Apologies for the delay in this post, Caitlin and Ashley have been visiting us in Hanoi (from South Africa) for the past 2 weeks so we have been bit busy – but more of that in the next post.
Part 3 looks at our time in Hoi An and our trip back to Hanoi.
We flew from Da Lat to Da Nang and had arranged a transfer through our accommodation in Hoi An. Another word of advice here – do some investigation as we realised it would have been cheaper to arrange our own transfer, it seems easier to do through the hotel/homestay but in fact costs about 20% more.
We had booked at Binh Yen Homestay (aka Peace Homestay) on Lạc Long Quân. Our room was really big and comfortable and the staff were incredible – as is normal at a homestay it is the family who run everything, they have employed a lovely young lady, Guyen, who speaks really good English and she sat with us and showed us on a map where to go, what to see and how to avoid getting ripped off – very useful information. I have also established that being able to speak a tiny amount of Vietnamese comes in very useful – until of course the person you are talking to assumes you know more that you do and rattles off a stream in Vietnamese – too amusing
It turned out that another of their family members owned a restaurant/spa on the beach 200m from the homestay, this was very convenient because (as is common in SE Asia) the beach recliners are reserved for patrons of the beach restaurants and we then had automatic right of use of the ones at Beach Waves. I also treated myself to a couple of full body massages on the beach – at the princely sum of 150 000 VND (currently ZAR85) for a 1 hour massage on the beach!!!!
We definitely didn’t fall into the normal tourist traps while in Hoi An – it was more of a relax that a sightseeing trip. We borrowed bicycles from the homestay – granted these bikes had seen better days and had a mind of their own – but this just made it more fun.
We opted to go into the centre of Hoi An to see the Old City and visit the night market. We fortunately went through early to explore before the visitors for the night market got into town and were able to enjoy some relative calm before the seething madness of the night market. This is the place to have clothes made – Hoi An is known for its superb tailors and they can make an outfit in 24 hours at an unbelievable price.
Besides going to the market we pretty much just cycled around the beach area. And ended the days having sundowners at the beach. It was incredible to see Vietnamese families come down to the beach every evening to play games and swim.
We cycled the length of the beachfront to the harbour and chilled on hammocks for a morning which was really fun. It is alarming to see the number of developments taking place along this beachfront and it is a real possibility that the “public” beaches will be severely reduced as these developments tend to make the beach area in front of the hotels private and only the hotel guests are allowed to use them.
We decided to travel back to Hanoi by train – a 17 hour journey! The station was an experience in itself ! No English at all so it was just a case of hoping that the train that arrived at the time ours was due was the correct one! Fortunately, it was. We checked our tickets for the carriage number (in reality, we checked numerous times because the picture on the brochure and the actual carriage were a million miles apart in appearance – but it was the correct one.
The first 3 hour leg of the trip was from Da Nang to Hue along the magnificent coast (Hai Van Pass) , a truly breathtaking view which we are hoping to witness again when we return to do this pass on bikes (I shall take the motorised version while Ivan goes under his own steam).
The rest of the journey was less exciting with a few stops along the way to drop off and pick up. The train left Da Nang at 12:45pm and arrived in Hanoi at 5:30am so most of the journey was through the night – unfortunately, throughout the night our sleep was interrupted by people hoping to find an empty bed in our 4 berth carriage so the door kept being opened and closed – quite noisily.
At about 5am VERY LOUD Vietnamese song were played to wake us all up and we prepared to disembark.
When we got out of the station we were inundated with taxi drivers, the nearest Uber was going to take about 20 minutes to get to us so we opted for a regular taxi. His starting bid was 250 000 VND which my grumpy self was not accepting as the Uber would have been 90 000 VND so I brusquely countered with 100 000 VND (in Vietnamese) he then tried to barter but I was having none of it and he finally accepted my offer! It turns out that I can in fact barter – who knew ha ha.
All in all it was a fantastic little voyage of discovery and I cannot wait for our next one!