Hoi An, Vietnam
I woke up at 04:30 today and got ready; at 05:15, a minibus came to take me to the bus terminal; I said goodbye to the hotel manager and boarded the minibus; from there, at 05:30, I boarded the bus with my bags and we drove toward Ho Chi Minh City; along the way, after an hour on the road, we stopped at the bus company’s rest stop (just as we did on the way to Can Tho); once our fifteen minute rest stop was complete, we hit the road again and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at about 08:45. I departed the bus inside the bus terminal and walked to the bus company’s office; I explained to them my desire to travel to Hoi An via Da Nang today and they escorted me to another bus that took me in to the center of the city, to their ticket office. At the ticket office I inquired about a bus to Da Nang, and was told it would leave in about an hour; I then asked how long the journey would take and I was told it may take twenty-four hours – I had read on the internet it was about a sixteen hour journey and I was prepared to accept that, but twenty-four hours was not a reasonable time for me; so I immediately enacted “Plan B”; I walked to the nearest taxi and requested he take me to the airport; luckily I had done my homework on the bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City using the bus’ wifi and I knew there were still flights available today. The taxi drove me to the airport and I walked to the Vietnam Airlines ticket counter; much to my surprise, the ticket price was the same as the one listed on the internet (this is counter to what I learned in Manila, when Cebu Airlines had just about doubled their online price at their airport ticket counter); I then bought a ticket to Da Nang, scheduled to leave at 13:25. I checked my backpack (luckily remembering to move my wine bottle corkscrew opener to my checked luggage at the last minute) and then walked through the security checkpoint; much to my surprise (again); there was a woman in front of me with a toy M-4 assault rifle slung on her shoulder (it was clear with orange tips) trying to take it through the checkpoint – in the United States, the TSA would’ve pulled their guns on her, tackled her, strip-searched her, conducted an unnecessary body cavity search on her, and then placed her on the “No Fly” list; here the security guards just laughed and politely told her to hand the toy over to the guard standing by the metal detector. After making it through the checkpoint, I then walked to a restaurant in the terminal to eat lunch; for lunch I had steamed rice, an onion and carrot broth, and stir-fried chicken in lemongrass sauce. At about 13:00, I boarded the plane and in roughly one hour, the plane landed in Da Nang International Airport. I collected my bags and then tried to find a bus to take me to Hoi An; after being told that I would have to take a taxi, I approached a German couple and asked if they would like to split the fare; it turned out they had a shuttle bus from their home-stay coming to pick them up and once the driver showed up, they asked if I could ride along too – it was okay with the driver; so I got a free ride to Hoi An, which was nice; along the way we passed by the Marble Mountains (and many shops selling marble sculptures, presumably made from the mountains), fields of rice (one which had two riders each sitting on top of a water buffalo, riding near a pond – I did not realize you could ride water buffalo like a horse), and rivers with what looked like fish hatcheries (sticks arranged closely together to form a perimeter circle and a bunch of sticks placed close together in the center of the circle). Once at the home-stay, I grabbed my bags, thanked the Germans and the driver, and then walked to the home-stay I had booked with the previous day. It was about a half-hour walk through the old city of Hoi An, past their open market, to my home-stay; I checked in, was shown to my room, and I dropped my bags off. I then arranged for a tour to the Mỹ Sơn (pronounced “Me Son”) ruins tomorrow morning with the hotel receptionist, relaxed inside my room, and also conducted some research on the internet as to the next three legs of my journey; unfortunately, I discovered it is just too expensive and complicated to enter in to Myanmar (a country I planned to add to my itinerary after I started traveling), so I made the difficult decision not to go there since the only flights (their borders are closed except with Thailand) entering the country seem to be from China or Bangkok (at least to Mandalay), thus coming from Laos or Bangladesh would be much too expensive (if only I had checked prior to entering Bangkok, perhaps I would’ve made it work) and leaving the country formerly known as “Burma” would also be too expensive – “it was not to be”.
When it was time for dinner, I then exited my hotel and walked to the water inlet in the old town of Hoi An. This city looks beautiful at night with so many different colored paper lanterns lit up, my camera and amateur skill could hardly do it justice. I walked around for a while before coming to a restaurant named “Seedlings”, which employs disadvantaged young men and women to work as waiters, waitresses, hosts, and cooks; I sat down at a table, just beating the rain showered that soon commenced, and ordered my dinner; I had beer, white rose dumplings, and stir-fried beef with ginger, onions, peppers, pineapple, tomatoes, and carrots; this meal was so delicious, I then had a dessert of Vietnamese Che (mung beans, coconut milk, and tapioca pearls) and Vietnamese coffee; after that fantastic dinner, I then wandered around Hoi An some more, walking along both sides of the water inlet and briefly watching a costumed performance for children; along the inlet, there were many old ladies selling paper boxes (shaped like an opened happy meal box) with a candle inside for people to place on the water for good luck. I also walked by many stands selling paper lanterns to hang, as well as a food court area on the east side of the peninsula. After exploring the city for some time, I bout a couple of beers for a nightcap and walked back to my room to enjoy typed nightcap. I then wasted away a good portion of the night watching the last hour of ‘Rush Hour’ and then ‘Hitman’ – both films would’ve benefited more by not straying too far from reality (with popcorn they would’ve been more enjoyable). I then went to sleep.