Hoi An, Vietnam

Getting here was quite and adventure.  All of the regular “open tour” buses that pick you up from your hotel were full.  The direct bus to Hoi An had already left by the time we got to the Hue bus station.  So we opted to head for Danang, the fourth largest city in Vietnam and see if we could catch the last bus.  No dice.

This worked out well though for two reasons.  1) We were able to find an exceedingly cheap room.  2) We ended up being invited to a table at dinner where we got a hilarious Vietnamese language lesson and a free meal from a group of very drunk Vietnamese men, score!

The following day we caught the most cramped mini-bus of our trip thus far.  It was panic attack level, but luckily it was only an hour.  Hoi An is an old merchant port that has retained it’s old buildings and refashioned itself as a mecca of Vietnamese arts and cuisine.  It’s a little more touristy than we might usually go for, but charming none-the-less.  A day was sufficient to take in the old teak mercantile stores, covered bridges, museums and pagodas.  We decided that the next day we’d grab a motorbike and visit some nearby Cham ruins, a culture we have no previous experience.

As we got up for an early start the sound on the roof could only mean one thing, our old friend Mr. Rain was dancing up a storm.  Dejected, we darted from awning to awning to get some food and plot our next move.  We’d already booked a ticket to leave on the bus tonight so this would be our last day in Hoi An.  It was now or never.  About noon the rain let up, so we hopped on the bike and gunned it.  The break in the weather only lasted about ten minutes, or about enough time to get an inconvenient distance from town.  Again we decided to just go for it.

It’s probably not every day you see two foreigners riding down the highway on an old motor bike in the rain. Especially when one of them has no coat.  That was me.  Val huddled behind me, drenched from the waist down, but dry behind her trusty Marmot rain shell, an item I had neglected to bring from the US and would certainly have come in handy over the last 6 months. To cheer things up we sang.  So now you have two singing foreigners, in the middle of nowhere and completely soaked, abruptly stopping to ask you direction.  Good lord what me must have looked like.

My Son is 50km away from Hoi An.  We made it in just under 1.5 hours, pretty good considering the last 3 km was on a horrifically slippery wet slate road.  Not surprisingly we were pretty much the only people at the ruins.  The site isn’t very big but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm.  Unfortunately we had to move quickly from building to building.  The entire complex is set in a lush ravine that also would have been great to explore.  Despite the time constraints we managed to see almost the entire ancient city.

On the road again the rain picked up.  Hydroplaning with two people on a scooter makes you wonder how good the local health care system is, but I managed to navigate us safely back into Hoi An, and to be fair it was pretty darn fun.  This was one of those times where there’s only a narrow margin to fit in something you won’t have another chance to see for a long time.  We took the plunge and are glad we did.  That’s one stretch of road we won’t soon forget.

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Scott Dusek is a writer and photography originally from Seattle, Washingon.

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