So it begins, Hoi An, Vietnam

January 19, 2010 at 6:11 am Leave a comment

In our heads the bike journey was always going to be a repeat of that first day – sunny weather, long lunches on the beach, quaint villages, plenty of photo opportunities and a pretty easy pace. We were pretty stunned then to wake up on the morning of our first day of biking to find monsoon weather. Even more disappointing was the first 50km of our trip – grimy suburbs, crowded roads, beeping horns and not a paddy field in sight. Soaked through (despite the massive cape raincoats we had bought to cover us, our bags and our bikes) we were forced to pull over when the roads became treacherously slippy and our grumbling bellies got to us.

After some urgent pointing, a trip to the kitchen and a consultation with the phrasebook we managed to order a bowl of questionable pho which Gary, Joe and I devoured but Xavier and Simon couldn’t bring themselves to eat. “Do they not have any burgers or even some fried noodles?” they pleaded. An early brush with food poisoning had left Simon a little doubtful about Vietnamese street food so he was of the ‘eat nothing rather than something Hep A contaminated’ school of thought. Far past that after travelling China (and in Joe’s case Nepal and India) we greeted food poisoning and diahhroea as old friends and were pretty much grateful for anything we could get.

Fed and watered (or in Simon and Xavier’s cases still starving) everything started to look a little brighter, and after another hour of driving through sheets of pounding rain the weather finally started to co-operate and the sun came out just in time for our first mountain pass. The pass was an incredible combination of helterskeleter patterns, hairpin turns and freefall hills ending in hair-raising views of lush mountains, crystal water and dense forests. Since trucks, buses and cars were diverted through a tunnel under the mountain, we had the road more or less to ourselves so, finally appeased that this biking lark was a good idea, we used the full width of it, whooping and hollering like children playing cowboys and indians.

It was all fun and games until Alice (my bike) started to cut out and spew an unhealty amount of smoke. After easing her over the last mountain we stopped in a leper colony (population 200) to have the oil changed before pushing on to Da Nang. Hitting the city in rush hour traffic, we spent a hair-raising 75 minutes navigating gridlocks of a hundred or so motorbikes, dodging suicidal pedestrians, weaving between veering trucks and ambitious cyclists and losing each other again and again to the droves of polished, coloured heads crowded around traffic lights and roundabouts.

Surprisingly we made it through the crush alive though and another hour of driving in darkness brought us to Hoi An – a charming village stuck between a river and an ocean. After a decadent hot shower and badly needed clothes change, we met Alex and Rhianna (friends from Hué who we were to bump into in every city) and headed to a riverside restaurant for beers and an excessive amount of food.

Charmed into submission by Hoi An’s winding alleys, 200 year old storefronts and hundreds of coloured lanterns reflected in the shimmering river, we floated through the next two days in a vegetative state. Loving our new hedonistic lifestyle we skipped from the beach to the bars, wolfed down delicacies in colonial cafes and browsed the multitude of clothes and craft shops crammed into every inch of the old section of town.

More pictures from Hoi An are available in the gallery

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Hip Hip Hué, Vietnam Sunburn, squoodles and splattered chickens. Hoi An to Nha Trang, Vietnam. (Day 1)

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Thanks for coming to visit us – stay tuned to watch us argue, punch, kick, pinch and scream our way around some of the most beautiful parts of the world.

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