Damn, I got really cheap, really fast. Even on this Southeast Asian journey where I was supposed to have undergone a great internal change in psyche as well as in outward emotional projection, there were still times where I forgot to step back and appreciate how lucky I was to be traveling in this part of the world. Don’t get me wrong, after looking at my total expenditures of a six month trip, it was quite necessary to budget the way I did. But we could have easily spent the short time we had in Hoi An in a much better accommodation for a total of less than $10 extra between Teresa and myself.
We had heard everything would be “much more expensive” once we got to Hoi An, a town in central Vietnam known for its extensive textile and tailoring markets. Everywhere we went, I could get custom suits for super cheap compared to anywhere in Canada, even if I wanted it shipped back to my home address in Toronto so it wouldn’t be stuffed and crinkling up in my backpack for the next 3 months.
But back to the cost-of-living. Hoi An is a beautiful town and it’s evident why the real estate is a little more expensive than where we’d visited so far. Many of the hotel and guesthouse fronts are very clean, freshly painted, charming and lovely. The bus up from Nha Trang let us off at around 5:30 in the morning, just as the sun was beginning to illuminate the sky from beyond the horizon. We ended up walking around for a good hour before we settled on a place because we were so set in our stingy frame of mind. Eventually, we found a spot across the river for $12 a night, more than we’d been used to paying so far in Vietnam and as basic as any other, maybe a little more so.
Our travels aren’t really about the accommodations, though (although wait till I tell you about a glamorous night Singapore). As usual, it was about the adventure, like me shaving my face down to its bare babyish foundation for the first time since I’d been dating my girlfriend and pretty much regretting it before I was even finished. The ice-cold water I had no choice but to use didn’t make it any more fun during, or afterward.
Yikes. I also didn’t consider that my face behind the beard hadn’t seen the light of day for years and, despite my mixed-black ethnicity, was thus glowing with ghostly luminescence. I was pretty anxious to grow back the facial hair.
For only having a few days, it felt like we did a lot. We rented a motorbike and had full access to the city and the surrounding areas. We ended up doing a boat tour out to one of the islands, did some snorkeling off the boat, a bit of walking through the island itself while being taught some local history and given information on contemporary farming practices and indigenous crops.
We had a huge lunch on the beach under a series of tents, a multi-course meal where the food pretty much didn’t stop coming. They actually really took care of us, in that regard. There were maybe a couple of hundred visitors to the island, but it really didn’t seem crowded at all and all of the travelers were very chill; a lot of families, older couples, etc.
After cutting through some choppy waters back to the mainland, we cleaned up and headed out for a drive around town, looking for all variety of cuisine to enjoy. Hoi An has a few local dishes that are specific to the area, unique from one another, and very delicious.
We had banh bao, something I’ve tried several times in Canada and to be honest, not one of my favourites. I think it’s how doughy it is, it’s a bit much for me. We also had hoanh thanh, a crispy wonton with a little ball of shrimp in the middle; a very tasty appetizer. Cao lau was my favourite. We went to this one stall for lunch towards the edge of town and after I finished a plate of pork, rice, and vegetables, I ordered cau lau as a second meal, absolutely loving it.
As we kept pushing further out, we found a few other great places serving up delicious, inexpensive dishes and drinks. Teresa and I have a consistent tendency to want to stray away from wherever we are after a while. Coupled with the fact that we would “forget” to do our geography homework in order to purposely get lost and challenge ourselves to find the way back, we ended up venturing far outside Hoi An and into the rocky, marble-infused mountains protruding massively out of Da Nang’s surface.
This next segment of our journey was completely unexpected and as pleasing a surprise as ever, a breezy day trip out of an already foreign city. On to the next.