Sunday, November 29, 2009

Comfort Food.

There have been a few times on our tip where we have found ourselves out of our comfort zone. While walking the streets of Dalat after dinner we stumbled into a night market in the middle of the road. The market was no more than a few rows of canvas bags spread out across the ground selling all of the seconds clothing. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the market itself, but as the vendors went about selling their wares they all had a unique chant like sales pitch which when combined with all of the market vendors created an orchestral rhythm. It reminded me of walking through Ankor Wat and listening to the band of landmine-victims playing local instruments on the side of the path. When you single out one instrument to listen to it, it just sounds like noise, but when collaborated as a whole it creates music.

Browsing the market stalls I turned to Prue and asked “are you out of your comfort zone yet?”. No sooner had she replied “no” with a shake of her head and a bewildered smile when suddenly all of the vendors starting yelling frantically and grabbed their canvas bags running and dragging them off the street, over the top of us, and retreating to the edges of the sidewalk. Within ten seconds the entire street had cleared of market stalls and while Prue and I stood in the middle of where the market had been, a truck with a tray full of baton wielding police officers roared around the corner charging into the empty space the market had occupied. Prue grabbed my arm and said “ok, now I’m out of my comfort zone” and with that we decided it was best to leave the area.

Mostly being out of your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean being uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is the only word I would use to describe our bus ride from Nha Trang to Qui Nhon, I might even add a curse word to the front of it. We were booked on a 16 seater mini-van for the five hour trip, 16 seats might work for tiny little Vietnamese, but when you try and shoehorn the two of us into the back seat, sealed in by two more locals, with one leg up in the air and our bags sitting on our laps in a mini van that decided it needed to be parked in the sun for fifteen minutes before leaving without the aircon on… Well it’s fucking uncomfortable

We had an opportunity to bail about ten minutes into the trip heading out of town, again the bus decided it needed to be parked on the side of the road for fifteen more minutes. Prue and I sat and debated whether or not we would get off, and after much debating we finally though “fuck it, lets get out of here”, we moved to get out, which would involve literally climbing over people. Suddenly fate raised its hand and bitch slapped us back down into our seat as the door slammed shut and the bus speed forward to Qui Nhon with 14 locals and us, crammed in the back sweltering, sweating, squished and so terribly uncomfortable.

We had decided to take the bus against our better judgment, as bus rides in Vietnam tend to be more like a death defying rollercoaster when compared to the safer and smoother option of the train. The train timetable didn’t have an appropriate departure time for us so we ended up crammed into our mini-van as we twisted and winded our way up through mountain trails along the beautiful ocean road, with gorgeous beaches and off shore islands on one side and gigantic mountains and cliffs on the other side. The Vietnamese could be forgiven for not bothering to visit our own Great Ocean Road, they have one, and it’s very bloody beautiful.

Or at least, we’re pretty sure it was. It’s hard to sit and enjoy the views. Not because we were squished uncomfortably into the back of the mini van. It’s hard to enjoy the view because you just cant take your eyes away from the road and the certain death that honks its way toward you at every turn, on every straight and always on your side of the road. Unless of course it is you who driving is on their side. We may have been under the impression our driver was Australian as he actually spent more time driving on our side of the road (the wrong side) than he did using the imaginary middle lane. Driving into darkness didn’t offer much relief either, as now their was no view to distract you from the road, and you are always wondering if the headlight of the scooter you are approaching head on to bully off the road, is actually a truck with one blown light.

It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush escaping death over and over, occasionally muttering an “oh shit!” or gripping the edge of you seat. It is truly frightening however, when the locals who seem mostly oblivious or desensitised to the road mayhem start popping their head up going “oh oh oh…” as the narrowest of margins saves you from being worm food. In the end we made it safely albeit uncomfortably to Qui Nhon.

Qui Nhon is a beach side city in the foot of the mountains and a place with little to no western tourism. it’s a bit of a shame that there isn’t much tourism as it is a lovely place. But I suppose it is made a little lovelier because of the lack of tourism. We were able to walk down the street without vendors pleading with us to come in and have a look, and we were able to sit and have a meal without peddlers walking up to us selling crap. We decided to do what anyone in a place without tourism would do, we checked into a resort.

Using modern technology we negotiated a cheap rate by bringing up the internet on Prue’s iPhone while standing at the reception desk, we found the resort mostly deserted as it is the off season and it kinda made us feel like the whole place was for us. So we relaxed in our complimentary bath robes, ordered Australian steak from room service, had a swim, a massage, a sauna and pottered around the quiet town of Qui Nhon, checking out a few nearby Cham sites. After two relaxing nights we set sail for the clothes tailor capital of South East Asia, Hoi An. This time we took the train.