Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Farewell to Paradise

So, we're back in Ho Chi Minh, and while it's great to still be on holidays, no one is happy about leaving Hoi An. I've never shed tears leaving a hotel before but when the staff from the Rivertown all lined up to have their photo taken with us and then made heart shapes with their hands as our taxi drove away... well, it was like a scene from a 4 star Netflix movie and I wasn't the only one wiping more than sweat from my eyes..

I'm afraid that it doesn't matter where we might stay in the future, nothing will ever match up to the service we had at the Rivertown. We were cared for like treasured guests of the family from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. Nothing was too much trouble and within a day of being there, everyone, from the concierge to the breakfast waitresses knew our names and our preferences, especially the front desk 'talent' Nhi, whose friendly conversations taught us so much about the Vietnamese culture and the country.

1st course of my last breakfast in Hoi An
The staff at the Rivertown were very representative of the Vietnamese people- same, same as us but different. Different in their contentment with life and their constant positivity. Same but different in their commitment to family. I asked Nhi what happens to people when they get too old to work and she looked a bit confused. Their children look after them of course, especially the youngest son of the family, to whom falls the inheritance of the house but also the responsibility of the ageing parents (I made sure Taine was listening to this bit!). If the parents don't have children then their nephews or nieces will take over and all children put part of their wage aside each week to fund the eventual retirement of their parents or childless aunts and uncles. It's not uncommon, as in Nhi's case, for four generations of family to be living together in one house. It was lucky she said, that she gets on well with her three sisters in law. It's not that capitalism is absent in this communist country but the focus is different. It seems people just want to be happy and have enough, there is no real desire to be rich or to have more than you need.
Our new friend, Nhi
We took our capitalist selves back into Hoi An this morning to pick up Sophie's boots. They still weren't completely right so the shop owner at the Friendly Shoe Shop said she would ship them to Ho Chi Minh tomorrow and Sophie can pay her by Paypal later if she's happy with them. Maybe add completely trusting to the differences between us.

Shopping out of the way we spent our last hour in Old Town watching a traditional theatre performance. It was all in Vietnamese but good theatre needs no translation and we really enjoyed the dance interpretation of the Old Man and the Fisherwomen. Soph even won a prize in the traditional bingo game.

Our flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh was on time and fantastically, half full, so we got an entire row each to ourselves. Kind of like a poor man's version of business class. It was a shame it's such a short distance.

An almighty thunderstorm hit just as we were leaving the airport, turning the 8km journey into a 90 minute tussle with the traffic and the rain. It was peak hour for the motor cyclists again and you certainly have to admire their tenacity. I was freaked out by the thunder and pelting rain and I was inside a taxi. Like a Formula 1 pitstop, these guys just pull into the kerb, grab their rain ponchos from under the seat and pull out, seamlessly back into the traffic.

We were pleased to finally reach our hotel in one piece but its a terrible let down after Rivertown. The Sunland is an ageing hippy of a hotel, complete with the most dreadful decor you've ever seen. There's a roof top bar (which was flooded) and a tiny bath tub of a pool (out of action due to the lightning). We ate at the restaurant which is clearly targeted at British tourists. We chose from the only page of asian dishes available and everything tasted like the buffet at Gateway Plaza.

The view from our room is a redeeming feature

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