Hoi An, Vietnam. A common stop for backpackers with sights including the Japanese Covered Bridge, and the Quan Cong Temple.
…After a nightmare coach journey we arrived into Hoi An at around 2pm. Before we can attempt to exit the bus, a small Vietnamese woman has marched up the steps of the bus. Loud. Confident. Assertive.
‘Come with me, I take you to hotel.’
Having just woken up, we all step off the bus sheepishly, learning that the woman is just one of many bidding for our custom. We decide to ignore the low prices and offers being thrown at us, and trust our research by trekking to The Sunflower Hotel, 3km from the beach, sitting just outside the city centre.
I’m still limping, my knee oozing a yellow, brown mix of blood, puss and iodine. The warm, sticky air refusing to allow my knee to heal. My arm wounded, hanging by my side. The bike crash earlier in the week, still a fresh memory. Many people slow down on their scooters to offer me assistance, the local people are so kind. Some simply slow down to stare, but who can blame them? A 6ft2, English guy walking down the street in swim shorts and a vest…bloody wounds dotted around my arms and legs. An instant celebrity.
We arrive at the hotel and Loud Noises negotiates a super small discount, but its clear we made the right decision choosing to stay here. The staff are friendly, the food is great, a private swimming pool (not that I can use it!), and perhaps more importantly, air conditioned rooms!
Whilst I decide to take advantage of the laundry service and relieve some of my clothes of the blood and sweat of my travels so far, the boys have decided to rent scooters again. After my accident and the many accidents I have heard of, I’ve decided that it’s not for me, and I watch the boys venture onto the dusty road like a collection of Mario Kart characters; Donkey Kong, Bowser and Toad.. After the epic bus journey down to Hoi An, I choose to take advantage of the air conditioned room, the television, a comfortable bed, and the Snickers bar in the mini bar. Apparently American movies are everywhere.
As the afternoon continues, I try to read up on my injuries on the internet. Do my wounds look that red? Possible infection? Risk of amputation?! Unfortunately, this only makes the hypochondriac within me come alive even more, and before I know it, I’ve hopped/stumbled down three flights of stairs, negotiated a spiral staircase, and am now asking for a doctor at reception.
Just under 1 hour later and the American movie is interrupted by the doorbell. I open the door and am greeted by a small, friendly – yet assertive – Vietnamese doctor. He puts his bag down on my pillow (How clean is his bag!?), looks down, points at my knee and confirms my thoughts.
I learn that he was educated in Paris, which, in addition to his fluent English puts the ignorant traveller at ease. He checks my temperature and my pulse, confirming to me that the infection has not spread. He proceeds to open his bag and pull out an assortment of cream and pills. What ancient medicine will he show to me? A tube of cream to be applied once per day to help clean my wounds. Perfect – No more iodine!
He states firmly. No sunlight? I’m in a Vietnamese beach resort during summer. There goes the tan to wow people with back home, I guess it’s vitamin D tablets for me then! Oh well, I guess I’ll be living for the night life during the remaining 8 days. Dr Paris has different ideas and throws two different packets of tablets onto the bed. It’s not quite a Matrix situation as I do have to take them both. The first, more exotic looking red and yellow tablet is antibiotics. I’m happy with that, the hypochondriac inside me jumping for joy, the other tablet to reduce swelling and pain. He then points firmly at the second packet of tablets, an states with authority,
The party animal inside me just died a little bit. Seven days without alcohol and sunlight equals one boring, shaded final week.
I leave the doctor to find my friends in the hotel pool care free, and having fun. They have made friends – typically women. A girl from New Zealand; Kiwi, a girl from Ireland; Irish, and a girl from Israel; Ridiculously Good Looking. After chatting, we decide to all have dinner – instant friends, the great thing about travelling, everyone is so friendly.
So, after a quick freshen up we head to the centre of Hoi An. We stroll across the Japanese bridge I had read so much about in the travel books and I’m so glad that my first experience here was at night. A beautiful scene, ideal for the many group photographs we decide to take with the skyline lit up by lightening. Scooters, cyclists, and numerous pedestrians all walk through our shots, but this simply adds to the experience.
We find a nice little place to eat dinner and everyone is particularly excited about the local beer priced at 4,000 Dong. This is about 3 pence. Crazy.
As everyone’s beer glasses clink, I sip on my Fanta Orange, living the high life, and wonder to myself if my night will be as fun without alcohol. The crazy dancing, talking to women. I am a serial social binge drinker. This week will be testing, can I do it? I chat in more detail to the girls we have gone to dinner with and we swap travel stories. I realise that this is why I am here; the travellers life. Meeting new people. The friendliness. I will be just fine.
After a good nights sleep, I wake to the aroma of alcohol and chlorine. Not attractive. I’m sharing a double bed with Counting Sheep, a beautifully white room, comfortable, air conditioned, mini bar fridge, and a private bathroom. Luxurious! Loud Noises is sharing with his brother Smooth Operator, that room must be sweaty…! Counting Sheep is sleeping, the alcohol from the night before still evident. Apparently they had a private pool party at 3am. Well, I had a good nights sleep, and a Snickers bar…
Day two in Hoi An and the boys are back on their scooters again. This looks like a lonely week ahead! I sit in the hotel room once more, watching English TV this time, on my iPad, feeling sorry for myself. Snap out of it – you’re in Vietnam!!
Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – is travelling on two wheels, either scooter or bicycle. I decide to walk, still not daring to risk jumping back on a scooter and zipping off down the dirt track the locals call a road. I’m stopped many times and told that it’s a three kilometre walk to my destination; the beach, and I should hire a bike. I like this however, I’m walking through a Vietnamese neighbourhood taking it all in. My knee is recovering, and I’m happy. How often do you get to chill out and walk around in a small Vietnamese town?
I pass many different buildings on my way including a number of shops all selling the same brands of crisps and ice creams – how do they compete? I walk into one of the many shops, and can only compare it to one of the £1 shops in England. If you were prepared to explore hard enough, I think you could find anything here. I find what I want pretty quickly, and I’m back on the road to the beach, passing many luxurious gated buildings.
The three kilometre journey is long and at many points I contemplate flagging down a taxi, but resist. I reach a bridge that stretches over a river and realise that I made the right decision. The perfect photo opportunity, and bikes can’t stop here.
A few minutes later and I finally hit the beach. There are large groups of local friends and families sitting eating under the trees at the top area of the beach. I walk past them and see sunbeds and umbrellas. I am looking forward to relaxing looking out to sea.
It’s the girls from the hotel, sitting at a table at one of the many cafe’s overlooking the beach.
‘Want to join us?’
I love travelling. You are never alone. I’m getting a taxi back though.