After my slight funk in Hanoi, I was quite happy to fly to Central Vietnam for a new vibe and new things to do. An hour flight to Danang and I was on my way to Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 45 minutes from the airport.
I can always gauge how special a certain place is by how little I do when I get there. Sometimes, I need activities and tours and a whole lot of bells and whistles, but sometimes I can basically do nothing and instead just wander around and take it all in. Hoi An was one such place.
A beautiful city of about 100,000, Hoi An sits on the Thu Bon River and has few things to do other than people watch, shop, and walk the city. I stayed at a great little spot just outside of the centre but took advantage of the free bike rentals and cruised around each day. It was hot and sunny, so I was in a perpetual state of sunstroke and being soaked, but I was happy and relaxed.
It was a full moon the weekend I was there, so a Full Moon Festival took place along the waterfront which meant locals were everywhere selling paper lanterns for about 25 cents each. You’re supposed to set them sail in the water to pay homage to your ancestors, which made the waterfront quite the happening spot and a bit of a traffic jam by nightfall.
Hoi An is definitely a tourist town, but the locals all seemed to be a different level of friendly, seemingly just because. People would literally come out of their houses, yell hello and wave as I cruised by on my bike. A lady next to my hotel would run up to the road every time a person pulled up or walked past, just to say hi and feverishly wave her flippin’ arm off. And when I checked out reviews for my hotel online, I actually read numerous comments about her specifically.
There were also two hilarious men who were doing construction on the waterfront near my hotel, and every time I rode by, they’d yell “Easy Rider!” with their fists up. I don’t know what was funnier – them yelling that out in Vietnamese accents or the fact that they knew the movie at all.
Everything seemed right in the world and the weirdness from Hanoi had not followed me, that is until my last night. I was having dinner at a swanky restaurant by the river, watching the sunset, and having a grand ol time for myself. I had just finished eating and was polishing off my wine, when all of a sudden my table caught on fire. It started from the candle then to the lantern cover then to the table cloth, table leg and seat cushion in record time. I had nothing to put it out with, so I ran to find a server. By the time I found one who came with a pitcher of water, the table was engulfed. Thankfully, I grabbed all my stuff (and was done my wine), but needless to say, it did not end well for the table.
All in all, I took it as a sign to get out of Hoi An. Weirdness hath no fury like a table burned.
Thinking Danang and the beach was what I needed, I treated myself to a nice hotel right on My Khe Beach (or for those who watched TV in the 80s…China Beach!). The beach is a nine-mile stretch of white clean sand which is all but deserted during the day because the locals and general tourist demographic don’t use it until the sun is long gone. Needless to say, I thought I hit the jackpot.
I’d love to go on about the well-kept beach, the number of interesting bridges in the city or the amazing seafood restaurants on every corner, but by the time my three days there were up, I had almost strangled a bunch of tourists and a man that worked at my hotel. So much for relaxation…
While eating at a patio restaurant on my first day, a small kitten, obviously someone’s pet evidenced by its collar made of shiny beads, wandered by my table and near the one adjacent to me. All of a sudden, the girl sitting there, got up on her chair and screamed as if she’d found a thumb in her food. I couldn’t understand her through her sobs and I think she spoke Mandarin anyway, so only when she pointed to the vicious killer
kitten nearby did I realize that it was the source of her agony. I told her there was no need to worry, the blood-thirsty canibal kitten was just walking by, it’s obviously small and friendly, end of story. Well, she was having none of that and proceeded to throw things from her table at the possessed demon kitten – first sugar packets, then a bottle cap – all the while whimpering, WHIMPERING – like a child. I’m usually quite tolerant of different cultures and beliefs, and I know many people don’t view animals the same as I do, but I could take no more as soon as I saw a fork go flying…. at a KITTEN. I ever so politely (not really) told her to simmer down and leave it alone or I was going to personally pick her up by her face and throw her out of the restaurant. Needless to say, it did not end well.
The next day, I was walking down the street, another tourist on a rented bike, was of course texting, as one would on a bike, and rammed into me. As in drove her bike right into me. I ended up with a few scratches, nothing to freak out over, but she actually yelled something at me and jestured to her phone which I think meant I should have moved from the sidewalk so that she could text in peace. While commandeering a bicycle. Needless to say, it did not end well.
Later that day there was a family of tourists at the beach next to me under the umbrellas. I didn’t say a word when they screamed their heads off at each other instead of engaging in normal decibel level-conversations. I tried not to look as they threw their garbage on the ground, 10 feet from a garbage can. But the clincher was when I saw two kids out of the corner of my eye, probably 10, 11ish, just peeing on the beach, a mere 50 feet from designated bathrooms with signs everywhere stating as such. Like, they just relieved themselves. Right there. On the beach. They didn’t speak English, but I think they understood me. Needless to say, it did not end well.
So by the last day, I was ready to get outta dodge before I either got hurt or seriously hurt another tourist. I spent a final afternoon at the beach which was all that I needed to feel rejuvinated and put the weirdness of the last few days behind me. I had a good laugh about it all and chalked it up to just another round of funny travel adventures.
After the beach, I went back to my hotel and hopped in the shower before heading out for my final dinner. All of a sudden I heard the electronic room key go off…then the door chime open….then a man’s voice in my room. Luckily for him, I was in mid-shower or I probably would have attached him. He promptly ran out when he heard me spew a million F bombs, and I was not far behind him. Draped in nothing more than a towel, I ran into the hallway to find it was actually the house-keeping manager (a MANAGER!) wanting to check if I needed toiletries or anything. Soooo he thought he and the staff would just walk right in to find out despite the ‘do not disturb’ sign being prominently displayed.
I don’t even remember what I said to him I was so furious. I don’t remember the conversation I had with the hotel front desk or the hotel supervisor as he made his way up to my room. Once I realized that I had the entire hotel staff in a tizzy though, I calmed down and actually felt bad. I didn’t think it was an intentional screw up, just scary because I was on my own and sans clothes, which they understood.
I went out for dinner, didn’t get struck by lightening, packed it in, packed up and slept my last night in Strangeville. The next morning at breakfast, I noticed a few servers hanging around me. It’s a buffet breakfast, so servers aren’t really needed, but they were there to refill and replenish everything I touched, which I surmised was to make up for the room issue the afternoon prior. Then two different mangers came over to apologize but I told them I was fine and all was well.
Then this was delivered. By a group of them. A cake. At 7:30 in the morning.
Needless to say, it all ended well.