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Keep Yourself Alive II

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 30, 2017

April 17 – 26, 2017

Keep Yourself Alive

In my last entry, I told you that most of my time in Da Nang was spent over coming dehydration and getting used to the extreme heat. Towards the end of my stay in Da Nang I made a better effort to drink water and to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day. Because of that the heat didn’t affect me as much as before and I started to feel better (as far as hydration was concerned).

I did develop a sore throat.  It started out as nothing that would stop me from going about my day. But by the time Mark and I hopped on the bus to get to Hoi An, I had a fever and a throbbing headache. I was in so much pain, that the first 2 days in Hoi An, I was in bed and fast asleep.

It was clear that this was no ordinary sore throat. Rest and time would usually get rid of a normal virus-caused sore throat. This sore throat came with no cough, but a migraine headache instead. I needed a doctor.

I looked online to find the nearest clinics and hospitals. I was in luck; there were several to choose from. One even promised to cure ailments with teas and incense. Of course, that one was crossed off the list of possible places to seek medical attention.

I checked the reviews of the medical centers on google. The highest rated one had a 2.4 rating. The complaints were all the same. The wait was too long. The medical staff was very rude. No one washed their hands. The hospitals were very dirty. And the bill at the end was very expensive.

I felt that I was too sick to wait a long time for treatment. Too sick to put up with rude people. Too sick to deal with any of that. I complained to Mark, “How do the Vietnamese deal with the long waits and expensive treatments? Most people I see work long hours.”

“Well,” He replied. “They don’t.”

Mark explained, from what he read online, most Vietnamese don’t go to the doctor. Doctor visits take too long and time here is money. They just go to the pharmacy. They talk to the pharmacist and get the drugs they need or want. They completely skip the doctor.

“And this is legal?” I asked.

“No, but no one really checks up on it.”

I thought about what this could mean for me. I was pretty sure I had strep throat. I’ve had it before and I had very similar symptoms now. I needed antibiotics and something for the pain. “Can I do that, instead of going to the doctor?”

I do not recommend skipping a doctor visit. I would never have done this if I weren’t so terrified of seeing one of the GPs whose reviews I spent all morning going through. (One reviewer said his brother walked into a clinic with chest pain and after waiting for hours, died in the waiting room.) I sent Mark out to find a pharmacy and get me some antibiotics.

He had looked up the typical treatments of strep throat and found 3 possible types of antibiotics. He easily found a pharmacist and talked to her about my treatment. She laid out 4 types of drugs of various brands telling Mark that anyone of these would do. One was not on his list and two were different brands of amoxicillin. Mark chose the one that said, “Prescription Only”.

It took about a day and a half before I started to feel better and several days before I felt well. I stayed in bed for the first 2 days. Even though the hotel had a pool, I stayed out of it until the 3rd day of my taking medication, so as to not get anyone else sick. I did feel strange taking antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription, but I really didn’t want to sit in a dirty waiting room for hours.

When Mark chose our hotel, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be near the beach or downtown. So, he picked a hotel sort of in the middle. Though, it was closer to downtown than the beach. The hotel had a pool, so there was no real need to head to the beach. Since I wasn’t feeling well, we skipped the beach and just went to the pool.

When I was really sick, we would eat at our hotel. The food was not that good and expensive. I ordered the pho and got a greasy soup without any vegetables. The broth was horrible.

As I got better, we ventured out more. We ate at the restaurants within one or two blocks of our hotel. There was one that was just plain awful.

We walked into the restaurant because there were a group of travelers eating there already. We ordered our food and waited. There were many Vietnamese people sitting around watching the Fast and the Furious 3 on the restaurant’s HDTV. Then I noticed something strange.

“Mark,” I whispered to him. “Why are none of the Vietnamese here ordering food?”

“What do you mean? That guy, over there, is ordering food.” Mark pointed to a man a few tables away from us.

“I don’t think he is.” I signaled to Mark later when a drink was brought to the man’s table. “Everyone here had only order drinks. We (tourists) are the only ones getting food.”

