Dong Hoi, Vietnam

2 Sep

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Dong Hoi, Vietnam

Dong Hoi is not really a major destination and therefore the bus going to Hanoi simply drops passengers off along the main road of Dong Hoi on its way through town. J.J. and I arrived there long after dark and found our hotel, Nam Long, relatively quickly and without incident. We fell into the bunk beds we were given and were asleep within minutes.

In the morning it was raining which was less than ideal for our plans of renting a motorbike and driving up to Phong Nha Cave, Vietnam’s largest. Given that we had an overnight bus booked that night for Hanoi it was now or never so we suited up in our rain jackets and hopped on our rented motorbike with only a hand drawn map given to us by the receptionist at our hotel (the hotel was fresh out of maps of the area).

What should have been a 1 hour journey to the cave ended up being 3 and a half with a near running out of petrol. Luckily along one of our many wrong turns we ran into a small fuelling station where we were able to fill up and continue on in search of Phong Nha Cave. Eventually we arrived, just in time for the last trip of the day. We purchased our tickets and boarded our private boat (normally they fill the boat with tourists but with the rain and being the end of the day it was just the 2 of us) and travelled along the water. Our boat floated right into the mouth of the cave and dropped J.J. off on a dark sandy beach, lit only by the coloured spotlights aimed at the cave walls which allowed us to see the different shapes and textures. It honestly looked just like the illustrations from the Magic Schoolbus book about caves with its stalagmites.

We made our way through the huge cave and eventually came out the other side into the light where we met the driver and skipper of our boat. On our ride back to where we had parked our motorbike it began to rain and we had a wet and dark ride to our hotel as the sun set while we were riding. Luckily we had a much easier time making our way back than we had on the way to the cave. We warmed up at the hotel with big bowls of chicken soup before having to walk the 5 minutes down the road where we’d catch the night bus to Hanoi.

We’d purchased our bus ticket from Dong Hoi to Hanoi through our hotel in Hoi An and had been given a building address where we were to meet the bus. When we found the address we discovered it wasn’t the address of a building but rather the address of an entire block. We asked some local people passing by and they confirmed that we were in fact at the correct address but they didn’t know anything about it being a bus pick-up location. Luckily J.J. had credit on his phone and was able to call the number listed on our bus ticket. The person on the other end of the phone told us that we were in the wrong location and would need to take a cab to the correct location 15 minutes away.

We hailed a cab and put the driver on the phone with the person we’d been speaking to at the bus company. They exchanged words in Vietnamese and the cab driver began driving. The bus company rang J.J.’s phone 5 or 6 more times on the 15-minute drive to find out our location because for the first time in history a SE Asian bus was running early and was already at the pick-up location. We made it onto the sleeper bus and made our way to our seats. Once again we were at the very back and assigned to the seat against the window and the one next to it. Unfortunately a Vietnamese man had decided he didn’t want the worst seat on the bus, the middle seat, and was sound asleep in the window seat, snoring something fierce. In addition this particular bus was lacking anything in the way of shocks. The road from Dong Hoi to Hoi An is anything but smooth and every time we’d hit a bump every single person on the bus would catch air. It was actually pretty funny to see a bus full of sleeping people being tossed up in unison as though they were lying out on a trampoline as someone bounced around.

We didn’t sleep a wink that night and arrived in grey and rainy Hanoi the following morning completely exhausted.

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