We passed our last full day at Hội An as usual by the beach. on the way back to the hotel we stopped by a small shack by the side of the road where they served Cao lầu and cold beer. A dip in the pool and a nap at the hot hours, and Bánh mì at the Bánh mì Queen – a shrunk old lady who makes the best Bánh mì in Vietnam. Just a while ago I remembered her and wondered how she’s doing, and thought it’s funny that I’m concerned about the health of a woman I met just a few times in my life at a faraway land. The marketplace that night was humming and bustling since it was the peak of the Mid-Autumn festival. We walked for hours with the crowds and the street shows, stopping here and there for some beer or spring rolles, and eventually ended the evening with fresh coconut juice.
Walking in a city’s streets knowing it’s for the last time everything seems a bit distance, like behind glass.
The next morning we woke up hungry and went for soup for breakfast by the hotel, and then had coffee at a place where many local men sat and played some kind of a board game. I told Roni about strange dreams I had for the last nights while a yellow lizard was watching us from above with its blank stare. We went back to the hotel and packed our bags because it was check-out time, but since the bus to the next destination was leaving only by noon we left our stuff at the reception and got outside again for Bánh mì. There were four obese and friendly Australians sitting there, the lady’s’ elbows seem to drown inside their arms, and they told us it’s their second time in Vietnam – they were also there three years ago, and missed it so much they had to come back. On the path outside a young woman parked her bike and took off her jeans jacket as she walked inside, and the Australians asked her what I wanted to ask all along – how come they wear such long clothes in this heat. She answered kindly with a broken English that light skin is considered as beautiful for their standards, but sunscreen is too expensive. It made me wonder how they see us, the Western tourists, who try to catch as much sun as possible.
We got back to the hotel’s pool as it got too hot outside, accidentally falling asleep for thirty minutes on the pool chairs, and then had a brief shower and went to the Coffee Bean at the main street. A young man sat outside on such an old and graceless motorcycle that it seemed almost vintage, drank cold beer and shooshed a lazy dog who sat in his shop entrance. From there we went to a travel agency and booked a flight back to Bangkok on November 4th – about five weeks from that day. It was something I knew we had to do, since the flight back home departed from Bangkok, but I remembered with longing the day back home when I looked for flights to Hanoi, and chose gleefully one-way tickets. I remembered how we organized parts of the trip, how we ordered visa for Vietnam and bought backpacks, and the realization that we are almost halfway through suddenly fell on me.
By five PM the minibus arrived, so we said goodbye to the hotel employees and joined a young German woman who was already in the vehicle. The driver drove around other hotels in the area and collected three girls from Hong Kong, a few locals and a French couple, and then drove to a main street and stopped by a big theater. The bus was already there, a two-story sleeping bus like the one we took from Bắc Hà to Hanoi, and we waited there for about twenty minutes while it was cleaned from its last ride. We got to get on it first which was good, since the bus was completely full and I didn’t want a bed in the pathway.
The ride was long and strange. The girls from Hong Kong complained about the air-conditioner, which couldn’t be turned off or modified, and after everybody was tired from listening to them one of the conductors gave them old newspapers and scotch tape to shut the air-con holes. At 11 PM we had a break at a refreshment stop which had a small restaurant, and a long line to the toilets. Some French girls were shaken since the toilets were just a hole in the floor. We thought about getting some snacks at the resturant but gave it up and went outside, to the utter darkness outside. When we moved again they turned off the lights, so I could read only with my phone’s light and pray it will have enough battery – I was done with Paul Theroux’s Great Railway Bazar and finally began reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I tried to sleep but the girl behind me kept messing with the scotch tape that shut the air-con and made a lot of noise, so I listened to music. I listened to Gorillaz’s Demon Days from the beginning to the end, which was something I didn’t do since I was 17, and when the song Feel Good Inc played we passed by a dark blue sea with fisher boat’s lights, and darker skies from above dotted with stars. At 3 AM we had another stop in the middle of nowhere and I went outside with some other people to pee by the bus, since there was no other place for it, while the driver was waiting impatiently. They left two passengers behind and had to drive backwards for a few minutes to pick them up. I was very uncomfortable because I couldn’t turn around in the bed/sit but only lay on my back, and could actually feel my muscles cramp under the air-con. By 5 PM we finally saw Nha-Trang in front of us, with its boardwalks and beaches and hotels, as the sun began shining on everything.
When we got off the bus some bikers approached us to offer rides, but we needed a few minutes to recover from the night and figure out what to do next. Eventually we took a cab, and arrived at the hotel by 6 AM. The ride was longer than we expected – apparently the hotel was too faraway from the city center. It was very fancy, way more than we thought, which was strange since it wasn’t that expensive. There was a printed menu in the room which showed what you can order from the room service, translated to English and Russian. Many people from Russia and China travel to Nha-Trang for vacations and business trips. We slept for a while and went outside again by 8 – I was tired and had a headache, and the coffee we had by the hotel was well-needed. We got outside feeling refreshed and went to look for food, and found a chubby shirtless man who coughed a lot but made delicious food, and at this point I didn’t really care who cooks for us.\
We changed to swimwear and went to the beach. Blue sky, torques water and green mountains in the distance, and aside from us there were only a few retired tourists with swimming suits straight from the 80’s. I thought about the city center, about the nice boardwalk and the streets we saw from the bus, and about this dozy area and the way-too-fancy hotel. We booked three nights in advance and couldn’t get a refund, but we decided to give up one night anyway and look for a smaller place in the center, which a appeared as a smart decision later on.