As everyone knows from my previous posts, I left Phu Quoc and made my way to Da Nang / Hoi An... with a slight mission complete in Ho Chi Minh City.
Leaving Phu Quoc, I thought I should have a quick swim- and I might add, that I walked by the pool in the morning and thoroughly examined every single inch of it for crocodiles or sharks. None. Safe. The flight from HCMC to Hoi An was pretty uneventful- except for the fact that some guy took my seat. Now normally, I don't care. I was originally assigned a window seat- and he took it. No biggie. But don't try to make me out to be a fool by telling me that the seats go in backwards alphabetical order. I'm no dumb dumb.
Him and his creepy wife beside me. She just stared at me the whole time and I think she saw how miffed I was. Don't get me wrong... it's not that I was inconvenienced by the fact that he took my seat... no, as we all know, I prefer aisle now. I was aggravated that he couldn't even ask, acknowledge, apologize, say please, say thank you... nada. Just sat there, staring out the window. Like he'd called shotgun before me. I swear to God though, if the person in front of me were to have reclined their seat, it would have been game on with me and Mr. Window Stealer. It didn't happen like that though. What did happen is that this bonehead decided he was too hot - funny that, in a plane with ever increasing air conditioning.
So he grabbed his "In an Airplane Emergency" sheet from the back of the seat and started fanning himself. Seems harmless, right? But as luck should have it, the reflection from the light coming in from the window hit the glare of the lamination... like an bright, fluttering, blinking light- which just managed to hit my eyes at the exact correct location. I keep shooting him dirty glares and intimidating looks, my mind shooting threats to rip it out of his hand... but he was absolutely oblivious. Blank. And he didn't stop once the air conditioning hit full tilt.
No, he did not.
I arrived in Da Nang. Can I just quickly say that no one claps when the pilot lands the plane? Is that just a Canadian thing to do? Are we being too polite? Maybe it's just something Westjet has ingrained in me... No problems whatsoever in Da Nang airport. My luggage was not last coming out this time. No meeting someone outside to exchange bikinis. No passport dilemma... knock on wood. The driver was there to meet me as soon as I walked out of the Arrivals door. No...he did not help me with my heavy luggage... at all. It was about a 45 minute drive to Hoi An from the airport... but I was ecstatic to get out of the city. I have to say, my 'homestay' is fabulous. The pool is about the size of my kitchen and they definitely got some professional photographers in here when they did their photo shoot! It's more like a 'dip.'
The lady running the place greeted me immediately, took my passport, asked me to sit down and then promptly disappeared. About 10 minutes later, she showed up with a fresh juice and she sat down with me. Then she pulled it all out. You name it,
The map: Where we were located. Where the night market is and the beach (useful, of course). Where the street lights are. Where the best tailors are (commission, I suspect.) Where the best massages are. Where the boats are. Where the bridges are. The map information went on and on... It didn't stop.
The breakfast menu. Everything on it and what times. EVERYTHING.
The tours around Hoi An. I MUST book them through her (commission, again, I suspect.). Marble Mountain, Monkey Mountain, My Son, dinner cruises, trekking, waterfalls, beaches, cooking classes, food tours, bicycle trips... I got the low down on all of them.
Bicycles & scooters can be rented and must be locked up... I must be careful crossing the road... keep my keys safe... watch my money.
...I was grateful that I didn't have to go to the bathroom...
Then she mentioned the most important thing that she could have said... in fact, she could have led with this and everything else I could have figured out for myself... LAUNDRY. All I had to do was pack it up, bring it to her, she would weigh it and get it done. I pay by the kilo... nothing has ever made me happier.
I'll take it!
Finally we got to the 'room' part of our chat and this is pretty much how the conversation went;
Lady: "You book standard room." Me: "Oh... OK. Does it have a window?" Lady: "No. Very bad."
...take note that she's looking very sorrowful right now... feeling very bad for me. Like I really lost the lottery with my booking...
Me: **insert disappointed face** Lady: "But we upgrade you to King room. Is OK?"
...now she's looking overjoyed for me! Like I really WON the lottery at her homestay!
Me: **insert delighted face**
I forgot to ask if there was a fee associated with this kindness...
The room is very nice- but it is two single beds pushed together. The reason I know this is because I plopped myself down on the bed... and happened to hit the exact location where the two beds meet in the middle, and in doing so, the two beds almost didn't meet anymore...
