Thursday, August 02, 2007

Vietnam - Hoi An

The bus journey from Vientiane to Da Nang was incredibly long but not as uncomfortable as expected. After hanging around the bus station, we left a few hours later than expected. Arriving a the border around 4am we had to wait until it opened around 7.30am. After more waiting and standing in line for a while we left Laos and got stopped again about 1km further down the road at the Vietnamese checkpoint. It was fairly chaotic there and after filling out various forms we handed our passports over to be checked by immigration. There was some problem scanning Nuria's passport and she was escorted to a room behind the building. Of course I didn't know what was happening and just had to wait. After some intense questioning, it became clear that they knew a lot about Barcelona FC and the tone became more amicable and she was allowed to go. Shortly afterwards though our bags were removed from the bus and thoroughly searched. Eventually we were allowed to enter Vietnam more than 6 hours after arriving at the border. The journey continued and we arrived in Da Nang in the early evening. The place was totally non touristic and we stayed in one of the dirtiest hotels yet. The city didn't appeal to us much, but was a good insight into life in Vietnam. The next morning we visited the museum with the most Cham artefacts on display from that era. After walking around the city all afternoon it was time to depart for a nicer location: Hoi An, a small town about 1h south and near the beach.

We checked into a nice hotel near the old town and spent a few days relaxing. Hoi An is famous for it's tailors and getting good quality clothes made as a fraction of European prices. I got measured up for a suit and shirts, picked the material I wanted and came back to collect the clothes about 6 hours later. A perfect fit! Nuria got shoes made to order, another bargain. The next day I signed up to do the last diving of this trip. A day tour out to the beautiful Cham islands where I completed 2 dives of over 1h each. We had lunch on a lovely white sand beach and chilled out in hammocks between dives. Nuria spent the day at a traditional handicraft village and then shopping and cycling around the town. We also spent an afternoon on the beautiful beach of Cua Dai. The heat was intense and there was no respite by jumping in the water, which must have been over 30 degrees. A really nice place and only half an hour away by bicycle. The final morning was spent lazing about as the whole town was experiencing a power cut. No air con, no fans, no ATM's, no internet...nothing. We left after lunch and took a bus 3 hours north to Hue, near the former demilitarised zone that divided north and south Vietnam during the American war.