With Saturday afternoon upon us, Andrew and I packed up our bags and prepared to leave the hostel in time for our 6:30 pm, overnight train. As we were getting ready, the hostel owners (both Vietnamese) asked us where we were headed. They must have expected the answer of Hanoi or Ha Long Bay because their heads turned with surprise and a bit of confusion when we replied "Ninh Binh". They asked us why we were going there with equal parts doubt and curiosity in their voice. Andrew and I explained our plans and they still looked at us with blank stares which were slightly disheartening. I didn't want to let their ignorance destroy my anticipation so I decided to ignore their reaction and look forward to what was in store.
Although I had enjoyed my time in Hoi An I was feeling a bit burnt out and ready for a change of pace, just not sure where to find it. Not wanting to throw myself onto an overnight train I decided that I'd spend one night in Da Nang and see what the city had to offer. If nothing else I could tell my grandpa I paid a visit to his old temporary home from when he served time as a Marine in the Vietnam war. Annoyance couldn't be avoided when my motorbike driver dropped me at the train station after asking another (local) driver where my hostel was. As I got off the bike and paid this other driver insisted my hostel was very near but then tried getting me on the back of his bike. Nice trick jerk, but no thanks, I'll walk. Thankfully the hostel was near but I was still dripping in sweat by the time I arrived, afternoon sun and humidity in Vietnam is a recipe for disaster.
Although the beautiful weather and friendly hostel owner of Da Lat could have kept me there for quite some time I wanted to make my way to the North of Vietnam. I booked myself an overnight bus ticket to Da Nang and crossed my fingers for the best. The bus ride wasn’t terrible despite the fact that I was the only foreigner and was stuck in the middle aisle between two very curious old men. After arriving in Da Nang my adventure was far from over. First, I had to fight off the motorbike drivers that literally were begging to drive me to the bus terminal, a destination I could see from where I was standing. Once there I had to negotiate my fare for the bus to Hoi An, a notorious ‘scam’ where foreigners are asked to pay 50,000 when the going rate is 15k ($.75). Apparently, I had a real cheeky driver as he first quoted me $10 but eventually walked away happy with 30k.
I was warned that I'd either love it or hate it. For some Vietnam is a food and adventure paradise while others just can't seem to find their grove. With a turbulent history and remains of division between north and south, it's an interesting place to say the least.