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Danang & Hoi An

A look back at November 2013

Story by Rupert Marlow February 13th, 2015

Travelling from Hue to Danang

Our journey from Hue to Danang involved an early start and (for some reason), an extremely long wait at the station before we could leave Hue. We didn’t know what to expect from Danang but the journey itself was thoroughly enjoyable. It was a long train ride through some amazing coastal countryside and remarkably comfortable - even if the Vietnamese do openly charge you a significant increase on a normal ticket as a ‘tourist charge’. In reality, this isn’t a lot of money but I just found it amusing. There were some friendly and interesting characters on board.



We had originally planned Danang to be our mid-trip beach stop for a few days. Sadly however, the weather was not conducive to beach-dwelling as the winds had picked up and some torrential rain was to follow. In fact, we had been subject to the huge weather patterns surrounding Hiyan that caused such horrific damage in the Philippines in November 2013. Luckily, the actual hurricane missed us by turning north before reaching the east coast of Vietnam.

So, with no sunbathing on option, we ventured into town and experienced a very depressing day, getting extremely wet (and eventually very cold) only to return to our hotel, by the beach to dry off, warm up and wait to head out for the evening - which was amazing. Other than our meal, in a French restaurant, where I had one of the best steaks I have ever had, we both felt very deflated. Not because Danang was unpleasant at all but because we had prepared ‘beaching’ and got our hopes up. I am not particularly into beach holidays but it would he been a great opportunity to get some editing done while Sarah replenished her reserves of vitamin D! I sometimes think she is genuinely solar-powered!

The uninviting beach near our hotel.

Hoi An

We left Danang a day early and determined to get ourselves out of the funk we had accidentally found ourselves in. Luckily, the hotel we had booked in Hoi An was able to accommodate us for an extra night. The journey between Danang and Hoi An was simply a 45 minute taxi ride - so far less of an experience than the train but it had heating and was particularly comfortable. The driver spoke no English at all and we had no Vietnamese either but he and I had a ‘conversation’ for a long time. I have no idea what it was about!

The first thing we had to do was to unpack our bags of all the soaking wet clothes and hang them up to dry. We then headed into Hoi An to see what this small town had to offer!

Hoi An offered rain, and a lot of it. There were about 30 minutes of dry weather when we left the hotel to head into town find a tailor, where I had some trousers replicated. While we were in there, the heavens opened. We had no umbrellas and coats were going to be no use against this downpour! I headed out into the storm to find some, while Sarah stayed warm and dry in the shop. I tried a few shops but all had sold out of brollies until I came across a very nice lady who told me to wait and she’d go and find some for me, we discussed budget and colour, and she set off into the squall on a mission to find two black umbrellas for about £5 for the pair. On return with two, pink umbrellas at about double the price we discussed, I felt I had no choice but to accept her help and buy them. We later found the same shop only 4 doors down where I could have got the same for £4 as a pair! She’ll go far.

An amusing 'train' of Chinese tourists on a tour of Hoi An
The river close to the bank
Sarah leaving the taylor with one of our 'black' umbrellas!

Everywhere in Hoi An, you could see signs of water damage in the buildings. There was evidence of flooding everywhere but in the next few hours, we’d see it first-hand!

Hoi An is built on a slope down to the river, and when it was dry, we’d navigate by knowing how many streets up from the river we were. However, once the flood water started to creep up, it became harder and harder to recognise where we were. The locals would start to move their belongings upstairs and the canoes came out for transporting produce out of the flooded market-hall and to the nearest dry street - as if this was an everyday occurrence. A secondary reason for the canoes was tourist trips around the flooded streets - a great way for the locals to profit from the unsuspecting tourists. Prices as with most things would vary hugely depending on how hard people were willing to haggle.

Despite finding the rain and conditions in Danang rather depressing, Hoi An had a totally different feel to it. It’s hard to explain why but I think it was due to a few factors. Firstly, it felt a lot more traditional, and less developed so further from a ‘normal city’ or large town. Secondly, the flooding was simply part of life for the people of Hoi An. They seemed totally unfazed and simply took it in their stride and this upbeat approach couldn't help but rub off on us. We loved wading through the narrow historic streets and experiencing the atmosphere among the locals. Of all the places I have ever visited, Hoi An will be up there with to most memorable. It is a magical place.

Sarah, a little way from the main river, in a flooded street.
A 'Canoe Captain' with the flooded market hall in the background.

Portraits in Hoi An

One abiding memory of this section of your trip was the locals. They were simply the most friendly and approachable people we had ever met. They were (mostly) happy to be photographed and would love to see the image on the camera afterwards. Some would really pose and enjoy it.

Footnote: All these images were shot by Rupert Marlow on either a Fuji Xpro1 or X100s between 14.11.13 and 17.11.13, processed in Lightroom 5 with minimal changes
Hoi An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam