Thursday, 9 February 2012

Hoi An February 9th 2012

The road to Hoi An

Bus rolls out of Nha Trang just after 7pm, but not before all the confusion is sorted out. The ticket count has issued seat numbers to some, but not everyone. I'l claim the middle seat, slightly less restrictive in leg room since I can dangle both sides if necessary. It's a sleeper bus so the lounger seats should recline in theory - some more than others, some not at all. Oh well, mines not too bad and with my inflatable pillow for added comfort I should be able to snatch a little sleep here and there. Should be in Hoi An by 6.30 next morning according to the ticket.  Couple of stops to exchange cargo and pick up locals.

The road to Hoi An is rough, the driver is in a hurry and likes to use the horn frequently. A full moon on the left provides enough light to see an outline of the mountainous terrain on the right that this road is snaking through. Some colourful language from the back as the driver continues to speed along the narrow bumpy road with ravines either side. An hour or so, and the terrain changes into lowlands and the road widens, but is still bumpy - it's bumpy all the way, not much sleep for anyone! A stop for refreshments and toilet at 11pm, but given my previous experiences on sleepers I have an empty bottle on standby.

Bus rolls into the Hoi An bus stand at dawn. It appears to be out of the main town area hence a collection of taxis and bikes milling around the entrance. A rather nice young lady touts a hotel room for $10, even has a taxi ready to take perspective customers to go and take a look - sounds good. It's quite a bit cooler here, cloudy too, but still warm enough to wear a tee shirt. Queuing up to get this room, going to have to wait until the current occupants check out. I can have a free coffee, then they bring me some tea, and I can tap away on the Internet whilst waiting.

A quick poke around the locality whilst waiting for the room. There is quite a charm about the place, as though time has passed it by.  Characterised by Chinese lanterns adorned on every door, lamp post and across the streets. narrow alleyways and no traffic, except the odd moped. This is the old town, small, quaint, quiet and preserved. It's part of the tourist trail on the way to Hanoi - the halfway stopover. A bustling market area fronts the river, mainly produce, a few ducks, chickens and lots of locals, alive and kicking. Ferry boats, engined and row variety ply the waterways, with makeshift landing areas by the market.

 This is clearly a tourist trap with tourist prices as far as eating is concerned. Quite expensive (from a Vietnamese perspective), close to Saigon prices and portions are just as small. Local, as opposed to tourist eating, seems limited in Hoi An but I did find a cafe that had coffee at 18000 dong, the average being 28,000 dong around this part of town. Quite a selection of street food heading away from old town but only being used by a few locals, risky for the tourist since most of that food would have been hanging around for a few hours. Top tip on eating street food - eat it only if you have to wait for a seat. Hoi An is famed for it,s textiles with many small Shops offering garments made to measure and within 24 hours. Prices are said to be reasonable too. The town has a couple of beaches, one for locals and one for tourists, that's an exploration for tomorrow, but right now I need to catch up on sleep.

Top tips on using open tour buses. A ride in a top lounger will be slightly less bumpy and closer to the air conditioning system.  The lounger just before the middle door, row 10, reclines the most since there is no restriction. People larger than 5 foot 8 would be better In a middle lounger since there can be space both sides for those big legs. Gents may like to take an empty bottle since the middle stairwell is ample space to do your business, especially at night. Ear plugs and an inflatable cushion will help with comfort on overnight trips. Getting off the bus at any point, take your stuff, that's just good practise anyway. Rows A to C run from right to left getting on at the front door.This applies to T. M. Brothers coaches, although I would imagine most of the others will be similar in operation.

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