yesterday i spent the day either in my hotel room with the balcony door opened and the fan on watching television, taking showers (it was hot as well), and going next door to eat at the cafe with my new japanese friends. it had the making of a very boring and unproductive day (not everyday has to be an adventure), but then later in the evening we went to the closing ceremony of the hoi an legendary night. there was some sort of performance with dancing and music, which i couldn't distinguish from all the chinese performances i've seen in my life. vietnamese people were barred from participating, it was a foreigners only affair, and the locals were held back by barricades and riot police. they floated paper lanterns on the river, that was pretty, but hayato said they do that in japanese to remember the dead. we came back to our hotels and grabbed some food from a restaurant on our street (our favorite cafe was closed by then).
for the most part, hoi an isn't as charming as i first imagined. sure, there are old buildings, but everything's been converted to either a restaurant, a cafe, or a shop - it's pretty much of interests only to tourists. and the actually place with all the old buildings are is just a stretch of road several blocks long, you could browse it in a few hours (very liberal estimate) and be done with it. i think if you have a thing for lovely old asian architecture, you'd be better off going to china. and they charge admission (the privilege of walking down ancient streets!) but when i came back from my son today the guards were mysteriously absent (i did see some people still paying for admission, maybe that's just to see the museums and the special temples).
6:00PM i take a 12 hour overnight bus ride to nha trang, a vietnamese beach resort. i'm not much for beaching, but if there's some wildlife to be had and good photo opportunities, i will stay for 2-3 days. after that, it's a 9 hour bus ride to saigon, where the only thing interesting is the chinatown and aggressive purse snatchers, so i'll only spend a day there before making my way to cambodia. saigon, phnom penh, right on the equator, i'm going to melt to death.
i still have a few more days left in vietnam and i've already formulated my traveler's opinion of the country and its people. when you first arrive, it seems everyone is out to trick you, from children to adults to even old people. prices aren't marked on most things/services, so you end up having to negotiate virtually everything, from hotel rooms, to transportation, to food. it can be really tiring. and the places that do have marked prices, those are usually heavily inflated, for tourists. true, even when the prices are marked up, it's still relatively cheap, but it's the principle of it, nobody wants to get scammed. the country is poor and i understand why things are more expensive for foreigners, but my thinking is this: if things are cheap people will buy more, if things are expensive, people will buy less - in the end they make the same amount of money. the two japanese travelers i was hanging out with yesterday, they both had the same feeling, and neither of them thought very highly of vietnam. having said all that, i think once you can get beyond the money, if you really spend time with the vietnamese and get to know them, you will find that they are essentially good people with a sense of humor and generous. you just have to be patient, and when you're only in vietnam for a short period of time, that's not long enough to get below the surface. i've dealt with some shady vietnamese, and i've dealt with just as many locals who are really kind and are looking out for my best interest. at this point though, i think i've had enough of vietnam, i hear cambodia is less crowded and people there are all about smiles. can't wait!
oh, i also tried to upload photos for the 2nd day in a row, but this internet cafe i'm at doesn't have any PC's that support USB 2.0 so i can't connect my portable photo storage device to the computer. maybe in nha trang!
2 hours left, i'm going to go get something to eat before my trip, have another mango shake (like, 75 cents a shake), then haul my backpack to the bus depot a few blocks from here.
red iguana lizard
cham garden gnome
hoi an, final view
gecko on the ceiling
(oh what a feeling)