mike and his wife Bertina were following us on our journey by one day. We arranged to meet up and had a splendid time catching up over dinner and a few drinks.
Louise and I have had a bit of a spent up in Hoi An, Louise had a Jacket, an overcoat ankle boots and a dress made and I have had some boots made as well, so luggage quotas may kick in from here. We travel on to Saigon tomorrow.