After 5 days and 1200kms of riding, we finally arrived at Hoi An’s best hostel, The Sunflower. Complete with a swimming pool, bar and pool table, and housing over 200 backpackers from all corners of the globe, it is clearly the number one choice for the many travellers heading north or south on their bikes, busses or trains. Situated roughly half way up the east coast of Vietnam, this riverside city is a colonial masterpiece. World famous for the handiwork of the thousands of tailors and seamstresses, as well as the stunning Old Town with its rustic facades and pretty cafes, it’s a town that has a lot to offer all kinds of travellers.
Given the amount of time we’d spent on the road in the past week, we were eager to give ourselves and our bikes a rest and planned to spend 4 days wandering the cobblestone streets, relaxing by the beach and just generally enjoying being in one place. Within minutes of checking in and dropping our bags in the dorm we’d met a number of interesting characters and were told that the only place to be on this night was “Infinity”… So, a few beers and a much needed shower later, we jumped on Louis bike and set off in search of “the best bar in Hoi An”… What followed was, to put it mildly, absolutely comical. We spent over an hour working our way through a seemingly endless labyrinth of side streets, back streets, dirt tracks and beach. We were 100% convinced that this was some kind of practical joke that was played on the new arrivals, and that “Infinity” gained its name – much like the figure of 8 symbol which denotes it – because you can go round and round forever without actually reaching your destination…. We decided it was best to give up and head back to the hostel.
Despite the events up to this point, we managed to find “Why Not Bar” which happens to be all you can drink for about US$4 all night. From what I recall, it was a great night… The next morning I met a Canadian guy named Scott, and his mate from Ireland, Jack. Louis soon joined us and we decided to set off in search of a beach bar, said to play live music everyday. After a 40 minute pushbike ride – and considerably less difficulty than the night before – we had found our bliss. Picture a patch of grass the size of the average suburban block of land, sloping gently towards the sand which leads to crystal clear waters. The grass is scattered with no more than 5 thatched roof bungalows, all facing the crashing waves and a stage. Relaxed vibes emanated from every corner of the bar, and the even more relaxed owner – a French expat – was always happy to have a chat over a cold beer or game of pool. The afternoon was spent talking, drinking and laughing as we all got to know each other. By the time the sun dropped below the horizon and the afternoon dutifully turned to night, we had formed what was to become the “bromance” of the century. The four of us had not laughed so much in a long time, and it would continue for the next 4 days.
Travelling is amazing for so many reasons: the cultures we are able to explore and learn about, the beautiful sights and scenery which we are seeing for the first time every single day, the completely unique flavours we taste with every meal or new drink, the list is endless… Perhaps most importantly, it’s the things we learn about ourselves which make it so special… For me though, the single best thing about travelling is the amount of inspiring, beautiful souls we are able to connect with every single day. The ones who open up and share, who trust without hesitation and in the process, become the very ones who teach us so much about ourselves. Given the majority of travellers are fairly like minded, you generally get along with each other quickly and have similar world views and values. Some relationships though, extend beyond the 3 or 4 days you spend together, and these ones often turn out to be some of the greatest friendships we form in our lives. I have countless friends from my years spent in Europe who I stay in regular contact with, and consider to be some of my closest mates.
The sheer amount of people who fall into this category that we have met in Vietnam is mind blowing. There is Frank and Mercedes from Australia who we shared some incredible times with. Two of the most hilariously outgoing yet chilled people I’ve ever met. Then there’s Lars and Marie from Denmark, who we still talk to regularly and are planning on volunteering together in the next few months. He’s ex-army and travelling with a boundless passion to make a difference, and she has a dream to completely overhaul the health system in Denmark to ensure it caters to children and youth with illnesses in dedicated facilities.There is Anh, who showed us a side of Vietnam we would never had experienced on our own. Kenzie and David from Canada with whom we spent the last three weeks on the road from Hoi An to Hanoi, and shared some amazing adventures with. Neither was one to say no to any idea and they took on every situation with gusto and smiles, earning massive respect from both of us. There is Attilio, the 23 year old from Belgium who decided to pack up his ‘normal’ home life and ride a pushbike around the work for the next 3 years. Yes. A pushbike. I think it’s fairly evident that his story should be viewed as an inspiration or call to action for the many unhappy, unsure or unfulfilled youth in the world today. And of course there is Jack and Scott, our comedic companions and just all round great guys. Don’t ask me what Jack did to make a living in Ireland, indeed his answer changed daily depending who he was talking to, but my favourite was a “Br-architect” or a Bridge Architect. According to himself he designed a train bridge in Ireland, which he managed to describe in painstaking detail to a pretty girl from Canada one night. He had us fooled until she left and we asked how one becomes a Bridge Architect, to which he replied “how the f#@% should I know, I don’t know the first thing about building bridges!” And for all our friends in Oz, Scott will be gracing our shores very soon, so look him up! This is such a small percentage of the friends we’ve made here, but if I listed all of you then this post would go on for days, so please don’t take it personally and just know that we enjoyed every minute.
The point I’m making here, is that for all of the wondrous sights we see on our journey through life, be it at home or abroad, the things that matter the most when it all ends are the ones with whom we share our journey. This is one of the most important things I’ve learned on this trip, and I will be sure to carry the lesson with me always. So, to all of you reading this, no matter where you are in the world or for how long I’ve known you, Thank You and I look forward to meeting again soon.