We left Hue on Saturday by bus to Hui An, along the coast. Hue was a calm respite after all the noise in Hanoi and people didn’t stand on their horns all day long. We also had a fabulous hotel for $32 USD per day and it was an excellent hotel. Modern, great bed, TV, attentive staff. Fabulous all around. Its called the Orchid Hotel and they could teach North American hotel a thing or two about service.
We decided to save money and took the bus from Hue to Hui An. Sharon’s posted a blog entry about the wonders on the trip. She neglected to mention a few choice bits such as the bus driver almost running over a cyclist. He was kind enough to open the door as he screamed by to check to see if the cyclist will still alive. When one of the locals wanted to get off, the door opened and the bus slowed down to about 15 km/h and the person tossed off the bus.
The horn was really loud on the bus. Here they don’t have enough money to Pimp Their Rides, they Pimp Their Horns and the bus driver was proud of his super loud horn and he felt the need to share it with the world. I tried to discern a pattern to his use as he used it constantly even for people that were no threat at all. One loud honk to scare the crap out of them, then a series of small honks as we went by. You know the air klaxons assholes use at sporting events? Multiply that x10 and you can get a sense of how loud the horn was. The trip was 5h and the only piece and quiet was when we stopped at a rest stop to get drinks and go to the WC.
The bus was supposed to have A/C and it work to a point. The seats were hard and had the magical ability to draw sweat from your body. Within 5 mins of being on the bus, I was soaked and sitting in a pool of my own sweat. Add to that that the seats are designed for small Asians and the gentleman in from of my reclined his seat far enough that I could see up his nostrils, it was a trip best missed. I found it was better to look at the window rather than straight ahead because all too often I could see death bearing down on us and I didn’t want to be that stressed out. The other really pleasant item was a seat back lever that dug into my leg the whole time and magnified every bump and pot hole with hit at maximum bus speed. We had at least 30 seconds where the horn wasn’t going off.
We arrived at the rest stop and I took the time to wander around and get a drink. The had a small caged mammal of some sort in the back that looked like a squirrel with a longer body. They also had two hawks in a cage at the back. One of them was face down at the bottom of the cage, recently deceased as far as I could tell.
After we crossed the mountain pass with our eager bus driver passing everything he could, I was feeling a little tense. I actually wanted to kill the man in a slow and painful way and spent several relaxing moments contemplating his demise. I was delighted when we finally made it to Hui An and we got off at our hotel.
The exterior looked ok, we went in and I noticed it was full of back packers. Never a good sign because it usually means the place is run down and won’t be very good. After our delicious stay at the Orchid Hotel which actually felt a bit like vacation rather than an Asian prison, I wasn’t hopeful. Of course, they couldn’t find our reservation after having it confirmed at least once a day with them. When they finally cleared everything up, we went up to look at the room. There was a pool in the hotel and a few people were swimming around. Things were looking up. We went in and had a look at the room. It was acceptable, the AC worked, the water pressure was decent. Soap liked like little vitamin pills and there were no other goodies (see below for the significance of this important item). Towels seemed to be missing. The beds were foam mattresses. We took the room for some reason as it was about 9PM at night.
We went into town for dinner and the town is wonderful. Its a great blend of Chinese, French and Vietnamese architecture. They also barred traffic in sections of town so you didn’t get run over. Along the way, we looked at another hotel that had a huge pool, wonderful rooms, wasn’t full of backpackers but was $40 night vs $25. We said we would think about moving but wanted to stay within budget.
We had some decent food for a change and it was cheap. We walked back to the hotel feeling ok about staying at the hotel. We went to sleep, Sharon snoring so I was somewhat delayed in joining her in dreamland. When I finally did, I was rudely awoken by a dog barking around the pool. We were just above the pool. This was about 2 AM. I went back to sleep. Same thing at 3 AM, 4 AM… are you starting to see the pattern? The barking stopped around 6:00 AM but at 6:30 AM two young ladies (and I use the term loosely) staggered into the pool after a heavy night of drinking dirty martinis and proceeded to discuss it as loudly as possible. So ended my night of sleep.