I got up very quickly... First things first, laundry! Second thing... explore. The homestay is about 2km from the main centre of town. But before I go any further, I really need to check out what exactly a homestay is.
A popular form of accommodation in some places in Northern Vietnam is homestay with ethnic residents. You live with the locals in their house and you share absolutely everything. Homestay is popular in Vietnam, especially in villages of ethnic minorities.
I don't think it's exactly like that at the place I'm staying... it's more along the lines of a bed & breakfast here.
Apart from reading reviews on line, I came to Hoi An with no other expectations other than "it looks cool"... and it has now transcended from that to one of my absolute new favourite places on the planet. Flat out. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An is a city known for its Ancient town, canals, architecture (ranging from Chinese shop houses to colourful French colonial buildings) and famous Japanese covered bridge... it's also know for its vibrancy, its lanterns, night markets, delicious food, affordability and dynamic atmosphere. As I wandered around historic Hoi An, I was in constant awe, adoration and admiration of this atmospheric and delightful little town. The radiant & colourful lanterns aglow in this historical little was... words escape me... nothing less than phenomenal... If I could've, I would've just eaten the whole town up!
Hoi An, ranked 2nd in the "Top Destination for Couples in Asia"
Trust me to find my way here! I had to laugh... I decided the irony was too much to bare and it was high time that I console my single, pathetic self with a lovely glass of red wine... ease the desolate pain... all the while, plotting my revenge and vowing to return some day... in LOVE.
Dammit, I'll show them! Actually, the truth is that just when I figured I would console myself with a nice glass of wine... suddenly the heavens opened up and it was immediate and torrential downpour. Everyone ran for cover and I basically found myself trapped in a quaint little restaurant... so there was really no other choice other than to sit down and have a glass of wine.
Single in Asia... drinking...
Way to rub it in, Hoi An.
Jerk town. Suddenly everywhere I look, there are loving couples...
On a positive note though... at least I found the 2nd destination for cousins in Asian, and not the 1st, right? First would super suck. I could live with second... because it didn't really make the cut... Why don't they make signs for people traveling alone?
Ranked #1 - the best place to be single in the entire world! Welcome! Ranked #2 - thank GOD your ex isn't with you! Ranked #3 - we're happy you came alone!
Whatever... Instead of over thinking my state of solitude as I roamed the 'no pressure' market... and there was ZERO pressure... and they let you know it. Most stalls had these big signs stating so, swaying back and forth from their market stall. NO PRESSURE. And yes, they definitely let you know it...
"Please come in, miss... no pressure!" "Have a look... no pressure!" "This is nice for you! No pressure."
Zero pressure forced me in to buying 4 silver rings, 5 bracelets, 2 silk robes, a dress, a variety of chopsticks, a banana pancake drizzled with chocolate and 2 rice paper quesadillas... That's right... my stomach was feeling normal and I was here to EAT! Bring it... Everything looked delicious and everything WAS delicious.
Stall to stall, shop to shop, food vendor to food vendor... I meandered my way through the streets of Ancient Hoi An in pure bliss. People kept 'no pressuring' me to buy sunglasses. At first I was trying to explain that the bridge of my nose is too wide and most sunglasses were not comfortable on me and therefor gave me a headache if I wore them... but no one seemed to care. This is the exact point I learned to just say no to the vendors and keep walking. It needed to be done. Just when I figured it was time to make my way home, the rain came once again, reminding me that I'd left my rain jacket back at the homestay. Now when people say that the rain comes and goes in Vietnam... they aren't kidding. It was teaming down. This wasn't some like of light drizzle or a tropical mist. This was the real deal.
Get the arc... load in the animals...
This was heavy. You couldn't even step out from cover for a brief moment or you'd be soaked straight through. The awnings and pipes from the roofs were gushing rain water on to the streets and it was filling up quickly! People were frantic and running around with these flimsy little garbage bag looking plastic covers on. I half expected Gene Kelly to come prancing down the road with his cane and top hat. Some of the vendors took advantage of the downpour and walked along the streets trying to sell these make-shift rain jackets. It took 3 bouts of running for cover before I was safety back at my homestay... and dry! ]
Tip #1 - Don't be an idiot and forget your rain jacket at the hotel. Tip #2 - Invest in an umbrella.