Island Life: Day 5

I’ve been thinking about renting a scooter. It seems like the next progression in my transportation around town, especially as the rickety old bikes have cause a certain amount of bum ache. I’ve never actually ridden one, but I’m reading about how to ride one when I get a message from a friend in Seoul, Bryan, who arrived in Hoi An last night. He’s going to get one and go to An Bang beach. I’m still trying to decide what to do today. It is incredibly hot outside today, and I’m not sure I can handle biking around again. I’d forgotten about planning a trip to My Son sanctuary. That’s a possibility for today. Bryan says he’s interested and maybe we do it tomorrow. We make that plan and make plans for dinner later.

I’m trying to think of things to do. I look on the map and I notice that there is a fairly big island next to the Old Town called Cam Nam island. I google it, and find that it’s mainly a big village and that you can cycle around it quite easily and get some great views of the Old Town from a different perspective. This sells it to me, and I decide to get on a bike and head over there.

It’s an easy ride, and after the first few streets which surround the bridge back to the town the roads quieten down and the houses become more sparse. There are a few high end villas on the waterfront and a couple of big hotels, but then it becomes more and more village-like.

It’s pretty much a circular road around the island, according to the map. When I get close to the end of the island I duck down a small track and find a boat dock. I head back out and swing into an old lane and head to the end. I’m suddenly at the waterfront and I find fields of corn and boats out in the river. There is not a soul around, and it’s very quiet and peaceful, but I worry that I might be trespassing and an angry local will come out and yell at me, so I move on.

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I continue down the track, passing a cow in the field and coming through a palm grove. I’m enjoying the ride. As I pass by houses some people call out ‘Hello!’ as I go by, and I nod in response.

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I”m back on the main road, and I swing left down a small track, which again takes me to the riverfront. I stop and watch as a fisherwoman bails out the water in her boat, then set off again. I go past a fancy hotel. Next to the hotel is a small cafe/restaurant with a group of people sitting outside doing something with fruit. As the road bends, I decide to turn back and get a coffee. There are nervous giggles as I pull in, and a young lad takes my order.

As I rest and drink the coffee the lad comes over and starts talking to me. Where am I from, what do I do, etc. When he hears I’m from Leicester he gets excited because of Leicester winning the EPL last year. For many years in Asia whenever I’ve been asked where I’m from I say near Birmingham because no one had ever heard of Leicester. Now when I say it they all get excited. He tells me the people at the table shelling a type of fruit are his family. People from the hotel next door come into the cafe often, so he gets a chance to use English with them. He tells me he learns from watching YouTube videos, and I say what a great chance he gets to use the English he learns, rather than just studying it.

I move on. It was only about 500 metres from the turn to the cafe, and I’m surprised that it’s only a few more metres around the corner that I come to the other end of the island that gives me the view of the Old Town. I thought I had a lot further to go, given that we were sitting opposite open fields an the waterfront at the cafe. I get a few pictures of the Old Town. The track then leads back to the bridge, but it doesn’t allow me to get up onto it. I continue, passing more cows and a woman who is laying out discs of rice paper to dry in the sun. The next road I find I take a right and get back onto the road that will take me to the bridge.

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My route around Cam Nam island

After lunch (and a couple of 5,000 dong (or 15 pence) beers, I decide to head down to Hidden Beach. This time I remember to take the right turning and avoid the shouty lady who throws my bike around. I spend that afternoon on a sunbed listening to music and drinking a couple of Larue local beers. After the activities this week I’m quite tired. I close my eyes, listening to the chilled out music I downloaded, and I feel so restful that I almost fall asleep. It’s a very peaceful afternoon.

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I stopped in the paddies on the way back – and I didn’t get lost this time.

Back into town in time for dinner. I’ve made a reservation at the Morning Glory restaurant in the town, which is one of the must-do restaurants, apparently. It’s owned and run by a lady called Ms. Vy, and she opened the restaurant as a way to introduce the traditional street foods to the western tourists. She has been so successful she now owns and runs four restaurants in the town.

We walk around town for a bit. The town is heaving and there are people everywhere. It’s quite raucous down at the riverside, with boatswomen popping up from below the quay to ask if we want a boat ride to old women thrusting trays of lit candles in lanterns in our faces to ask if we want to buy one. Bryan and his partner Ki Ya get lanterns from a sweet little girl of about nine who is selling them on the street, and make their wishes as they lower the lanterns into the water. She’s not so sweet when she bumps into me when she stands up and drops her tray of lit candles.

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We are lured to a place called Mr. Bean Bar, which is a backpacker haunt. They’re offering buy one get one free cocktails, a free shot and a free bucket. It’s rowdy and noisy and very backpackery, so it’s hardly my cup of tea, but it’s Saturday night and I go with the flow. The Long Islands are strong, and I get a bit of a buzz on. The bucket, when it comes, is more like a jar. Never mind, at least it’s free.

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