Apparently, it has been a while since the last blog. Main reason being there isn't much to write about across the last two weeks.
I ended up spending another three nights in Kuala Lumpur. I went back to the same hostel as previously because it's a very nice space to be in, although don't tell the manager who can accurately be informed he's a ****. But he informs me of the same so it's very much mutual.
I didn't do much by day on my return to KL because I was awake pretty much all night on the three nights was there. However, I did go and have another look at the twin towers and watched a movie whilst I was there!
After that, it was back to Saigon for a couple more nights. Saigon is a city I like very much so I just chilled out again on the days I was there, and didn't do much at all that is noteworthy. I'm probably at the stage of travelling now, where after 3.5 months, I'm not so much of a tourist anymore. There's only so many temples, caves, waterfalls etc etc that one can see. And I don't have any particular desire to see absolutely everything.
The above is just my way of saying I've gone lazy. For now at least. Not that I wasn't anyway.
Anyway, after Saigon I think I got the bus to Da Lat. I was as easy and painless as all previous buses, and this one even included a shuttle to the hostel at the end. Da Lat is a charming yet quite touristy place set amongst hills, with waterfalls and lakes in the area. Apparently coffee is also a thing in the area and you can visit plantations (if that's the right word). I don't like coffee though so I didn't waste my time visiting any.
Despite Da Lat looking visually very nice, I didn't quite vibe with the place. The hostel I stayed at was too quiet with minimal at best social space. That said, I spent the only full day there with a friend who is cycling north through Vietnam as preparation for cycling back to the UK! We chilled for a bit and then headed out to explore the area. We ended up at a waterfall and it was actually quite impressive. We managed to get to side of it at the bottom where the water spray was suitably powerful! We met a new friend at the waterfall and then decided to try and catch the sunset at one of the lakes. The sunset was non-existent because the clouds were too thick, but we still spent a good while chatting at a coffee shop. Obviously I didn't drink coffee - I had a fresh honey and ginger tea which was banging! We then went for actual tea and eventually called it a pretty early night.
The following morning, I decided that I was gonna take the night bus to Hoi An on that day, mainly because I still wasn't fully vibing with the place. That morning though, I decided to take advantage of the terrain being similar to where I live, and went for a decent walk. I had an aim for where I wanted to get to, but decided against using GPS so it became a bit random. Thoroughly enjoyable though and I banged out a good few miles without realising it.
I then had lunch and met up with the friends at a place called Crazy House. We ended up chilling for a bit again and I was starting to run low on time before catching the bus to Hoi An. I therefore had to rush a little bit but I can confirm that the place is, indeed, crazy. For anyone who's reading this, it would be easier to Google the thing than for me to try and explain, but in simple terms is a very quirky hotel designed by a Vietnamese architect who was inspired by Gaudi and Tolkien in equal measure. The place is so "crazy" that it's also now open to visitors during the day time. You can see the Gaudi influence immediately. I would have enjoyed walking around it immensely, if not for two things - the fact that I was in a rush and, as usual, Chinese tourists.
The problem with Crazy House and being in a rush is that a lot of the walkways are very narrow, making it very difficult to pass, even when the two people aren't particularly overweight. Then add in the Chinese fascination with selfies and general lack of social awareness, and it creates a problem. One which on another day may have resulted in me throwing someone off one of the walkways. But despite that, I'm still glad I paid a visit because it must be one of the more unique pieces of architecture out there.
I went back to the hostel after that to get ready for the night bus to Hoi An. The bus was due to leave at 17:00 and on paper, it's a 14+ hour bus. Sadly though, the driver was a maniac and the journey ended up only being 12 hours. To double that, I barely slept a wink on the bus. To triple that, the hostel I booked into was full the night before, so there wasn't a spare bed. Luckily though they did have a sofa!
Eventually I summoned up the energy (mainly because I was starving) to have a quick look around Hoi An. The old / ancient town is a fascinating mix of French colonialism and Vietnamese. Sadly though, the first thing I noticed was the number of tourists and tailor shops. Hoi An is famous for said tailor shops. Many many people who visit Hoi An love the place. But that first impression left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, which was probably compounded by the fact that I was exhausted. I eventually managed to check in and had a much needed nap! Later that evening, I took advantage of the free alcohol at the hostel before going out briefly with someone I met, to get some food. I'd also booked onto a tour for the following morning, in an attempt to make myself be sensible and get an early night. Remarkably, it worked!
I grabbed some free breakfast and was picked up for the tour, to Marble Mountains, which are actually hills. Or more accurately big lumps of limestone and, unbelievably, marble. The rocks are actually also quite important religiously and Buddhism is still actively practiced there. The rocks also contain caves which were used as shelter during the American War. It was a genuinely fascinating place to visit but sadly I was in a tour group with old, dithering holidaymakers. That did however create some very entertaining people watching opportunities!
I shall inform of just one. An old British lady lost her hat. She thought she left it on the minibus. It wasn't there so apparently she didn't. When her husband didn't find the hat on first inspection, a slight panic ensued. The tour guide said something tour related (I can't remember what). The said lady cut him off with something quite short. It was about her hat. When everyone got off the minibus, a proper search ensued but to no avail and thus no hat. Meanwhile, meanwhile - there was a stall selling cheap hats just across from the minibus. Apparently it isn't just Chinese tourists.
One final piece of hilarity from the tour is that the guide decided to turn into a conman for the unsuspecting mugs. He offered another tour for the afternoon, at a price which was 7 times more expensive than the norm. Most of the couples paid it without questioning or batting an eyelid. I chuckled, in equal amounts at his audacity and the naivety on show. But fair play to him. No wonder he pretends to be happy.
I didn't do much other touristy stuff over the next couple of days. I walked around the city some more to try and like it more than the first impression. Also, the next few nights were pretty party scentric. It's very fair to say that we partied well. I had booked into a new hostel (closer to the beach) on the final night of partying. I was actually in two minds about whether to get involved because it's a taxi ride away. I'm glad I did because it turned into another great night. It also allowed me to steal a bed in the previous hostel, because I was reliably informed by some who I was with, that a bed was free! There were three free beds when I crashed. At 6am, two people who arrived on the night bus turned up and crashed. I was a very relieved man that there wasn't a third! I happily went back to sleep then, in true backpacker fashion, stole breakfast as well. I then made a swift and discreet exit.
Despite moving to the beach, I felt myself totally unmotivated to spend any time on the beach. So I was very lazy for a day and barely moved from bed! The next day though (yesterday) I decided that I needed to stretch my legs and ended up walking 9+ miles. It felt good! Then I went lazy again.
I'm now back in the main area in Hoi An. This is the 7th night so I guess I don't dislike it was much as the initial impression. But I don't know if that's the city or the people I met at the previous hostel, together with my laziness to move. I'm also kinda waiting for the cyclist friend to arrive in Hoi An and...kind of agreed to go back to Saigon because the folk I met are travelling in the opposite direction to me!
There won't be much else to report from here, so peace out for now!