Day 39; 5/20 continued.
I made it to Da Nang in less than 30 minutes. This made Hoi An even more ideal. It’s already amazing and yet Da Nang, a major city is such a short commute away.
I had strategically booked a hotel that would be right between the city and the beach. They were in opposite directions and I was about a 15 minute walk from either. I never went into the actual city. I just went to the dragon bridge and stayed on the East side, hopefully the pictures make this more clear. I only had half a day for my first day in Da Nang and no plan.
I ended up just staying in my hotel to research the area and the best way to get around. My original plan was a 2-day stop where I could go to the beach. The whole reason I even came to the Da Nang/Hoi An area was to shorten my train ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. I only knew Da Nang had a beach and it would be a nice relaxation point between the two big cities. Then of course I added in Hoi An… found out about An Bang beach there and was able to relax. So now I am reconsidering. I didn’t even have a bite to eat.
Sending a Package:
Da Nang, Vietnam to Maryland, USA.
I researched a bit on sending a package and that sent me out on a search for paperwork and a box. Fortunately, the post office was a short 4 minute walk away. Unfortunately, they didn’t have boxes so I just collected the paperwork I’d need. The area I was staying in didn’t really have a ton of options, stores or places to find a box- it was mostly residential. I decided to improvise. I found a printing/copy place and asked if they had any copy paper boxes. They did not, but they were able to find me an ink filled box with cockroaches. I took what I could find. Then I asked the corner store, convenince store, for their boxes. I ended up with 2 total.
The larger and much sturdier option was the one from the copier store- I cleaned it out and made sure there were no more pesky cockroaches inside. The smaller one was also much flimsier- it was an Aquafina box, albeit it was much cleaner. I managed to fit everything in the smaller one and then gave it an extra layer of tape; hopefully adding to the thickness and waterproofing its journey. I sent this with a 1 month plane option. I’d guess it was around 2 or 3 kg, it cost about $70 USD. I just hope it’ll make it without any issues. I got mixed information about sending books and art- both of which I’d included and declared.
Click here to skip to the inspection process when I went to drop off the box.
1st Package update- from Thailand to USA
Good News!! The first package made it to my mom- the one I sent from Bangkok. The package was pretty beaten up and I had her open it on a video call. Everything was there and nothing was damaged. I also stayed productive by managing my reservations for the rest of my time in Vietnam. I had to give Chase (bank) my details. They were sending me a credit card to replace my compromised one. I believe my credit card was compromised while I was in HCMC. This was another thing I’d worry about. As I had been researching mailing information for my packages I’d come across reviews for receiving mail- many people claimed mail was opened and it was common for things to be stolen.
I recieved the card upon arrival to Hanoi, 6 days later, both envelopes were fully sealed with no tampering.
My Khe Beach, Da Nang, VietNam
Day 40: 5/21
I would make today a beach da… morning. I needed to go back by mid-afternoon to finalize my package shipment. I had only packaged it the night before and then I did the actual drop off today.
I woke up and had coffee as well as ginger tea at my hotel cafe. Then I walked to the beach. As I walked down the main street, perpendicular to My Khe beach the wind picked up- it looked like a scene from a movie. It was quite dirty in the streets and trash was flying all around me. A bit reminiscent of the Universal Studios classic ‘Twister’. I had to shield my eyes from the debris. I ducked in a few stores as well. I was looking for sunscreen and tampons. Tampons are difficult to come by in Vietnam. I eventually found both after my fourth store. Finding 30 SPF without whitening agent was difficult to comeby. I bought 50 SPF first at the third store because it was a spray one and didn’t have the added whitening agents.
Then I found Banana Boat 30 SPF in lotion form at the store with the tampons so I grabbed more sunscreen, I can never have enough for this trip. I never fully went in the water at My Khe; I kept my clothes on and just waded- it wasn’t as hot and sunny as the weather in Hoi An.
When I’d arrived the wind picked up and clouds were rolling in. I stayed about an hour, maybe more, just taking pictures. I was so happy upon arrival to the beach. I could see it from pretty far away, a HUGE fish shaped trash bin. A bit of an oxymoron- feed your trash to the fish, but I loved seeing the initiative. It was the first place I’d seen so far in southeast Asia that supplied a place for beach trash to be properly contained.
I wished I had more time here. I would have liked to go to see the lady buddha up close. I also decided not to go to the Golden Bridge, a place I thought I’d see for sure, because it is quite far and is actually inside of a resort and theme park sort of area. If I’d pay the fee to go I’d also want to spend my entire day there. To do that I’d be giving up the experience of Da Nang and the locals. I would quite literally be submerging myself exclusively among more travelers. That’s not my kind of thing- even if it is super picturesque.
Package drop-off and inspection
After returning to my hotel I quickly ran my box to the post office. They had to unpack and inspect everything. I’m happy I’d chosen a smaller post office. It gave me the luxury of repacking my own things to ensure the safety of my items. Another bit of information I’d found in my research included stories about people not having this luxury. After inspection of all items people would have to watch as staff just haphazardly threw things back in their box. It is expected to have your boxes emptied for inspection and most of the time repacking is dependent on your clerk.
My lady was pleasant and took a call while I put my box together and then I taped it up with extra layers to make it secure. There were also 3 other workers and no lines. When I left the post office it seemed like the storm had cleared, there was no trace, just abundant sunshine. In hindsight, I should’ve planned my day in the opposite way- I’d checked the weather beforehand but it wasn’t as promising as the sun was in that moment.