Sharon wasn’t really happy about this having had a rough night as well. In fact Sharon was downright bitter about Vietnam in general and said enough is enough, we are heading out right now. Sharon isn’t a great morning person. When she doesn’t have a good night her personality takes on a pit viper like aspect that is best avoided at all costs. She didn’t like the hotel, she didn’t like the noise and was generally feeling annoyed about the whole idea of being on a budget. The last time Sharon said this it cost $1000 to get out of Honduras after the cockroaches kept running over us and were trapped by two crazed Americans. I started wondering where this was going. I suggested to Sharon that we try another hotel and give Hui An a bit more of a chance. Sharon wasn’t keen and wanted to head straight to Cambodia and Angkor Wat.
We walked into town for lunch and stopped at 3 different hotels. One of them had a big sign on the counter saying they were undergoing renovations (they all some to have some type of banging going on). We wanted to see a room and she took us first to view the pool which was quiet nice (our pool was green I noticed by the light of day). The charm of the pool, however, was lost by the sound of a sledgehammer pounding concrete very close to us. We went up a flight of stairs and she showed us the room. It seems reasonable except for the pounding of metal against concrete right underneath the room. Our hostess tried to get our opinion of the room but between limited English and no Vietnamese and the sledgehammer, communication was impossible. We turned around and said we would discuss it.
We went back to the $40/night hotel and they showed us a deluxe room ($45) and a regular room. We decided on the regular room. In a fit of generosity, the manager gave us the deluxe room for $40 rather than $45. We had an excellent view of the countryside, burning garbage, two water buffalo and a collection of chickens including two roosters. Roosters and I don’t get along together because they seem to feel they have the right to crow all night along and I think they have the right to be eaten for dinner as soon as possible. I glared at the roosters. We took the room.
We checked out of the other hotel. When they asked why, we said it was too noisy. They said they would move us. I said no more firmly. They were very crestfallen by this but we were moving on up. We walked back into the new hotel, they took our bags, handed us cool towels and welcome drink. This was more like vacation. Sharon still wanted to leave town so we went back into town at noon (perhaps not the best hour to be travelling in tropical sun) to try and find options for getting out of town. I had seen a large travel agent in town (large is a relative term. The guy with a cart on the side of the street will sell you anything and everybody is a travel agent) in our wanderings the night before. We trekked all over town. I was fine, Sharon wasn’t happy and we started snapping at each other. After doing a figure 8 through town, Sharon ripped the map out of my hand and managed to get us back to where we started and we got something to eat. By then I had figured out where we needed to go and we forged back into town. Along the way, I ensured that Sharon ate a chocolate mousse cake and so was feeling a bit calmer. The desserts were the best I’ve had in a tropical country.
We got our options to get out of town but it basically meant we still had to go through Saigon. For some reason, the locals don’t call it Ho Chi Minh City. We walked back to the hotel and had a rest. Sharon watched Arthur II but the sound would kick out every 30 seconds for about 10 seconds. Made watching the movie much more interesting.
We went to dinner and had a brilliant meal at a place called the Mango Bar. Excellent fusion cooking, by far the best meal we have had in Asia and up their with the best food we have had, period. The upside was that it only cost $20 USD. Sharon was feeling a lot more relaxed at dinner and said she was trying to be brave but wasn’t really enjoying this whole budget thing. She said she wasn’t going to stay in any hotels unless they gave you stuff and the soap had to be larger than vitamins or peppermints (see above about our 1st hotel). Our current hotel, called the Glory Hotel (I called it something else, drop the t move the e around and got smacked for my efforts at being humorous), fit the bill. We walked back to the hotel and had a pleasant night sleep.
Next day we sat around the pool and were the only people in the hotel. Sharon was feeling much better and the meltdown was avoided. As another bonus, we managed to get really cheap $9 flights to some of our destinations. By the time you add in taxes, it cost more like $100 for the two of us but life was looking up. The pool was wonderful, the food ok and the Tiger Beer cold and refreshing.
Then the school trip of young girls descended. First thing that happened was their teacher was walking along a wall next to the pool after having slipped twice on the flagstones and managed to fall in much to the amusements of her students. The other male teacher (I said there was a whole Mrs. Robinson thing going on because the male teacher was much younger) commented to the kids that that was alcohol did to you…
And that brings us to the present. We are here until the 13th then going to Saigon to get out of Vietnam and head into Cambodia to see Angkor Wat.