Monday, May 6, 2013

Wrong hotel, right place

One of the joys of independent travel is the unexpected surprises that sometimes come at you. Such was our surprise upon arrival in Hoian, the beautiful historic trading town on the South China Sea. Hoian is just south of Danang, best known for its uses as a landing base for US troupes that first arrived in 1965 at the beginning of the Vietnam War. Our plane arrived in Danang and we were pleased to be greeted by a driver from the hotel I had booked on line while in Hanoi.
Our choice had been the Cua Dai Hotel, given its location between Cua Dai beach and  the old city.  Frommers gives glowing reports of wicker chairs in cozy lounge areas, lovely rooms with mosquito nets, set around an inviting pool. When we were dropped off at the hotel, we found a barrack-like building beside a large school with dormitory-type rooms that were huge and very cold. Where was the pool and the lovely wicker furniture? Not to speak of the other tourists....there were none!
We slept poorly our first night on a rock-hard mattress, kept awake by bright lights in the corridor that never went off. Next morning we asked about the pool. There isn't one. Walking around the area, we realized we were miles from town, there were no bikes for rent, and the surrounding buildings all appeared to be abandoned hotels. It was at this moment that Pierre suggested that perhaps we had not got the hotel we had originally chosen. A quick Google search confirmed his suspicions. We were not at the Cau Dai Hotel, but at the Cau Dai Beach Hotel! When I looked at the Trip Advisor site for the first hotel, there was a quick switch on-line showing pictures of the Cua Dai Beach Hotel. Such false misrepresentation is hard to believe, but we were not the first, as there were other reports on Trip Advisor describing the second place as a nightmare and something out of a horror movie.
A quick reversal of plans and we were out of there. Luckily a taxi drove up into town to the Cua Dai Hotel where a friendly receptionist was pleased to offer us a choice of rooms. After that first disappointment we chose a poolside room with a small terrace where we can sit and enjoy the garden.

So on to Hoian. Yesterday we spent the day walking around the old city. It was established as a trading centre with China and Japan given its proximity as a sea port. Many of the old buildings of wealthy merchants have been restored to their original state. These were mainly Chinese homes and throughout the town the Chinese architectural style is predominant.
Last night for dinner we ate at an old restaurant on the riverfront. The owner and chef, Mr. Kim. is an elderly Vietnamese man who speaks good French. The restaurant food is very original and always a surprise. Mr. Kim comes to your table to show you how to eat the carefully prepared food. Jacques Brel songs were playing on the radio, along with those of Georges Brassens. There is a picture of Mr. Kim with Brel, Brassens and Leo Ferré, when he was a chef in Paris. Pierre felt quite choked-up listening to the music that reminded him of the songs of his youth. All this for the modest sum of $20.
The other activity in Hanoi is to the many shops that make shoes and tailored clothes. Both of us had cheap sandals made. I treated myself to a well-deserved pedicure and Pierre had a barber cut his hair, shave his beard, and deep-clean his ears, a specialty at all the barber shops. Now he can hear what I say even when I whisper.

No comments:

Post a Comment