It’s been suggested you haven’t really seen Vietnam unless you’ve seen it on a motorcycle. They dominate the country, their image evocative of the country itself. And so, we decided to give it a try. A short guided journey, because neither of us actually know how to ride, from Dalat to Mui Ne and through the central highlands. It would take two days.
I’m shivering. I’m wearing pants. I sort of wish I had a jacket on. Something is very, very wrong. I couldn’t figure out why the baby sitting next to me at the adventure booking agency looked like he was about to go skiing. Now, I get it. Dalat, by south east Asian standards is frigid. OK, so maybe it’s actually in the low twenties, but when you’re used to high thirties these numbers make you want to put on a scarf (and all the locals do). It’s a welcome change, even if it is a bit dreary with a relatively constant drizzle. At least cozying up with a warm bowl of noodles or hot cup of soya milk is inviting as opposed to repulsive. Dalat in general seems strange, it used to be a vaction town for the French, and so it doesn’t look Vietnamese, though the food stalls and motorbikes assure you otherwise.
Hoi An is, by all standards a gigantic tourist trap. The streets of Old Town feel a bit like Disneyland and everyone wants to sell you something, specifically, a tailored suit made in 24 hours. We both throughly enjoyed it. It’s picturesque, with endless rice paddies, low lying French colonial buildings and a general feeling that one ought to slow down.
It was the first pang of homesickness I’ve felt in my twelve weeks abroad. It was night, and our train was rocking its way out of the suburbs and neon lights of Hanoi towards our destination of Hoi An. We booked last minute, three days ahead and were lucky to score seats on a hard six bed sleeper. Six of us fit into a 48sq. ft. space, just barely enough room. We were lucky though, our cabin had three quite women and another man who spent most of his time elsewhere. Down the hall there were screaming babies, drunk locals and smokers who disregarded the no smoking signs. Our cabin mates went to bed at 9pm.