After a spectacular first day in De Nang, anything else was bound to be a letdown. And to an extent, it was. The plan was to check out of the Brilliant, put our bags in storage, spend the day in Hoi An, and then return to catch a night plane to Ho Chi Minh City (“HCMC”; Saigon). Those things all got done, but it just wasn’t as fun expected.
We caught a bus to Hoi An, which was remarkably easy, requiring we just stand by the street behind our hotel and wait for a city bus bearing the sign “Hoi An” to pass by. It didn’t take long, and the bus driver was nice enough to set us up with perches just behind the driver. Much to my amusement, he even whispered in Mikey’s ear “they love you,” when some schoolgirls got on.
In writing about this day, I think I will try a different tact, focusing on one peak experience, rather than trying to give a fulsome description of the whole day. And that peak experience is with a motorcycle driver we called “Old Boy.” You see, when we got to Hoi An, we were a bit out of sorts. It turns out the bus station is quite a ways away from the main drag. We had met a chill Korean dude named Kurt on the bus, but he decided to just hire a motorcycle at the bus stop without even really thinking about it. We had been loath to do so partly because it seemed physically dangerous (e.g., weaving through traffic without helmets) and partly because we were concerned about getting ripped off (being taken for a ride, as it were).
We did a 180 on that. One driver latched on to us, following us around and telling us it was too far to walk to town. Finally, we gave in and agreed to pay him some terribly small amount of money to drive us into town. Indeed, it was quite a way, and indeed, it was a good deal. He tried to explain to us that he could pick us up at the place he dropped us off, but we didn’t really know enough about our plans to agree to that. He also tried to explain that the last bus left at five, but that didn’t seem right. Finally, he just gave us his phone number. We started calling him Old Boy between us.
I had heard great things about Hoi An, but it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, there were some cool old temples to see, and everything was very orderly and nice. It just felt so touristy. And, Mikey is scared of dogs.
For instance, most of the shops on the main drag sell the same collection of items aimed at tourists. And the restaurants were equally westernized and really not very exciting. It kind of reminded me of Yangshuo in China, a town catering largely to backpacking travelers. The highly recommended lunch at the Mermaid Restaurant is a case-in-point. I got a banana flower salad and Mikey got Chinese chicken fried rice. It was all very good and well-executed, but it’s hard to imagine it’s something locals ever imbibe in.
A confluence of events got us concerned about getting back. First, the above kind of lameness of Hoi An. Second, we learned that Old Boy was shooting straight, the buses stopped running around midday. And third, there was not a lot of transportation options to get back to the bus station. So we ended up looking into ways of contacting Old Boy, but without a local cell phone it was difficult. We tried to get people to call Old Boy for us, but let’s face it, that’s a sketchy proposition any day of the week.
Finally, we found a woman who agreed to call for a small fee. You wouldn’t believe our delight when Old Boy walked around the corner to take us to the bus station.
The rest of the trip back to De Nang was inconsequential. It rained quite a bit that night so we couldn’t make it back to the little girl’s ram, instead having a rather mediocre bowl of soup. We made it to the airport only to find that our flight to HCMC was well-delayed. The hours ticked away; midnight passed; and so did our final day in De Nang.