Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hoi An, Vietnam

March 6, 2011—Our bus trip to Hoi An began at 8:15 on Saturday, March 5. The bus arrived on time, and we loaded our bags and climbed aboard. The bus looked fairly good on the outside, but the inside was well worn, and the seats were very close together, which left very little leg room for Steve. We moved to about four different seats trying to find a good one for the four-hour drive. We finally settled in about three rows from the back on the left side.

It then took us another hour to pick up all the passengers who were scattered in about five hotels. Riding in the full-size bus down the narrow streets with cars and motorcycles everywhere was quite interesting. Finally, an hour later we were on our way with a completely full bus. There was an assortment of nationalities on board—Australian, German, French, and Russian. The air-conditioning system was not working, but it was a cool and overcast day, so opening the windows worked fine and the rain made everything look so clean and very green.

About two hours into the trip, the driver made a right turn, and we entered a small town. Now this is where things get interesting. Our bus suddenly swerved hard to the left, and a young Australian lady sitting on the high back seat let loose with an expletive. Ahead of us we saw trees approaching the front windshield of the bus, and then we came to a stop. The young lady told us that when we swerved to the left, a truck in the oncoming lane was headed right for us. At that time, someone said that we had hit a pedestrian. There was an EMT with the Australian group, so he ran out to see if he could help. The local man was carried across the street, and the EMT examined him. When he returned to the bus, the EMT said that he appeared to have a broken ankle. Someone loaded him up and drove him to the hospital. We think that the bus just missed hitting him but did hit his foot.

Now the police arrived, and all the passengers got off the bus. A few of us walked across the street to use the restroom, and then we waited. About an hour later, the police were finished so we got back onto the bus and resumed our trip. I swear that not five minutes had passed when, once again, the driver swerved the wheel. The young lady in the back told us that a car in the on-coming lane was passing, and our driver had to swerve to give the car room. At this point I was hoping that our life insurance premiums were up to date. Everyone on the bus was now a bit edgy.

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant where we had just 30 minutes so Steve and I ate an ice cream and a small baguette—what a nutritious meal. We were back on the road, and now the bus was climbing a two-lane mountain road. We were approaching a hair-pin turn, and Steve and I looked up at the road above us. We saw a medium-size truck that was transporting pigs coming down toward the turn. At that point another truck of about the same size passed the transport truck, which meant that right at the hair-pin in the curve, there were three of us spread across two lanes. There was complete silence on the bus as we all held our breaths. Everyone made it through the turn, but now I had truly had enough. Unfortunately, we really didn’t have any options so we just hung on and prayed.

We passed through Da Nang, which was the area of China Beach during the war. We were amazed at the number of five-star resorts that are built or are being built all along this stretch. We arrived at Hoi An around 1:30, and as soon as the bus stopped, we got off and caught a taxi to our hotel to check in and eat a decent meal. We have a large corner room with a balcony, and we enjoyed the afternoon sitting on the balcony. Steve told me that he thought he was getting a cold and didn’t feel well, so we ordered a pizza to be delivered to the room and just took it easy. My foot was still sore so the rest helped it feel better.

This morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and then left on a motor scooter that we had rented. The drive through the streets was challenging but not nearly as bad as in Hanoi or Hue. We drove down to the Central Market and parked on the sidewalk. A woman was sitting in front of her shop and asked us to look at her designs. We agreed, and the next thing we knew, I had bought a pants outfit and Steve had bought a shirt. When we were done, we walked around for awhile, and we stopped to see a temple since we had not seen one in Vietnam.

Next we decided to drive out to the beach to have lunch. We found a lovely restaurant right on the beach where we enjoyed a meal of prawns and cold beer. There was a cool breeze coming in from the water, and it was so relaxing and beautiful.

It is interesting here because people use round boats, actually large baskets sealed with tar, to fish. One man brought in jellyfish and was cleaning them.

We decided to drive a little further out of town to enjoy the country side. Hoi An is a lovely town on the shores of the South China Sea. The area seems to be handling growth much better than the other cities we have visited, and we really liked it here.

We returned to the hotel for awhile and then went back to the tailor shop to check on our order. We tried on our clothes and they needed only minor adjustments. Steve was so pleased with his shirt that he ordered two more. She promised to deliver the clothes to us tomorrow before we fly to Saigon in the afternoon.

We are glad that we stopped here in Hoi An.

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