The overnight train from Nha Trang to Hoi An (technically Da Nang – will explain later) left at approximately 8:00-ish. Now that we were experts on overnight trains, we weren’t quite as excited as we were for the first one. So, no real party in one sleeper cabin this time. We all were just tired and wanted to go to sleep. The train wasn’t as nice as the first one either. Also, with the first train, the entrance to the train was level with the platform; not so with this second train. There were two steps up to the train entrance and the first step was huge!! I was thinking “How the heck am I going to make that step up with both fully loaded backpacks!?!” I would have had a hard time getting up but our awesome tour guide helped push me and my packs up so that I wasn’t struggling too hard. Thankfully, I didn’t fall out of the train while getting into or out of the train. I was pretty nervous about it. Can’t you see the headline? “Girl severely injured falling out of train, crushed by weight of backpack.” Hahaha… It’s not really funny but maybe just a little bit. The problem is, I’ve been going over and over what I could possibly send home to lighten my load a little bit and while I have bought a few small, light things I do plan to send home as soon as I find some dependable shipping provider, everything else is staying with me. I may send a few of my clothes home now that I have bought a couple more options locally.
We arrived in Da Nang at about 5:00-5:30AM. Hopped off the train and onto a waiting bus that was going to transport us the approximate 45 minutes to the hotel. When we started slowing down for our station stop, I was looking at google maps and noticed that we had overshot Hoi An by a bit of a distance. I thought “Oh no. I wonder if we were supposed to get off at the last stop.” But I wasn’t too worried about it – our guide has been extremely good about making sure we were up, ready, and off the train when we were supposed to be.
There is so much construction happening between Da Nang and Hoi An… resorts along the beachfront. Wow. There are some existing really beautiful resorts along this stretch as well.
We arrived at our hotel: Bach Dang Hoi An Hotel. All of us I think (at least I did) did an inner jig for joy. The place was beautiful! The room we had was huge and the hotel had a really nice pool! Since we arrived early in the morning, we couldn’t check in immediately and so left our big packs in a pile and then headed to the ancient Hoi An village for an orientation walk with the local guide. You have to purchase a ticket in order to go into the ancient village. While it basically is the honor system for buying the ticket, you can be fined $2,000USD if you are stopped and asked for your ticket and you don’t have one. So we all went to pay the ˜$8.80USD to purchase the ticket that is good for 7 to 10 days (I’m not sure which exactly). The proceeds of the ticket apparently go to helping maintain/restore the ancient village.
The streets of the ancient village are closed to motorized traffic for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon/evening. Bicycles can still ride around though so you have to be cognizant of the traffic around you so you don’t get hit or hit someone. After the orientation walk, our guides said there was a post office in one of the alleys we passed so I went to find it. I didn’t go well. The postcards I wrote out (on 10/18) to send to people are still in my bag. So they’ll be quite out of date when those recipients receive them, but they’re still legitimate of course. 🙂
I ended up just walking around and found a spot to hang out at the Hoi An Roastery. Almost every restaurant has free wi-fi so I connected to their network and did some writing and photos transfer for the blog. I’m finding that writing a well thought post with pictures, captions, and a quick review, takes a long time. I did this while enjoying a fresh mint iced tea – yummy and so refreshing on a hot, sunny, and humid day. Early afternoon I headed back to the hotel to check in and use the restroom.
I then ran back out to the main street on the town to buy some bottled water. There’s was a park across the street from the hotel that I wanted to walk through and while doing so, I talked to a young guy from Norway who was on a 6-week(?) tour for the purpose of studying how/why some countries/cities are doing well (development-wise) and others not. I told him about the immediate difference that we saw crossing from Cambodia to Vietnam and he said he was headed to Cambodia next.
I got talking with this guy because I had walked up to a small pond in this landscaping that had some greenish algea-ridden water and pretty water lilies. As I was looking at it and taking a couple of photos, the guy said “I managed to fall into that and it’s deep!” Of course I had to ask how he managed that! Well, he had been skateboarding and was trying to do a trick. Apparently, the trick went wrong and he ended up in the drink. Eeewwwww. But it was pretty funny.
