At the end of my last post I was bragging away about being picked up by private car to the Hanoi airport and from Danang to my resort in Hoi An. Part of it was even true!
I did get picked up at my hotel in Hanoi by the company car (probably the private vehicle of the owner of the hotel company). Some brand new Lexus jeep with all kinds of extras. Even the young driver looked very sophisticated. I had booked a 55$ flight with the Vietnamese version of Easyjet. And everything went very smoothly (they confiscated my cigarette lighter at security, though. Smartly, I had the last minute intuition to put my trusted pocket knife, without which I never move or travel, into the checked-in bag). After arrival in Danang the luggage belt spit out my checked-in bag a mere 10 minutes after docking on.
The damper of my good mood came when I entered the arrivals hall and no one was around holding up a sign with my name on it. Sadly, I have been through this before and out of experience I carry all contact phone numbers of my destination handy. I called the hotel and it took a while for them to find someone who spoke English. The lady said there was a problem but she would contact the driver and I should hang in. I gave them some time to sort things and, after still seeing no one, I called again, explaining exactly where I was at the airport and what the colours of my bags and my clothes were. Eventually the driver came – but it was not a posh car but a trodden down van like many second class hotels use them for shuttle services. No problem!
We drove along the Danang beach but I could not see the sea once, as everything was fenced off and there were zillions of unfinished apartment and hotel complexes blocking the view. It made Bansko dwarf in terms of unfinished construction.
After a 50 minute ride we reached my “resort” – which turned out a very typical Vietnamese hotel (very little in common with their internet appearance). Squeezed into a tiny plot of land. The pool turned out to be in indoor basin 3 by 4 meters without daylight on the second floor of the building and my room (advertised as being 34 sq.m.) was more in the neighbourhood of 14 sq.m.. Well, at least I don’t have a shared bathroom …and I have booked and paid for my room in advance for a whole week!
The Phuoc Anh River Hotel – as seen from the street.
Because of the delay of the driver it had turned dark and I could not really check out the area. The beech, however, seems to be miles away. I did walk around to get an impression of the neighbourhood, however. The location seems not so bad, as we are facing a romantic looking (in the dark!) river. On my short walk I was greeted by loads of young women left and right of the street who all invited me for a massage in their shop. I told them “maybe tomorrow”… but I also found an enterprising lady who has a shop and laundry services and provides motorbikes for rent. We haggled around and finally agreed that tomorrow I would stop by to pick up a scooter for 6 days. At 800,000 Dong (40$ or 60 Leva). Which amounts to 10 Leva a day. Fine! This will give me independence and the ability to go to beeches and what have you. I insisted on a bike with gears, not automatic, as I am a heavy character and being able to shift gears will make it listen more to my commands , so to say.
To be able to enjoy travelling in Vietnam you should be very relaxed. And always to expect the minimum. Then surprises will be mainly positive
And I did have a positive surprise. When pulling in at the hotel I noticed a restaurant on the other side of the road. Built partly on stilts above the river. It looked very cosy in the dark. A place geared to foreigners (normally not my thing). With a sign saying “Slow food from a slow life”. I checked their menu during my walk and decided to have dinner there later.
My hotel also has a nice restaurant. It’s on the top floor with like a roof terrace and great views (I think, as when I visited it was already dark and I could only see lights). I did not check the menu and prices yet. But when I was there it was 5.50 pm – and no clients.
So, after chilling out with some Cuba Libre I ventured to the slow food place across the street.
Prices were reasonable and they even offered a different kind of beer. In the North they only offered “Ha Noi” beer which I did not really like. Here I found a “Larue” beer (probably introduced by the French during the colonial times as it had a resemblance of “Kroc” – Kronenbourg. Not exactly my favourite but more drinkable than “Ha Noi”
The only thing that bothered me about the restaurant was the huge sign they had next to the street “Reward of Excellence from Tripadvisor for 2012″. But obviously they have been slow raising their prices according to their rating Good for them and for me. Not that they are cheap. But still rather affordable.
I had some “Nem” (Vietnamese spring rolls) made according to the recipe of their local granny. And they were really tasty! And crisp! And the dipping sauce was perfect.
The taste was unique. You could have this on the menu of any French Michelin star restaurant, no doubt. But it was kind of heavy and sweet – something a sophisticated chef had played around with. Too up-market. Very delicious but not the simple, powerful dish I was craving for. But then, I am not so easy to please!
All in all with two beers I forked out 18 Leva (including a generous tip). To be repeated!
And I had great company there. On the table next to me was an Asian couple from Chicago (of all places!). She with Vietnamese origin, still capable of speaking a little Vietnamese to get by. He a giant with Thai roots, mother being from Burma, father from Bangkok. Here on a short American 18 day holiday (including travelling). Lovely young people. I wish the US had more of them!
After paying my bill and drinking the obligatory green tea after dinner I stumbled back to my room to share my difficult life with you
Tomorrow the new adventure will begin: driving in Vietnam. In a country where chaos rules on the streets. I consider myself one of the most experienced drivers on this planet. The hardest time I ever had driving was in Cairo – but even there I managed after an hour or so. In Vietnam? It may take me longer to become confident. Driving here is a big flow of egos without concept. No one cares about traffic lights, priorities of way, rules or whatever. Motorbikes, cars squeeze in and through where they see a gap. Most of the participants in traffic simply rely on that the others will see them and will avoid hitting them. But there are so many of them! I expect to have new experiences when driving and to understand the general concept better. Which I will share with you – if I survive it
Tomorrow I may give my own hotel restaurant a chance for dinner. Maybe they will fix me some seafood the primitive way I desire. If not: nothing is lost. I just arrived and am stuck here for a week. I will find what I am looking for. I always do Eventually
Have a good night and see you here again, soon.