Another early start on Friday, this time to embark on a whole new exprience, a "sleeper bus". We'd booked our ticket in Ho Chi Minh to take us all of the way to Hanoi - for a grand total of about 20 pounds each (look at the map and you'll see just what kind of distance that is for the money!!). The first stage of our journey was a 24 hour trip to Hoi An, on the coast of Vietnam. We arrived at the travel agent (there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of travel agents on the streets of Vietnam, it's mind boggling knowing which one to pick!) and sat there eagerly awaiting our luxury sleeper bus... eventually a mere half an hour late (we've already learnt to pay zero attention to actual timings!) a lady came to get us and walk us to our bus... there we were walking along the road seeing all of these beautiful looking buses... which we kept walking past until we eventually got to ours. To be honest, what can you expect for 20 quid?! So, we settled into our bunks and the journey began. Despite the driver driving as if he'd learnt all of skills from Grand Turismo, we were soon dozing off on our beds, then just as quickly being woken by lurching forward when the bus had to make a sudden break or honked his horn continuously to let other people on the road know he was going around them. It was actually quite fun and I got the giggles a few times as I left my bed as we went over a bump! A couple of hours in, we stopped for a quick break (a fag break for the driver) before we continued on. We then stopped again for lunch at a lovely beach side resort before continuing our journey to Nha Trang. We were due to arrive at Nha Trang at 6pm, ready for our connection bus to Hoi An at 7pm... What did I say about forgetting about timings?! We arrived at 7pm and the next bus arrived a few minutes later. This bus had beds which the little Vietnamese people could fit in perfectly but my long legs had no chance of... the driver had my feet dangling over his head the whole rest of the journey!!! Along the way, the driver made various stop to pick up random Vietnamese people and cargo - at one point all of the aisle space was taken up by people either sleeping on the floor or hanging from hammocks in between the beds. Quite an amusing sight to behold! We managed a good few hours sleep and arrived in Hoi An a mere one hour late. The bus journey was actually very fun and a real experience.... plenty more of that to come!! We seem to becoming quite adept to sleeping at any given chance and making the most of the opportunities!
We'd pre-booked our first night in Hoi An in anticipation of being tired when we arrived and not wanting to have to faff about finding somewhere. We got off the bus and into a waiting taxi which dropped us off at our accommodation. We were certainly not disappointed! It was definitely hotel standard and not a hostel. a double bed each, HOT water and the best bit - a swimming pool!! It wouldn't have been out of place as a 4 star hotel in the likes of the costas- and all for the grand price of 6 quid a night each (top end of our budget whilst travelling but definitely worth the money!!). After a quick rest and refresh, we headed out on the free shuttle bus to the town (it's only a 10 minute walk away but the hotel have a free bus service once an hour). On the bus, we met and Aussie couple who gave us some tips on places to go and eat. Stepping off the bus and into the Old Town, Hoi An certainly didn't disappoint, it was beautiful. I'd say it's a mixture of a Cornish fishing village like Padstow and a French Town like Saint Malo. Lots going on, bars, restaurants, shops, tailors but all in a pretty setting. Beautifully painted, brightly coloured boats line the riverside and all of the bridges and walkways are adorned with lanterns. After the hustle abd bustle of Ho Chi Minch, it was exactly what we were looking for! The old streets are beautiful and not a neon sign in sight. You get the usual "lady, you buy this" but it wasn't quite so full on! After a couple of hours working our way through the winding streets and the obligatory local beer (27p)I decided that I wanted to get some trousers made by one of the tailors. I wanted some lightweight trousers that could be worn for bus journeys etc and decided on a pair of traditional elasticated baggy trousers that are seen everywhere in SE Asia. The lady took my measurements, I chose a pattern and was told to go back the next day at 10am and they would be ready. After seeing the easiness of the process, Lou decided to also have it done- for about 7 pounds each we had a pair of beautifull tailored, perfect fitting trousers! After finding somewhere for another beer, this time an incredible 14p, I'd be a well cheap date in Vietnam, drunk for less than £1!) we headed back to the hotel for a spot of rest (not before we had trouble reading the handy map the hotel had provided and taking 45 minutes to walk back instead of the suggested 10 haha).
Come evening time, we headed back out to the old town and discovered it had really come alive. On the recommodation of our new Aussie friends, we visited a restaurant on the quieter side of the river and had an amazing meal, during which I finally managed to conquer using chopsticks!!! For about 8 pounds, we had a starter, main, a cocktail each and 2 beers each. Amazing! The whole riverside was lit up with colourful lanterns and music could beheard throughout the whole area. It really does have a holiday town vibe to it, without all the tat (and chavs!) of the Costas!
Next morning, we willingly tucked into the free breakfast that the hotel provided and then headed off to try on our trousers. We definitely weren't disappointed! After a quick walk around the town again, we decided to utilise the beautiful surroundings of the hotel and sit by the pool for the rest of the day. So that's exactly what we did, read our books and chilled out before heading back out for dinner in the evening. Then it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready to embark on the second 24 hour bus ride of the week, next stop Hanoi & Halng Bay.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Vietnam, make sureyou pay a visit to Hoi An. It's definitely a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of towns such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, with friendly people and a great atmosphere.