At 3:30, we had to be ready to meet in the lobby. Our tour activity for the day was a bicycle tour of Hoi An and surrounding area. Totally enjoyed that! We stopped at an organic vegetable farm where we met a really old couple who had been married for a very long time. They were so cute! We got a chance to water some of the plants using efficient local techniques.
We rode on and stopped off to meet this guy who had a water buffalo that you could ride if you wanted to. A couple off the guys did and it looked fun, but I decided against it. The thought of sitting on the back of that animal with the shorts I wear basically every day (except for when I wear my new dresses) knowing that I probably didn’t have time to wash it before we left the hotel just didn’t sit well with me. I could have washed it myself, yes, but it just didn’t work for me. I know; thinking too much right? I probably should have done it. I don’t regret not doing it though so that’s good. It was fun watching the guys do it.
We continued riding until we came to a small river. Our guide had us sit down, gave us drink and some spring rolls and other local goodies to try. Then, we had a chance to get in one of the little round boats I wrote about in my previous post. That was fun. We paddled into a sort of palm grove where the boat-guide made my tour-mate and I these palm reed bug-rings. The guy also made me a palm-reed flower necklace thing. It was really cool. Paddling back we had a little bit of a boat race. The boat-guide and I were paddling really hard and so came out ahead.
The bikes were loaded onto the river boat so we all got on board for the boat ride back to the ancient village. We could have ridden our bikes back faster than the boat went. It took forever! We got on the boat when it was almost dark out so we landed in the ancient village well after dark. We then had to ride back to the hotel from there which was a bit daunting with all the traffic. We (the girls) were following our local guide for the bike ride and somehow lost all the guys. So we continued on assuming we would meet and beat them to the hotel. We rode into the hotel and found them riding in circles around the driveway entryway. Hahaha.
After we got back from the bike ride, we went to dinner and then walked around the village.
I guess I forgot to mention how beautiful Hoi An (the ancient village) is at night.
Fun times in Hoi An.
Our only group activity for the day was a rice-noodle-making cooking class at a local school-training program similar to the one I wrote about in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This place, called Oodles of Noodles, provides training classes in hospitality, cooking, and English (life skills) that they can use to get jobs in high-end resorts and hotels in order to provide a living for themselves and become more independent. At both this place, and the place in Siem Reap, I’ve considered coming back to volunteer for a time. It’s a worthy cause that I believe is doing good. Here is a link to both Oodles of Noodles (founded by Streets International) in Hoi An and New Hope in Siem Reap, Cambodia:
Oodles of Noodles (Hoi An, Vietnam): http://www.streetsinternational.org/home/28-history-streets-international.html
New Hope (Siem Reap, Cambodia): https://newhopecambodia.com
It’s pretty simple to make rice noodles and I think I’ll try making them elsewhere whenever/wherever I end up settling.
Once the class part of the activity was over, they brought out dishes of fresh noodles with vegetables and broth and wow – I ate every last bit of it (partly because I skipped breakfast and was really hungry) but mostly because it was really that delicious. It’s inspiring meeting these young people who are going through the program.
After the cooking class was free time so some of us went to a tailoring shop to see about getting some clothes made specifically for us. I ended up getting really frustrated and moody there so I left to walk around and have some alone time. I found two really cute dresses that I got for ˜$10USD total.
Back at the hotel, I put on my swim suit and went out to the pool. Laid down in the sun and shortly after the sandman got me; slept for about an hour and half and woke up much less grumpy than when I went to sleep. Swam for a little bit, showered, put on one of my new dresses and intended to have dinner alone. But the guys were getting ready to head to dinner so I decided to not be alone and go with them.
Back at the hotel after dinner, I put my swimsuit on and went swimming again – the water was a perfect temperature; refreshing but not too cold and not too warm. I decided to get up early the next morning instead of staying of late this night in order to pack my big pack. We were going to hop on a bus to Hue, Vietnam in the morning.
So glad to basically be caught up to date! Until my next post… I hope you’re enjoying my posts so far. 🙂