We’ve been working hard, and since arriving, the school has gained 20+ volunteers, so we’re taking the weekend off. I’ve been dreaming of Meteora ever since I saw some fantastic photos a couple years ago. Probably on Instagram, if we’re being honest, but I don’t remember for sure.
We are up and ready to go by 7:30am. This is when our tour group is supposed to pick us up. I know things usually run late here, but when 8:00 rolls around and there’s still no bus I’m a little confused. I could have sworn he said that they’d pick us up here…but maybe we were supposed to go back to the booking office?
At 8:10 a man on a scooter rolls up to collect us. He doesn’t actually drive us anywhere, just slowly rides his motorbike in front of us for two blocks while we walk behind him. I’ll never know why he doesn’t just put us on the scooter. There’s totally space.
We wait at another travel agency for 5 or 10 minutes before a big 45 seater tour bus arrives. We get on an join a group of about 15 other people to travel the one and a half hour ride to My Son. It’s nice to have some space on the tour bus!
As the bus pulls out of Hoi An, our tour guide introduces himself and goes over the itinerary for the day. I finally understand why everyone else on the bus is wearing a bathing suit under their clothes. Apparently we’re going on a boat tour to get back to Hoi An. No one told me, but I’m not opposed to it! At the end of his shpeel, he mentions a 100,000 dong ($5) entry fee to My Son, and comes around to collect it. I assume that’s the 100,000 dong we paid last night so I show him our receipt. He takes it and asks for another 100,000 dong. Apparently, the money we paid last night is only for the tour, and not the entrance fee. It might have been nice for us to know that, because then we probably wouldn’t have come. I distinctly remember thinking, “how bad can it really go for only $5?” Well it can go quite badly if that $5 becomes $10.
I complain, and feel a bit like I’m making a scene, but it’s we’re on a budget! We can’t just run around tossin’ 100,000 dolla bills everywhere.
All of a sudden our $5 all inclusive morning tour has become a $10 mystery boat adventure that returns us home later than we expected. I’m really not happy, but it’s my own damn fault for booking another tour. No more tours! Ever!
We get to My Son having no idea what to expect. All I know is that they are some old temple ruins, which sounds really cool, but my mood is a little sour now so I don’t feel overly excited to be here.
Our tour guide is friendly, but has mediocre English skills. It’s not really that his English is so bad, but he thinks it’s better than it really is, and as a result, tries to speak too quickly, causing him to mix up words and slurr a lot of things together so they become basically inaudible. I get the main idea of what he tries to tell us, as he leads us around the grounds explaining the age of the old temples and the cause for them to now be in ruins. From what I understand, all of this beautiful 9th-12th century Vietnamese religious architecture, is now left only in fragments because of American bombings during the war. It’s disgusting, the amount of history, literature, art and culture that are destroyed during wars.
Everything I learn is really interesting, and even though it’s sad that the temples have been destroyed, what remains of them is still incredibly beautiful. We get a bit of free time at the end of the tour to wander around and check out the areas that interest us most or go to some areas that we didn’t visit. Tamara and I explore the places that weren’t covered on the tour before following a long, cobble stone, tree lined path back to the parking lot. I’m still mad about the extra 100,000 dong, but at least the tour was interesting! I’m happy we made it out to see My Son.
We get back in the bus and drive to what I assume will be the boat dock, but I still don’t have any definitive information about our day.
We do in fact drive to a boat dock, but Tamara and I, along with another pair, are told to stay on the bus. Our guide hops off with every other passenger and the bus drives us back to Hoi An. I’m perfectly happy with this, because I like to freedom to pick my own lunch. I’ve learned that included boat lunches are never what they should be out here. We’re dropped off in the middle of no where in Hoi An, but luckily I’ve got a map handy. We help the other two people find their way before heading out to get lunch.
For lunch, we go in search of pizza. We’ve been craving it for a couple days after seeing sign after sign promoting buy one get one free pizza deals. We can’t resist any longer. Of course, in keeping with the way things always seem to go, as soon as we are looking for something, we can’t find it. Sure, we find a million places serving pizza, but their prices are high! Most places are asking 150,000 dong ($7.50) for a plain cheese pizza. Even at buy-one-get-one-free that would be pricey, but what’s worse is that it isn’t two for one. All of a sudden there are no pizza deals in sight. It’s heart breaking. We finally settle on a place that serves pizza for 90,000 dong ($4.50) and forget about the search for a two for one deal.
The pizza is mediocre, which I saw coming, but still satisfies my desire for western cuisine.
While walking around the Ancient Town we run into a Slovakian girl we met in Ha Long Bay. She tags along with us for the afternoon. Moments later, we run into a couple from Ireland who we also met in Ha Long Bay. What’s even weirder is that this morning at the My Son ruins, we find two Canadian guys that we had met in where? Ha Long Bay. In most places I’d think “wow, what a small world”, but in Vietnam there’s only two real routes to take; Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh, or Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. Vietnam is a long and skinny country, so it’s pretty hard to deviate off the tourist trail. Still, it’s pretty funny that we see 5 people we’ve met previously in the span of a few hours!
After wandering around the market for a while we decide to go see if my custom boots are ready. I’m early to pick them up, but I figure it can’t hurt just to check. What do ya know? They’re ready! I walk into the shop and see them sitting there, all pretty and perfect, waiting to be tried on. Fresh off the shoe press! I slide my embarrassingly dirty and bug bite-covered feet into the boots, which fit perfectly. Apparently the tracing of my foot on a piece of paper was an effective form of measurement. I love them. Boots are not really an appropriate choice of foot wear in countries that easily reach temperatures of 30 degrees and higher, so I plan to keep them in my bag until I get home. Not an effective use of backpack space, but I can’t say no to shoes.
For dinner Tamara and I find the cutest little restaurant called Café 43, just steps away from our hotel. I order a chicken curry that is absolute perfection. I taste a hint of coconut milk in the sauce, which always makes me happy. You can’t go wrong with coconut. Our table has a layer of glass covering what must be hundreds of photos of tourists, accompanied by positive reviews of the restaurant written on napkins. We aren’t the only people who love this place!
A big selling feature, which is mentioned on almost every single napkin, is the cheapest beer I’ve ever seen, at 3,000 dong per glass. That’s just under fourteen cents….That’s free.
The restaurant is on a pretty quiet side street, so Tamara and I walk back down to the Ancient Town in hopes of finding a little more excitement. For unknown reasons, it’s not as busy down here as it was last night. I try one of the cool wishing candles, and watch it float down the river with dozens of other glowing symbols of desire.
We run into the girl from Slovakia again, and stay out relatively late with her and some other backpackers we meet in the town. They stay at the bar past “Happy Hour” but Tamara and I go home once the 3,000 and 4,000 dong drinks turn to 30,000.
When we get back to our hotel the gate is locked. We panic, and I am seriously considering trying to climb it, when a staff member emerges from a bug-net tented mattress on the floor of the lobby to come and rescue us. He unlocks the gate, checks our room key to make sure we aren’t stragglers, and let’s us up to our room. Phew!
Tamara takes a shower before bed, but only gets through shampooing her hair before the water shuts off. The shower head, the sink, all of it. She comes out laughing but distraught as to what she should do. I try to turn on the taps, (like she hasn’t already tried that?) but without even so much as a drop. She manages to problem solve by using my half empty 1.5L bottle of drinking water to rinse out her shampoo. Who would have known the water had a curfew?