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Hoi An & the Night Train Bushtucker Trial

We arrived in Hoi An to a brand new hotel we had found on the internet in advance, we had booked two nights, but as soon as we got there we realised we would be staying longer. It had only been open for two weeks, so was really cheap at £15 per night, this was cheaper than almost anything else in Hoi An because the old town is famous for being a UNESCO world heritage site.

The hotel had every luxury we hadn’t had for the previous month and a half, a big room with a comfy bed (in Asia, this is as rare as rocking horse excrement), a balcony, a bath, a swimming pool, free use of bicycles and free breakfast. It was so nice to just relax somewhere comfortable for a few days after 6-7 busy weeks of travelling quite quickly, so we stayed five nights in the end.

The days were spent mainly lounging on nearby An Bang Beach, a really nice beach with cool sea temperatures and lots of places to just sit on loungers all day and relax. The restaurants let anybody use the sun loungers if they buy some lunch from there, so in the first four days we spent three of them just cycling twenty minutes from the hotel to the beach and laying on the beach for most of the day. One day we went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of Vietnamese wine from Dalat, to drink on the beach, it was only about £3, but it was awful, we still managed to drink it though. We keep trying the Dalat wine, but it doesn’t seem to get any better, maybe we’ll have to keep trying 🙂

At night we would walk around the ancient town on the river, a beautiful town, but getting a picture of this can be quite difficult because of the amount of tourists there, the restaurants in the centre were far too expensive so we normally ate in the market or in places outside of the city. It was actually the first place we had come to in Vietnam where the food didn’t seem that authentic, we aren’t sure if it is because of the amount of tourists there or just because we were eating in the cheaper places, but the food wasn’t of the same quality as we had been having previously.

One exception to this was a small family run place in the ancient town that sold the most amazing Pho and chicken rice for 30,000 dong (£1) each. It was so good we went almost every day for either lunch or dinner. A continuation of the cheapest beer in the world story occurred in Hoi An too. In Hanoi, the fresh beer was 5,000 dong per glass, in Hoi An it could be found for 3,000 dong (11 pence), I don’t think we’re going to find it cheaper than this now.

Another thing Hoi An is famous for is custom tailors, every street has multiple shops that can custom make any clothes within one or two days for prices that are much cheaper than Europe. Obviously Stac needed to get in on this and get some clothes made while we were here. The people in the tailors were so friendly, we ended up returning to the shop four or five times for different fittings and changes to the original designs, each time we went they gave us free beer, so it was the first time I’ve ever actually looked forward to going to a clothes shop.

So after designing, changing, fitting, re-fitting and purchasing Stac finally had some custom tailored shorts and a dress, she couldn’t have been happier. The price for both was less than £65, we think it would be four or five times that price to buy the same at home.

After 5 nights in Hoi An, we got on the night train from Danang, the closest train station, to travel to Nha Trang further south, it would be a 10 hour journey, leaving at 2am from Danang. What we didn’t realise is, this train had been going since Hanoi, about 24 hours before, and doesn’t get cleaned at all along the way. So us, and another couple arrived in our ‘first-class’ cabin after walking across the other train tracks to get to our train, none of us expected to see what we were presented with.

The people who had just got off the train had left the cabin we were going to be in a disgusting state, there was food and nut shells all over the floor, the bin was overflowing with half eaten takeaway food containers, the beds were slept-in, food stained and full of hairs and bugs. Stac almost began to cry before laughing about how it seemed like a bushtucker trial (her favourite TV program ever).

Before we had even got sat down, the train set off, and there we were for the next 10 hours in this cabin full of cockroaches and filth. Safe to say it wasn’t the best nights sleep either of us had ever had, including the smoke bellowing in through the air conditioning from others smoking in the cabins and the endless amounts of bugs climbing the walls and the beds, it was not a pleasant experience.

But we survived it, Stac says we earned all 12 stars (another Jungle reference), and arrived in to Nha Trang before lunch, quickly wishing we hadn’t, but we’ll come to that next time.

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