To quote Louise May Alcott, “resolve to take Fate by the throat and shake a living out of her”. Unless you are Vietnamese and then extend said quite to most living creatures, be they rats, banana trees or Americans.
Fine, I generalise too much. Not just Americans. There are plenty of Germans here too.
This morning I set myself to go to Hoi An , a mere 40km away from Da Nang. Initially planning to take the bus, I hopped on a cab to be taken to said bus stop. Few minutes later, after protests of mine that I do not want to take the taxi to Hoi An, just to the bus stop, several scoffs later from the driver (like what, why on earth would I pay him 10 times more just so I can sit in his freakin taxi), he managed to convince a German couple to come with us, thus lowering my price more than a third (he charged them more than me, and for some obscure reason, they agreed). So it ended up costing me 100,000 dong (bus on the way back was just 30,000).
As the taxi rolled into the city, everything was rather quite different from where I’m staying in Da Nang: shops everywhere, colourful lamps hanging on streets and a general liveliness which was a bit exciting at first.
However, this lively hustle n bustle proved fuelled by tourists, to such an extent that all the shops were mainly selling some sort or other of souvenirs (I mean don’t get me wrong – this happened in Mexico too, but I rather dislike it). At one point I was surrounded by obnoxious Americans (I swear, they can be so annoying) that I had to put my headphones on and listen to music so I dont punch someone and retake real Vietnam from their greedy capitalist clutches.
The buildings are however very nice (in the Old Quarter, off course. The actual city extends beyond this zone), colourful yet in a state of blissful decrepitude, black fungus slowly devouring everything.
Yet unless you are interested in perusing the merchandise (as I wasn’t; I have become horridly minimalistic), there isn’t all that much to do and see in Hoi An. Many tourists seemed to hire bikes, but they were awfully clumsy compared to the Vietnamese bikers. Perhaps a slow stroll is in order.
The pooches were rather bored of all the tourists invading their streets. So was Monsieur Cat.
There seemed to be a number of pagodas around, yet for some reason I had the impression you needed some sort of ticket for them (as there would always be an old man around asking for a ticket as I just inspected the exterior).
The Thu Bon river also offers great spying on the ever famous Vietnamese boats and people with their cone shaped hats that appear on all the travel books. Have I mentioned that Hoi An is a UNESCO Heritage Site? (Due to it representing a finely preserved port from the 15th century) UNESCO has also included in its 2008 Impact Report that tourism have brought changes to the area which are nit sustainable without mitigation. Didn’t I tell you tourism fucks things up?
I will let Monsieur Bug explain the difference between tourists (who are evil) and travellers (like me. Pilgrims of Light. Seekers of Wisdom. Enemies of IKEA).
Tourists are oblivious of the real benefits of traveling and experiencing new cultures. Whilst travellers attempt to assimilate part of the new culture and environment in an attempt to push their senses past the human limitations and become a bodhisattva, tourists only look for the “buy two get one free” deal. They generally travel in throngs (“throngs”, I really like this word), creating an artificial bubble of their own homeland’s culture around themselves. They amuse themselves on cultural differences and generally mock said cultures. They just look for something to buy their cousin’s husband.
Thank you, Monsieur Bug. It is quite a conflicting feeling, my opinion on the accessibility of traveling. On the one hand, obviously the cheaper travelling is the more I am able to do it – as I wasn’t fortunate enough to be born with the ability to turn objects into gold. Yet the more accessible it is, the more other people do it and end up changing the environment so much it sometimes stops being enjoyable.
The proper market was very busy in an authentically Vietnamese way, and it very much reminded me of some Romanian markets, selling fruits and chicken (live chicken).
I did stumble upon a great little gem: a teahouse called Reaching Out. Built on the idea of enjoying tea in peace (sweet, god sent peace), many of the people working here (if not all) are speech impaired. Everyone was very friendly and amicable, and the experience was nice – the place was rather empty but so peaceful as nobody spoke. So no annoying American.
Then I crossed the river for some well deserved (and cheap) food, and I came across a very nice restaurant that gave me some free pineapple for dessert. I tried the local noodles called Cao Lau (supposedly bathed in some sort of holy water somewhere) with pork. It felt nice not to be ripped off for once.
Walked around for a bit more before attempting to find the bus back to Da Nang (last one leaves at 5).
When I met this rather skilled vendor: telling me I should take a picture of her.
After that she quickly propositioned me to take the fruits and let her take a picture of me. She handed me her little cap as well, all the while me being prepared to throw the fruit away and hunt her down if she tried to steal my camera. But I think I make a rather dashing fruit vendor, no? (Sure, she then asked me if I wanted to buy some and I felt the need to reward her for her innovatory techniques).