journeys end in Hoi An
The costal town of Hoi An is little short of lovely. It is blessed with wonderful colonial architecture in pastel colours, buildings that have thankfully been preserved in a tasteful and fitting way; a way that has not meant refilling every crack in the plaster, rubbing down flaking paint and polishing any exposed unpolished extremities. The textures and character of fading colonial grander are there in all their visual splendour. I love this look. The streets in the central area are open only to pedestrians and cyclists, no internal combustion engines; any city that rids itself of that most obnoxious of modern blights the motorcar is always going to be a hit with me.
Phong and I rolled into town content with the memories of a most splendid adventure behind us and an ice cold celebratory drink at the river side just a few moments ahead of us. We parked the bicycles outside a riverside café and took a seat at a table cooled by a whirling ceiling fan. As we soothed our dusty and parched throats we watched white tourists amble past, cameras swinging from their necks joining in light banter with the local boat pilots, rickshaw drivers and fruit sellers all busy looking for a little business. It is little wonder that there are so many tourists, this town is well worth a few days ambling around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the great cafés and restaurants, but to suddenly see so many European faces comes as something of a shock. Phong and I cast our minds back over the past couple of weeks, how many white people had we seen? Two there, 2 there, any more? Ah, yes, there were the three that passed us on motor scooters and soon after ran out of petrol, and there was the girl riding pillion on a motorbike with a Vietnamese guide who stayed in our hotel in A Luoi, and that was about it.
And so ensued the inevitable conversation regarding the merits of bicycle travel. These people passing here before us would visit Hanoi, Sapa, Hoi An, Saigon and maybe a beach or two, the standard tourist trail as laid out in The Lonely Planet guide book. And yet there is so much to see and experience in Vietnam, The beautiful cities such as Hoi An for are for sure worth not just visiting but lingering in, but it is the contrast between here and the dusty border towns we have overnighted in, the remote jungle roads where we didn’t see a car for 180KMS, the roadside restaurants serving just noodle soup, and the charming little treasures such as the wonderful restaurant we spent a lovely evening in that was run by a teacher and his wife where Phong whiled away a merry two hours discussing the medicinal qualities of wild mushrooms that brings Vietnam into a sharp focus of reality.
And our next topic of conversation, where will we visit on our bicycle next time Phong has a holiday.