If I could I would teleport to the next place skipping long, uncomfortable rides to the south of Vietnam. But there was no other way- I had to come back to the road. I had a bit of remorse that so far I have put hitchhiking away and used only buses so this time I decided to try hitchhiking in Vietnam for the first time. When I reached the road something was wrong. After 2 hours of waiting for any car I realized it was Sunday which means the worst day of a week for the journey. The heat was killing me and I didn’t know what to do. Hiding in the shade from an incredible heat I decided to wait for a bus. Finally I got one to Dong Hoi where, to my surprise, a bus to Hoi An was already waiting for me there. I failed but I didn’t care, I only wanted to sit down and escape from the sun that makes not only hitching but LIVING impossible!
As I’ve had a good experience with homestays this time I wanted to find one as well. As they were all located outside of the centre after walking about 6 km and wandering among little streets I found the perfect one- cozy, spacious huts surrounded by the garden and hammocks. I was ready to stay there for a few days. I couldn’t stop thinking about Callum, though. The last 10 days gave me a lot, I finally had my own space, time for myself, for thinking about my life and what I want from it. I started to miss him. But these 10 days didn’t give me as much energy as I wanted and I surely wasn’t happy alone. I think I needed something else and being left alone wouldn’t fix it. Callum was in Hoi An so we decided to meet. I don’t know if it was too early or it was just my mood but it was a complete failure. After arguing with each other and with a crazy lady who didn’t accept our food complaint (don’t try to complain in Asian restaurants, it’s not Europe!!!) we were finally reconciled and spent a lovely evening by the river in Hoi An old town.
As Callum moved to my homestay we decided to take time to see the area. We took our bicycles and started our trip from Tranque- a little fishing village surrounded by the rice fields. I haven’t seen any fishermen there but at least we could enjoy some real carrot cake in a lovely English style cafe. Once we got to the beach I jumped to the water in my silly goggles looking for a treasure. Besides the sand there was nothing there, I forgot it wasn’t Philippines anymore… The next day we booked a night bus that would take us to Mui Ne. Torturing Callum for a few hours I tried to buy a dress for myself as Hoi An is famous for its tailors. As always, in a touristy town, all shops were exactly the same so I ended up buying only souvenirs for my family. All the buses in Vietnam are nice and new but the beds are just fucking uncomfortable. We barely slept for a few hours during a 20 hour journey to Mui Ne where we finally got at 1 pm the next day.
Vietnam maybe isn’t the most expensive Asian country but comparing it to India for example, living there cost us a fortune. Walking down the main street we were lucky to find a room for US $10 which in this country is nothing. Well, after opening the doors for Western tourists the prices must become „Western” as well… But in Mui Ne most of the tourists were actually from the East. All of them from Russia. Anywhere you go, you see sign boards with Vietnamese and Russian names so you better learn Cyryllic if you wanna understand something. Mui Ne was a typical beach town with all the shops and restaurants located by the main road next to the beach but the whole town was quite empty as that time I was told it was „out of season”. More space for us, poor backpackers.
Besides enjoying the beach and great Indian and Mexican restaurants there was not much to do so we rented a bike to explore the famous dunes of Mui Ne. We started from the white ones. We snuck in from the side and climbed to the very top where we could barely breath as the wind was so strong. Sliding on plastic boards didn’t work so in the end we came back to the car park with a hair and mouth full of sand ready to continue our trip. Once again we agreed it’s worth to get lost from time to time as driving around Mui Ne fishing village we had a chance to see a process of drying the fishes on the roofs. Callum convinced local fishermen to sell us some so with a bag full of sardines we went to see Champa temples and Red dunes where we spent the whole evening sliding and rolling down our asses in the sand.
Ho Chi Minh was our last stop. After spending the last 2 weeks in the hotels I was happy we finally found a couchsurfer ready to host us. The truth was that it didn’t differ from a hotel at all with the only difference we had much less space and had to sleep on the mattress. When we entered the flat of Tuan and Winnie, excited to see the life of a Vietnamese family, we were quickly brought down to earth by Tuan who showed us the flat and simply said bye. Waiting in the flat with countless pictures of Jesus and Santa Maria (there are not many catholics in Asia but the ones who exist are REAL catholics) we hoped we would catch them for a dinner in the evening. When the couple came back they locked themselves in their room and the only conversation I had was with the father of Tuan who was lovely but didn’t speak much English. Well, at least we had a lot of privacy.
Ho Chi Minh only proved my first impression of Vietnam as a country really developed and modern comparing to the ones I’ve seen this year. We visited War Remnants Museum that, although a bit propagandist, showed us the reality of the Vietnam War and the effects of this tragedy that go on till today. The city has many buildings created with a French touch (Independence Palace, cathedral Notre Dame, Post Office, City Hall) that sometimes gives you an impression you are in Europe. Reading the history of southeastern Asia I always ask myself a question: What did they (Europeans) look for here? How would the world look like if there was no imperialism at all and all nations were left alone and could grow as they wanted? I don’t mind French influence here in Vietnam, they surely brought a lot of good things but I don’t travel around the world to see only a Vietnamese version of Europe…
The area we lived was a truly local place, with street food markets around and people living in cramped apartments by the busy streets. It wasn’t a district for rich people. But we were happy we could try some of the street food that was 3 times cheaper than in the centre. The last night we finally had a chance to talk with Tuan. He admitted he didn’t have much time as after work he tries to spend as much time as he can with his family. As we were told Vietnam doesn’t vary too much from China. You have to work hardhere while your child is being raised by your parents. The same is with the freedom of speech. Our host was completely aware of what is going on in the country, injustice and corruption that rules the politics. But he can’t do anything. Why? If you stay quiet and content with your living then you can have a truly nice, simple life. But if not don’t be surprised one day someone will beat you up till you forget about any complaints you have ever had. That’s the reality of communism. Although I still regreted we didn’t spend much time with our hosts, the morning we were leaving Ho Chi Minh I felt that I understood them and I didn’t resent them at all.