We are on the final leg of our trip. We made it! I write this from the beach in Nha Trang. After our cooking class a couple days ago we went out in Hoi An. Going out is a bit of an adventure. We started at our hostel with a couple drinks and then that bar closed at 10pm and we went out to the downtown area where tons of promoters try to sell you on the best drink deals in their various establishments. We went into one and danced a but and then went to another and sat outside with drinks. Those close at midnight and we headed to a dance club which stays open until 5am. All these places are filled primarily with backpackers and it is a very western style vibe from the music to the types of drinks served. We headed home at 2am to pass out.
When I woke up the next morning I had a terrible pain in my side which eventually subsided but for a bit I was worried I had to go to the local doctor. It was a shooting pain and I had and still have no idea what it was about. I hung out in the room while the others ventured out into town to go check on the progress of the handmade suits. David and Tamir joke that they are on call 24/7 for these tailors but it isn’t really a joke. The women call and the boys head out for the next alteration.
We unfortunately had to switch hotels because ours was booked up that night. We went two doors down to a quieter place with nice simple vibes. We still ate and hung around the first place because it had a bar, a pool, and a young crowd. We liked meeting travelers from all over and the place was much more social. So we moved our stuff two doors down and I hung around the pool until Shosh. Tamir, and David returned.
They got back around 2pm and I was feeling a lot better so we went over to the beach (only 7 minute walk) to lounge around and be lazy. We got some lounge chairs and swam in the ocean and rested. It was necessary to have a day of nothing in the midst of all our running around. That night we walked back to our new hostel and showered and got ready to go out. The boys went early to get more alterations done and Shosh and I ended up just falling asleep around 10pm. Our whole day of relaxing really caught up with us :).
The next morning (Tuesday morning) was a bit of crisis mode as we had planned to head to Nha Trang on the overnight bus departing Hoi An at 6pm and arriving on Wednesday morning at 6am. Spoiler alert, I mentioned that I was writing this from the beach in Nha Trang so, we made it. I will still tell you the story though because it is a good one.
The woman who had been helping us with bookings told us that all the buses were sold out for that night and all the trains were sold out for the next few nights. She basically said, hey you are stuck in Hoi An for another day or two. That really wasn’t going to fly because we had a non refundable airbnb booked in Nha Trang and we had been planning to spend our final days on this paradise esque beach. We considered flying but the flight prices were a few hundred dollars and all had long layovers. The issue was that it is Vietnamese vacation season right now and Nha Trang is a desirable location. So we strategized. What if we hired a private driver? How much would that cost? We assumed it couldn’t be much more than a train ($40/person) and as long as it was cheaper than flying we were game. What if we went to another city in the interim and took a bus from there? Lots of options but no answers yet.
We decided to get a second opinion about the transportation from our new hostel, the old more social one two doors down told us we were out of options, and they started frantically placing calls for us. It was about 11am and the buses were set to depart at 6pm. After about 30 minutes of calling they found us a bus! It was $15/person and was departing from a bus station about 15km away. Beware of the term “bus station” but I’ll get to that in a minute. It sounded a little sketchy but still great so we booked four seats on a 12 hour overnight bus from Hoi An to Nha Trang. Woo!
We then rented motorbikes ($6/bike/day) and set off to Marble Mountain for our last bit of touring before the real vacationing happened. But first the boys had to go back again for their suits, I know, insanity. There are some priceless stories about the process from the women playing Vietnamese music on Tamir’s speaker, to telling David he has a sexy ass, to prom style photos, and finally to making analogies about their brains based on the amount of hair they have respectively. Curly hair means strong brain (David) and something about grass growing elsewhere for Tamir.
Suits in hand we very hesitantly got on motorbikes to drive about 30 minutes to Marble Mountain. After a small spat where I refused to go unless Tamir wore a helmet, I won, Shosh got on the back of David’s bike and I got on the back of Tamir’s and we set off to the mountain. We needed to fill up gas but naturally David’s bike ran out of gas on the way to the gas station. Tamir and I had drove off first so we were waiting and waiting for them at the gas station but thoroughly confused about what was taking them so long. David drives up without Shosh on his bike but with a Vietnamese man pushing him with one leg and Shosh riding on the back of said man’s bike. What had happened was they ran out of gas and this guy kicked and pushed David to the gas station all while driving Shosh on the back of his own bike. Two dollars worth of gas later, we were actually off for real this time.
Marble Mountain was gorgeous with beautiful look out points and a bunch of natural caves. We got there and it started pouring rain but we still managed to see a bunch of stuff and get back to our bikes in time to make it back to our hostel by 4pm. We were taking a cab to the “bus station” at 5pm but we wanted to repack and eat before we got on the bus.
We scarfed down food and got in the car that took us to the side of a highway aka the bus station. Many buses going all around the country would open their doors, slow down, and shout things. I assume they were shouting the bus fare or destination but it is unclear. We waited around for our bus which took a while to come. Our cab driver waited with us and it appeared he had some money to hand to the bus driver. So we did book tickets or we didn’t? Still unclear but as you know we did make it to Nha Trang. A few more buses drove by and one of them even had someone stop, get out, and presumably try to pressure people to take his bus. Remember we are literally on the side of a highway.
We finally are told to get on a bus that is slowed down on the road. After some maybe bartering our driver hands the bus driver the money and we get on the bus. This bus is packed. People are sleeping in the aisles and they moved a few children and potentially a family in order to get us our seats. We are stuffed in the back row where five sleeper beds are next to each other and our feet were sort of touching the heads of the people sleeping in the aisles. Things were weird.
They got weirder as we stopped about a half hour in and everyone got off the bus to eat dinner. This rest stop had meals prepared for us and the bus supplied sandals to all of the passengers when they exited the bus. Oh, you take your shoes off and put them in a bag when you initially get on the bus. We stopped for maybe forty minutes while most people ate and then got back on the bus for our long journey through the night. There were no bathrooms on the bus so we were at least thankful for the pit stop to use restrooms if nothing else.
I cannot begin to describe to you how insane the driving of this bus was. I actually don’t want to describe it for fear of freaking any of my loved ones out and having them never let me travel again. Let’s just say throughout the night we started and stopped as people got on and off the bus. That combined with some swerving and a lot of honking made for a long bus ride with no sleep. It turns out the driver must have truly been speeding because at 3:30am we were dropped on the side of the road. My bags were literally thrown off the bus and we were pushed out of the doors as the bus drove off (I’m guessing on the rest of its route?).
To recap, we were the only people to get on the bus when we did and we were the only people to get off when we did. Although interesting and cool, it is still a little unsettling to be the only foreigner on a bus of locals. Typically there are buses specifically geared towards tourists or areas where tourists frequent that locals avoid. It felt like we really didn’t belong and we definitely stuck out like sore thumbs. Everyone was very friendly about it so it’s possible we didn’t act too touristy.
Next time I post I will update on what happened at 3:30am and how we made it to the beach where I am sitting now. Until then, wish me happy beaching.