I’m in Hue and I’m back on form.
Being too sick to explore Nha Trang was the low point of my trip. In fact, the whole sicklikedeath thing kinda threw me off-kilter for a while there. If it wasn’t for Ross Kemp’s understanding smile/grimace, I’d’ve been on a plane back home before you could say “Where’s Phil?”. But it wasn’t all bad – it meant I got to do a bit of outside-the-box Hospital tourism.
I wasn’t dying or anything, I promise. They shot me up with mystery drugs and an IV, and laid me up on a bed next to an enormous Russian. The IV bag was labelled “Lactated Ringer’s”. LACTATED?!?! I dread to think. So now I’ve 3 puncture wounds in my right armwristhand and am on enough different types of drugs to irradiate a primary school. They didn’t even ask me if I’m allergic to anything. I’m not, but still: it’s a concern. Doctors DO know best right?
When I finally did an OUTSIDE in Nha Trang, I discovered that the beach was about a 3 minute walk from the door of my guesthouse. So I wandered down, lay in the shade, chilled out. Saw a guy being pulled out of the ocean, having CPR, being taken away in an ambulance. Just the everyday stuff, y’know.
I left that night. A monstrosity of a sleeper coach (coffin-like bunks, garish disco lighting) took me from Nha Trang to Hoi An in a cool 11 hours. No toilet on board but we made a quick pit-stop for an al fresco wee, and later the Vietnamese woman a few rows back had an extended and noisy vomiting fit. I doused myself with tiger balm to counteract the smell, tried to ignore the precarious swaying of the coach, and went to sleep. As uncomfortable as it was, there’s something a bit brilliant about dropping off knowing you’ll be speeding your way through the darkness while you sleep, and something even more brilliant about waking up to find yourself in a different city than before. You don’t get the same sense of movement, of things changing, when you travel by aeroplane. It’s a loss.
So I woke up in historic Hoi An, UNESCO World Heritage site and all-round Ye Olde Worlde charmer. Famous for making lanterns, appazza, and tailoring. The Japanese built a well good covered bridge in the Old Town. It’s got old museums and new restaurants, alleyways stuffed with souviner shops, a beautiful Chinese Assembly Hall, and is chock-full of all this French Colonial Architecture that people seem to like. I can see why – it’s all quaint and charming, and harks back to a time when everyone was polite, the weather was always fine, and baguette bushes lined the railways. I did some sightseeing and some photographing (everything was so picturesque!) bought some clothes, sent some postcards, ate. Can’t tell you how amazing it felt to EAT REAL FOOD again! Yeah, I felt a bit sick for a while afterwards but only a BIT sick – nothing that a good ice cream couldn’t cure.
As beautiful as it was, I woke up the morning after I’d arrived and decided to leave. I felt healthy for the first time in bloody ages and had the itch to get going, no more hanging around, engines to warp speed. So I went for breakfast (banana pancake and hot ginger tea) and headed off.
CH2: Goes on public transport, has a Moment
Getting from one place to the next has, so far, consumed the most amount of time. It’s not just the actual travelling but the planning of the actual travelling. When you’re tight on time like I am, the first thing you do when you get to a new place is to start thinking about how you’ll leave. And because the route is pretty well-used, and because it’s usually quicker and more convenient, you find yourself going with bus tour companies more often than not. There’s nothing wrong with the bus companies, obvs, but tell ya what, there’s a helluva lot to be said for the out-and-out ADVENTURE that is negotiating your way around via public transport.
First up, you have to find the bus station or train station. The angry guesthouse girl gave me directions that didn’t lead anywhere. I approached a guy in a shop to see if he could direct me but he eyed me for a second, then shook his head and said “No bus station”, then wouldn’t look at me again. I had more luck at the phone shop: the girl tried to give me directions but I couldn’t understand. Then a French woman came in, the girl explained in French and the French woman explained to me in English. Adventuresome.
Just outside the bus station I’m stopped by two Brazilians – that sounds like the start of a shit joke – who wanted confirmation they were in Hoi An. Yes, am I at the bus station for Danang? Yes. There’s someone shouting but I don’t pay any attention – people are CONSTANTLY shouting at you over here, mostly because they want to sell you stuff. As I go into the bus station, the shouting gets louder. I finally realise that there’s a woman hanging off the back of a bus, shouting directly at me and giving me the old palm-down wave. Humans, I believe I have found my transportation. I run to the bus, am practically thrown on by a guy whose job it is to stand at the back door and throw people onto the bus (and help them off, let’s not lie). First leg: done. I sit back and enjoy it.
As we come into Danang, the waving woman comes to the back of the bus and shoves a map under my nose. I point at the train station, as that’s where I’m headed. A few minutes later, I’m unceremoniously dumped on the side of a busy road with my bag. The bus speeds away, Waving Woman gesticulating vaguely in my direction. I walk to the nearest crossroads to get the street names and – lo and behold! – I’m just down the road from the station. I head on.
At the station a toothless, grinning tuktuk driver tells me that the next train isn’t for two hours. I go to the ticket window to get my ticket – no queuing, everyone just kinda calls out what they want from the teller and she sorts it. Turns out, my train is IN the station, about to leave. Could my timing be any better? I quickly pay, grab my ticket and trot across the tracks to the metal BEHEMOTH that’s waiting. This thing is ENORMOUS, the biggest train I’ve ever seen in real life. I almost can’t haul myself up into the carriage.
The train journey is spectacular. Mountains and jungle and wide bays and beaches and rice paddies and tiny shacks and little towns. The train makes the most incredible noise as it goes, clattering and clunking and groaning along the tracks. The window by my seat doesn’t open so I go out into the walkway and open the windows on the doors, one on each side, and try to take photos that reflect how stunning the scenery is. I fail, obvs, but I don’t mind. Got the wind in my hair (air con, schmair con) and the world rolling by. All is good.
Next thing you know, I’m here. I find my way into town easily, my first-choice guesthouse practically throws itself on my lap, and then I get a room upgrade because there are ants in my bed. SHUDDER.
Hope you’re enjoying the snow, UK-dwellers!