Hoi An

When I posted my last update, I had just arrived in Hoi An and suffering from a relapse of whatever it was that had plagued me since Cambodia.

That was 10 days ago.

So what have I been up to since then? Well the answer is simply that I haven’t been up to much at all; and do you know what? Its been pretty great.

I spent the first three days here pretty much unable to get out of bed. Not only was my stomach cramping worse then ever, but I’d also developed a really nasty chest infection. In the end it took antibiotics to shift it, and I finally finished the course yesterday.

Even when I finally felt able to go out, I would be wiped out after just an hour or so. Even now I still feel like I have very little energy and feel physically weak in comparison to before the illness. However, I do feel better then I have since any time before it struck, and I expect to recover all my strength as time goes on. 

I’m looking forward to it!

The hotel where I am staying is wonderful. I’ve a really lovely room. It is large, and has loads of natural light. Something that I’ve missed recently as now I think about it, nearly every room I’d stayed in over the last 6 weeks had no windows. There is a little corner with a desk that is next to a sliding window. I’ve really enjoyed using the computer at that desk, with the window open and looking outside. Its a set-up that I wish I had at home, as my desk looks straight into the corner of the room so there is zero view at all. 

There is building across the road that I can see through the window that strikes me as slightly odd. I don’t know its purpose, but it has a vaguely militaristic feel to it as it has twin flags outside. One which I recognise at the flag of Vietnam. The other is a red flag with a yellow hammer and sickle   on it. It looks very similar to the old Soviet Union flag, but the design is centred and much larger. 

Each morning at 11am, and in the evening at 6pm the building starts to play music. Most tunes sound like the kind of triumphal patriotic music that you would expect an army to march to, whereas others are much more melodic and I have come to think of those as ‘Vietnamese Vera Lynn’ tunes. 

Compared to the rumbling of a hundred cars an hour, or the vibrations caused by lorries pulling up outside. I much prefer this kind of noise pollution to that which I get at home!

The other thing I love about this room is the bathroom. There is  big stone bathtub, and I have made extensive use of it. Its only now that I realise just how small our own bathtub is at home. 

I’ve also got two balconies, which I must admit have been brilliant to have as it means that sitting outside with some privacy, or just getting fresh air has just been a couple of footsteps away. 

Actually calling this a room seems to be a bit of a misnomer. It is unattached to on all four sides, has nothing on top of it, but it does have one room below it. It has its own entrance, and so I’ve come to think of it as my little house.

Each day a fresh bowl of fruit turns up. Mangos, and bananas usually! It really is a great hotel.

So yes, I have spent a fair amount of time in the room. First recovering, and then relaxing. 

I am really enjoying Hoi An as well. I am slightly outside the main part of Town, but not so far out that it is dead.

When you walk the 1.5km to Old Town, things do get busier. There are hundreds of shops here mainly selling clothes and shoes. But there are also historic buildings dotted around, and they have been nice to go into. The town runs alongside a very picturesque river and I have enjoyed taking the occasional stroll along the banks.

Whilst there are many vendors here; it is so much more laid back then anywhere else I’ve been with the exception of Chiang Mai. There isn’t the aggressive selling here that had really tainted my time in the rest of Vietnam.

On the contrary, I’ve found the people of Hoi An to be the friendliest and most helpful of anywhere so far. 

On the road where I am staying is a number of cafes and restaurants. I’ve been making use of these for my evening meals. Which as it happens, have been the only time I’ve been eating as my appetite has not returned since being ill! 

It has been wonderful to go into them and actually feel welcome to sit and stay even though I’m by myself. I sit down with my book and have a really leisurely meal, and perhaps a beer. As I’ve got better I’ve been popping in during the day and getting a smoothie, again with my book. I’ve also been talking to the owners, and when I walk past they will wave and stop me to say hello and ask how I am and what I’ve been up to. 

In truth this place almost feels more like home, then home does. I certainly don’t have any relationship with my neighbours (and if you ever meet them, you’ll understand why). Yet, after a couple of weeks here I walk down the road and people will say hello Neil. That’s one of the things I really love about this place. Everyone is welcomed and it doesn’t feel that kind of forced welcome that so many places have, where you know the next thing coming out of their mouths is a sales proposal. 

I think part of it is that they see that I’m on my own. I have a feeling this is a bit unusual to them, and so they speak to me because of that the first time, and then of course the ice is broken. 

I met up with Phuc, who is a waitress at one of the restaurants for breakfast the other day. I’d been to her restaurant twice, and both times we’d ended up chatting. She’s studying at the local university, and hopes to one day become a tour guide; but is afraid that her English isn’t good enough. She’s just started doing waitressing in the evenings, and I said to her that as she talks to more travellers like me, then her English will get better and better.

It was amusing at times for us both, as we had to get out an English/Vietnamese dictionary occasionally. She tried to teach me a little Vietnamese, but I think that I’m a lost cause beyond hello and thanks. The funny thing was that she said I was doing her the favour by talking to her, whereas I was trying to say that it wasn’t at all, as I was the one that was thanking her for the company.

I rented a scooter a couple of days ago and just went for a bit of a spin to the coast. Its the first time I’ve ridden on the other side of the road, and I had to keep reminding myself about that whenever I took a turn at a junction. Renting a bike here is easier then posting a letter. I got asked one question ‘you know how to ride’ and that was it. I didn’t need to show a license or anything. It cost a whole £3.50 for a days rental plus $1 to fill the tank. 

Tomorrow I’ll be on a bike again. This time a 125 chopper style bike. I’ll be riding out to the mountains with Mr. Uyen who works for a company called Easy Rider. We’ll be taking two bikes out riding for the whole day. I’m really looking forward to it. 

I leave here on Monday and I’m actually not looking forward to it. That surprises me as I was expecting to be chomping at the bit to move on. But Hoi An has really grown on me, and I will be very sorry to leave here. I’ve loved going to the cafes, sitting back and reading my book, going for a bit of a walk, or simply staring out of the window whilst waiting for Football Manager to save. 

Leaving and knowing that I’m going to be back to moving on every other day suddenly feels like it is the end of a holiday and I’m returning to work. Part of that is because in seven days time, I will be moving onto Australia and this peaceful existence is going to be shattered. 

Instead of my little house, I’ll be sharing rooms and paying obscene money for the privilege. I’m still looking to see if I can get away from dorms, but the cost is scary. I have seen places that want over £65 per night for shared facilities. That is more then Hong Kong and Singapore want for a hotel rooms, let alone hostels. That is over double what I’m paying for my room here, and this is an expensive room.

I’m hugely looking forward to the spectacle of Australia, but the thought of dorms, crap food and stupid expenses is turning me right off. As does getting back into the whole cycle of buses and hostels every day. 

Is that because I’ve found somewhere that I’m to stay, or simply that I’m tired of constantly moving on?

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