My last day dawns. When I think about it, the whole trip seems to have gone so quickly. I can’t believe it was only five weeks ago that I set off for Hoi An. On the other hand, being in Hoi An seems like a lifetime ago.
When I set out I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough money for the whole trip, but I’m surprised that I still have just enough to get me through the trip. I begin to think that it will be weird to cook for myself again instead of eating out three times a day. It will be weird to be back in Itaewon and going to the same old places, without having new and interesting places to discover each day. It will be weird to sleep in my own bed again. I wonder how my apartment has been over the last few weeks, standing empty as it has. I hope my plants are okay.
I step onto the balcony and see a group of the hotel staff standing around a tree that faces my room. A bird’s nest is in it, yells up the cleaner chap who has cleaned my room each day this last week, and they need to remove it. I’ve seen the nest but I haven’t seen a bird in it. I’d rather they spent time finding a new playlist to blast out of the pool bar speakers instead of having the same one endlessly repeating itself, I think, but I don’t say anything. The cleaner says he’ll clean my room once this task has been accomplished.
I get breakfast across the street from the hotel in a cafe close to Monggo’s. I get French toast and coffee again, and then I head up into the centre. As I am passing Monggo’s I get my camera out to take a picture that I can use to illustrate it on this blog. I am surprised when I look up to see another huge lizard just standing by the side of the path. I was not expecting to see it – it looks like a baby alligator. It quickly darts off down the side of the path and disappears into the rice field. This all happens in about three seconds. I take a step forwards and I see a snake slither across the road. I manage to get a quick shot of the snake. Jesus, I think. What the hell lives in these fields? What if they had been there at night when the road is dark and I hadn’t seen them and had trodden on one?
I carry on up to the centre and mooch around for a bit, getting some steps in on the Apple Watch and taking some last photos of the town for use on the blog. I step down onto the beach and wander along for a couple of minutes to try and get a better photo of the Hindu shrine on the beach that I captured with m crappy iPhone camera the other day. I make my way back up the street and stop for another drink and browse some stores.
Em has messaged me. Do I want to meet her for a happy hour drink tonight as it’s my last night? Sure, I say. Where does she have in mind? Old Man’s, she says. She’ll leave work at around 5 pm and be there around 5.15 pm. Okay, I say.
I get lunch at Monsieur Spoon and spend an hour in their garden reading and screen shotting information about how to do a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been there before, back in 2010, but things sometimes change so it’s better to be prepared, I guess.
When that is done I head back to the hotel and pack. I can’t really put it off much longer, I guess. I tip everything out of the bag and gather up my laundry. I decide what I’ll keep out to wear tomorrow on the flights and chuck out things I can leave behind – an almost empty bottle of sunscreen, that sort of thing – and get to work. It doesn’t take that long, but it’s just a job that I don’t enjoy having to do and I never have done.
I’ve got an hour or so before I should get ready to meet Em, so I go downstairs to the hotel’s coffee bar and get a drink and chill out. At 5 pm I set off towards Old Man’s, going down the road towards the beach and not up into the centre. The sun is beginning to wane and the sky is starting to become a little more golden. I mooch along the path and try to get a couple of photos, though they don’t turn out well.
I get to Old Man’s. Em is not there yet, so I sit in almost the same seat as I was in last night on the street side of the bar, figuring that she will come down on her bike and park and see there. I eventually get served – I get a small Bintang for now – and then I see Em on the other side of the bar. We find a table in the middle of the bar and sit down. Em goes to get a drink and then comes back and sheepishly says she left her handbag at school as she was in a rush to get done and get here in time. Not to worry, I say. I’ll just get you a drink. She protests, saying that she wanted to get me one for my last night, but it’s fine. I could do with using up some smaller notes, and it’s only 25,000 IDR or about £1.50.
So we chat and talk about her recent trip to Korea – she arrived there the day before I left for Vietnam – and her trip before that to ancient city of Yogyakarta. I was bummed not to get to Flores, but I can always come back, and I would definitely be interested in going there too. We talk about her school and her villa, which is not that far from here and is close to the beach I went to yesterday near Finn’s club. You can get to Old Man’s from there in about ten minutes on foot along the beach, and she often brings her dog, Sadie, along the beach after work to catch the sunset. This reminds me to keep an eye out for the sunset as it will be the last one of my vacation. I get the camera out and we talk about some of the photos I’ve taken and posted on Instagram.
It’s getting close to 6 pm so I hop up and head to the bar to get another round in. It’s packed again and I squeeze my way through to the street side bar to try and get served there. I leaning and holding my money and trying to make eye contact, much like everyone else is. I get served, and the barman tells me happy hour is now over. I check my watch – the second had is two seconds past 6 pm. But I’ve been waiting here for five minutes, I try to argue. No bueno. I’ll just get us two big Bintangs then.
While I’m at the bar Em’s boyfriend has messaged to say he’ll come along as well, and in a few minutes he is here, along with Sadie. Em gets him to pay me back for the beers, despite my protestations. He is a photographer so I jokingly say that next time I’m here I’ll have to hit him up for some tips. He looks over my camera and tells me it seems like a good one. I show some of the pictures I’ve taken and we talk about those. The sun is going down now so I try to get a shot of the sunset over the bar, but it doesn’t come out that well. Oh well, at least I’ve seen it.
The table we are at is reserved for 7 pm so we move over to a bench and keep talking. I order soe food – one last local meal of spicy Indonesian fishcakes. Em notices that some parents of the kids in her school are sitting in the bar too. She finds it a bit weird, especially if the kids are with them. Albert messages me and says he’s going to Old Man’s. I’m actually here, I reply. He joins us just as Em has to leave – her boyfriend has already left with Sadie. She’s on the bike so she shouldn’t be drinking too much more and her boyfriend’s parents are coming over so she has to meet with them. I have a drink with Albert and then head back to the hotel. I stop for one more drink at Grass Terrace, which is down the street. They do draught beer for just 15,000 as a special offer.
Back in the hotel I finish off the packing and put everything away that I don’t need tonight. I power down the computer and turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in case I want to use it on the plane. I squeeze my shoes and sandals into the bag along with the laundry. I get rid of all the receipts and leaflets and gumph I have collected along the way and neatly arrange the contents of my hand luggage bag.
I think I’m all set for tomorrow. Surprisingly, I’m pretty calm about it. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m going back; I’ve had previous vacations where I really have not wanted to get on the plane and get back to Korea. It’s time, I surmise; I know what’s coming. I’m going back with just a few days to go until the new semester starts. I don’t have the textbook I’m supposed to teach this semester and I haven’t thought about or planned anything. I’ve got a slow couple of weeks to start, though, as the first week is just a simple introductory week and it allows me time to get the book and out a plan together. I’ll get home on Thursday lunch time and I’ll get started on preparations on Friday.
So I’m all packed and I’m all set to go. I confirm with reception that the car will be here at 9.30 am tomorrow and I head back to my now-tidy room and get into bed.
Tomorrow is gonna be a long day…