I went back to my room and got ready to walk to town. I NEEDED to find food and see the dragon bridge. I was starving. Sometimes I realize late in my day that I haven’t eaten; this never happens back home. It only happens when I’m exploring a new place. I get so distracted by the new scenes and people I just ignore or somehow suppress my appetite. There was no way to ignore this one, yet I somehow prolonged it entirely.
As I walked I kept stopping and getting pictures of the Han River and the bridge from afar. I also found a brewery by the river’s edge that was in the process of constructing a miniture Golden Bridge. It would be opening in 2 weeks- they wouldn’t allow me to take pictures from the site but I was able to capture a glimpse of it from the street. From inside the site the quality looks amazing- I think having the Dragon Bridge in the back will add to the future picturesque hotspot. It’ll drive traffic to the brewery, keep the tourism money in the local city and not at the resort all the travellers are excaping to.
Then I found some colorful boats perched under the bridge. I went down some stairs to get closer. RATS. Yuck! I found quite a few rats and trash by the river. I also heard some guys shouting to me from the water. they were clamming and snailing. I waved and continued on after shooting some pictures. It’s funny, in an ironic way… I find that I carry my tripod around daily, like 88% of the time and yet when I need it I don’t have it. I didn’t have it with me now. Now that it was night time and I could use it to capture slow shutter light pictures of the city. Instead, I have my perfectly sized Gucci camera bag from Hoi An. Ha…ha!
Therefore after the sun quickly set I found myself playing a game of: ‘Are you my tripod?’ mixed with ‘How long can I stay perfectly still?- Freeze’. It was all so fun… not! I did manage some great shots- see slideshow below, I think they’re the best of the night. I’m really happy Tim (in Hoi An) fixed my settings. I think my pictures are going to only get better from now on.
While I never wandered over the bridge to the city, I did find some great food and met some good people. After about 3 hours of torture to my appetite I finally sat down to eat. I had snails and fried octopus. I offered to share my dishes with the Korean couple next to me. I noticed them eyeing my snails in a curious way. They later offered some frog legs and muscles. The muscles were phenomenal, I ordered my own but was informed they were freshly out. I could’ve had 2 orders of them- they were ABSOLUTELY delcious. It was so nice to meet them and share food- to be able to try more than my own dish.
A lady was walking around with banana leaf wrapped desserts or so I thought. I purchased one expecting mango rice, I opened it to find sausage. It kinda tasted or had the texture of a Vienna sausage; this did not satisfy my sweet-tooth craving whatsoever. I called a Grab and went back to my hotel. On the way I passed a coffe & icecream cafe. I went back out to have dessert. There was none.
I literally walked to the cafe I had passed on my ride and asked what kind of ice creacm they had… they said they didn’t have any ice cream. Is it just me, or is this false advertising? I searched everywhere. Disappointed, I went back to my room and went to bed. I set an alarm for sunrise and found myself shutting it off for more sleep.
Taking the train to Hue, VietNam
DAY 41: 5/22 on to the next one.
Today I was leaving. I had scheduled to catch the 12:45 train to Hue. A place worth only but a day. I arrived to the station around 12. I bought some cookies, more like sweet crackers- most similar to Graham Crackers, yet nothing like that. I still had peanut butter with me to spread on my crackers. I’d eat this as my lunch. I had coffee and tea before leaving my hotel. Upon sitting to enjoy my ‘lunch’ I learned the train was delayed. I was waiting a bit longer to finally board. Eventually it arrived and I sat in the comfy seats with AC. This was only a short journey- no need for a sleeper room. I found myself sitting beside Tan, prounuonced tah-n.
I was next to a shy, young vietnamese boy. I could tell he seemed a bit anxious, maybe nervous, for the travel. He was alone. I offered him some cookies and he graciously declined. Then he offered me candy. At first I declined and then I decided to try it. I thought it was a mint. I’m not sure what it was called but it was very good. A cross between a hard candy and a gusher. He sat quietly, squirming and fidgeting, I tried to talk to him. He said he didn’t know much english but shared some information with me.
He was 18, originally from Hue but visiting family in Da Nang. He didn’t travel much. He wanted to go to school in the USA and study in Florida. Unable to recieve a Visa he is now set to go to Japan instead. I assumed he chose Florida because of the beaches, probably Miami. I asked if he wanted to see the states, he did. I ended up showing him all my photos from my roadtrip in 2018. Of course, as I learned before, he’d recognize Delicate Arch from Moab immediately because of the Windows wallpaper. However, he has no idea what the Grand Canyon is. Crazy!
Then when he saw snow he got really excited. He said that’s why he chose Florida. What?! We ended up talking fluently the entire time. He knew better English than he believed. And I let him know that there wasn’t a high chance of finding snow in Florida.
We enjoyed our 2 hour train ride together. It flew by quickly. As we arrived to Hue I asked him what the local dish was. He said “Bom”. Then he asked if I was hungry and invited me to get some Bom streetfood with him. We sat at a corner where our route would split. He ordered our food and iced green tea. He laughed as I struggled to use the chopsticks. Bom is like pho, its round rice noodles in broth with beef. It’s been a feat to be able to eat the FLAT rice noodles when they’re wet; this was even harder. He was easily finished while I still had half a bowl. He paid for our meal- insisting I did not owe anything, he said he was happy to have met me and invited me to eat with him- a gentleman. I thanked him and grabbed a motorbike. He messaged me on Instagram to make sure I’d made it safely to my new hotel.