When our order arrived everything became clear. The food was terrible. It tasted like something I would have made by putting random left-overs in a pot. It didn’t even taste like bad Vietnamese food. It tasted like a microwaved dinner.

All the restaurants near our hotel were like that. And, until I felt well enough to walk downtown, that’s all I could eat.

Once I felt better and could walk further distances, the food improved. The best foods came from the little back alley vendors that sold one or two dishes. If the menu looked more like a laminated book, the food would be bad. The smaller the menu the better the food. If there was no menu at all, the food would be fantastic!

The old town area, unfortunately, doesn’t have good food. The place is over saturated with tourists. Everyone is working so hard to get tourists into their restaurant and they don’t spend much time on their cooking. The food tastes bland and plain.

At one Ancient City restaurant we ordered some “white rose”, a Hoi An specialty and fried spring rolls. The white rose (pictured on the right) tasted like forgettable indifference. Some of the dumplings were burst, which I would have easily overlooked if they tasted good. They had no flavor. The spring rolls too were void of seasoning and all joy.

They seemed to have so many tourists who come in and never come back. So, they don’t feel the need to make anything taste good. “Just serve them anything!”

After a few meals in the ancient city, Mark and I knew better than to go there hungry. The drinks on the other hand were great. My only recommendation is to stay away from the durian smoothies (top picture with some durians in the background); those are just god-awful!

(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
    • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.
    • Or you can apply for a visa online if you do not live near an embassy or consulate.
    • Remember if you enter Vietnam on a single entry visa then leave, you must wait 30 days before returning to Vietnam on another visa.





  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the bank in Vietnam. (DO NOT get money at the airport. You will never get a good rate. Use an ATM/bank.) Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
    • Also, asking the average Joe on the street for ABC hotel will do nothing. Locals don’t stay in hotels, so they don’t remember hotel names. But Mr. Joe will know where 123 Hanoi St. is.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.
  • There are companies that charge 10USD to take you from Hanoi to the airport. They are all around Hanoi. Use one of those instead of jumping into a random cab.

Hoi An – Da Nang Local Bus 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates:
    • Da Nang Bus station: 16.079889, 108.210453
    • Hoi An Bus Station: 15.886526, 108.321204
    • There are also many stops in between.


  • 20,oood to 50,000d depending on how honest the fare collector is.


  • First bus leaves either stations around 5:00AM.
  • Then they leave every 5 to 20 minutes after that, depending on the time of day.
  • Last bus leaves either stations around 5:30PM.


  • The bus is always yellow with the number “01” on the windshield.
  • You might get the fare collector to be more honest if you take a photo of the fare chart (near the front door on the outside of the bus). Then show it to him while pretending you don’t understand why he’s asking for 50,000d.
  • Keep in mind that 50,000d, while a rip-off technically, is about 2.20USD and way cheaper than the fare for a taxi or taking a tourist/ shuttle bus.
    • Unlike a tourist / shuttle bus you can book through your hotel, the “yellow 01” leaves several times a day. If you miss one, just wait 5-20 minutes for the next one.
  • Ask at the reception of your hotel/ hostel for the nearest bus stop or check with google maps.

Hoi An Ancient Town

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 15.878077, 108.328625


  • Lê Lợi, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam




  • 120,000 d
  • This is a one time fee and good for 2 weeks.
  • Just keep your ticket and present it when ever an official asks to see your ticket.


  • Open 24 hours
  • After 5 or 6PM the area is closed off to cars and scooters.


  • Just keep in mind that some of the buildings are people’s homes.
  • They don’t ask everyone to pay for or show their ticket. But, everyone should pay.
    • The money goes to restoring the area.
    • Buy your ticket at a ticket station.
    • Be careful. Some tourist have stories about fake tickets. Make sure to buy your ticket from a ticket station.
  • In my opinion, the restaurants here are not that great. They are overpriced and the food is mediocre.
    • Look for food stalls outside of Old Town.

Thanh Nam Quan

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 15.883481, 108.326264


  • 19 Trần Cao Vân, Sơn Phong, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam



  • Very inexpensive
  • Menu


  • 9:00 – 21:30


  • This place has very delicious food.
  • I recommend eating here before entering the old city.



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