I left Nha Trang for Hoi An on one of the ubiquitous “Open Tour” buses. These buses are by far the cheapest way to get around the country - so cheap that its hard to see how they can make any money on the fares alone. Actually, I don’t think they do. Instead, the buses - which are normally full of tourists, not vietnamese - deliver passengers to certain hotels at their destination cities and collect a commission on each person that books a room. The whole ordeal is just so typically … Vietnamese. Its easy enough to collect your bags and walk off to find your own inevitably cheaper accomodation, but I was surprised at the amount of people who played right into it and took a room. Maybe it was the sleepless, bumpy 14-hour ride that drained their motivation to lug their bags around town in the sun…
Anyway, I hopped off the bus, rented a bicycle and took to exploring the streets. I found myself a decent room in town and continued exploring. I managed to stay awake for the rest of the day riding around.
The next day I met Thong, a local tour guide who does multi-day trips through the highlands. We worked out a good deal for a day-trip to the Cham ruins at My Son the next day. He woke me up at 5am the next morning and took me out to My Son before the first fleet of tour buses arrive. After a quick ride into the site in an old US Army jeep, I walked around the ruins alone. The experience was much different than visiting the temples of Angkor - these Cham ruins are not only older but less effort has been put into maintaining them over the years. They’ve seen looting from Khmers, Chinese and Vietnamese people over the past 1000+ years and suffered significant damage from American bombs during the war. After I explored the ruins Thong took me on a ride through the countryside around My Son.
I hung out in Hoi An for another couple days to have some more clothes made. If I had known how much better and cheaper the tailors in Hoi An are than in Bangkok, I never would have had those first two suits made there! I had two shirts, a hat, 2 pairs of pants, a pair of shorts and a full suit made for a total of $60. I even returned for 3 fittings on some of the items and wasn’t asked to pay anything until it was all perfect. I was disappointed, though, that no one wanted to try making me a ninjahood. I sent it all home along with my broken iPod and some paintings. It should arrive in LA sometime in October!