Hey & welcome back to my three-part Coronavirus holiday recap. If you haven’t read part one it’s here.
As I said previously the whole world is in a similar situation right now & we all have our own stories on how this has impacted our lives, I’m just sharing my realiTEE.
This part of my story see’s us fly from Vietnam’s capital city Hanio down to central Vietnam.
Let’s jump straight back in;
Packed and ready to go we decided to go across the road to get some smoothies while we waited for our taxi to arrive. As we crossed the road, I heard my case dragging behind us when we stopped to look there was a huge crack where one of the wheels joined the case. No surprise really as we were sharing a case in order to ‘travel light’ and the poor thing was literally about to burst open.
My boyfriend insisted it was fine as long as we were careful, and we carried on.
I jumped into a nearby café to get our smoothies (and a egg coffee!) while my boyfriend waited outside with the dodgy case. As I moved into the café to get a better wifi signal while I waited I could hear a commotion outside but didn’t really think anything of it. Hanio is a vibrant city and in true Vietnamese culture people enjoy gathering on the streets outside of cafes and little bars to sit and eat & drink together.
It wasn’t until my boyfriends voice interrupted my thoughts I looked up to see people frantically getting inside while staff went out to pick up tables and chairs and bring them in. I looked at my boyfriend confused and he gave me a shrug.
‘Some guys got out a van and started yelling at people. They all started going inside so I thought I should to.’
I looked over he’s shoulder and sure enough there were armed offices shouting in Vietnamese and pointing to the outdoor table and chairs as citizens frantically ran around to get people inside.
‘Army’ the guy behind the counter confirmed as he handed us our smoothies.
Confused as to whether we could go back outside or not he advised we wait inside while we waited for our taxi. Fortunately, that didn’t take long and the army officers had loaded themselves back into their van and left the street.
We arrived at the airport 2 and half hours early for our domestic flight after being told that restrictions at airports where getting tighter. Apparently, that didn’t actually apply to domestic flights.
We boarded our flight on time and our experience overall had seemed relativity normal with the exception of the army officers that morning.
We landed the other side, collected the battered suitcase and went to find our driver who took us to our home for the next few days. Again everything seemed normal we got ourselves settled, showered & arranged for a scooter to get around while we were here in Hoi An. We went for food and headed back for a early night. In Vietnam there are a lot of curfews so no where stays open much past midnight. We had a lot of things we wanted to do in central Vietnam so we made a plan of attack & went to bed.
I awoke again to a number of messages from our new host, this time along with the request for our passport details he had left health forms outside our door that needed to be completed and given back to him so he could submit these to the government. This included not only our passport details but a timeline of our flights complete with flight numbers and seat numbers as well as clarifying exactly where we had been and what we had been doing since arriving in Vietnam. By this time Vietnam had revoked visa’s on arrival to UK citizens & the ones that were here were being closed monitored.
We filled out everything that was required & hoped that by complying with all requests they would continue to let us proceed with our holiday as planned. After all the government had bigger concerns of UK citizens that had refused to go into quarantined and were now traveling around Vietnam potentially spreading the virus.
With the health forms out of the way I had found the perfect little café for us to go for breakfast ahead of our drive out to Marble Mountain.
Rosie’s Café was PERFECT! The food is amazing, the vibe is exactly what we like chilled out and the coffee was possibly the best I’d ever had. I actually had 3 no regrets! While sat waiting for our food a woman sat at the end of our table who turned out to be from Manchester UK, her other half was across the road trying to get cigarettes. When he arrived it turned out he’d had to jump on their scooter and go about a mile away to try and get some as the shops in close proximity were refusing to serve British tourists. I was genuinely shocked, I’d never experienced this before, I know that makes me sound entitled and I know exactly how lucky I’ve been. The Manchester couple also told us about friends they had that had been traveling for years and were now looking to go home because of this virus. This was felt real and so sad, there were people that had been traveling for years and now forced back to their countries of origin due to fear of safety.
As I said our tactic was always to enjoy the holiday as much as planned and with that in mind and our stomachs full we headed to one of my none negotiables.
I know a fair few people that have visited Vietnam but none of them found out about Marble Mountain so I’m here to tell everyone it’s a must. You’ll need a driver or scooters from Hoi An to get there as its around 5 miles out but its worth it. Pack some sun cream, bottles of water, biscuits and a sugary drink, you’ll need it and go explore. Marble mountain is a collection of Buddhist temples in the mountain, you can go and explore and find as many as you can. Some are outside like the famous giant marble Buddha and some inside which are much cooler as they are shaded. My boyfriend enjoyed it as much as I did and as it’s not as well known there were fewer people there so not as touristy and easy to keep your distance from people.
For extra tourist points pick up a traditional hat to protect you from the sun and you can get a coconut from the many little stores while you’re walking around but these are more expensive that what you would usually pay. We did not go prepared with snacks so when I started feeling lightheaded I got one for hydration & sugar.
Once we were finished we headed back into Hoi An for a light bite to eat and while my boyfriend sat and chilled in a little coffee shop I went on the hunt for souvenirs, everything seemed quite and I noticed that every forth shop or so was closed, I knew we had gone at the end of the season and this was my initial thought, so I left it at that got a postcard and headed back in time to see my boyfriend looking at the cake menu.
The next thing on our list that was a must for us was Hai Van Pass, this was simple we already had the scooter and with the help of maps on our phones it required no interaction with anyone else. Knowing it was going to be roughly a 5 hour round trip we decided to fill ourselves up and headed back to Rosie’s café but when we got there it was closed with a small sign that said they would open soon. This was possibly the start of the severity of the impact of Covid-19 we didn’t realise at that point how quickly things were about to change.
We found somewhere to eat and headed off as planned, my boyfriend had seen the Top Gear Special in Vietnam and had wanted to drive Hai Van Pass ever since and I can understand why. It was amazing, absolutely breath taking.
As we started heading back we decided to pull over as soon as we saw somewhere that looked decent to go in and eat, we had to drive back via Da Nang to get to Hoi An and there was not one café that would serve tourists open.
By the time we got back to Hoi An and were in desperate need of a good meal. We drove past a little bar by the river that I recognised from some blogs I’d read so we pulled up and went inside. We were greeted by a weird look and asked to clean up before sitting to eat. When we looked at each other this made perfect sense, driving 5 hours on a scooter will not only leave you with a VERY sore ass (nappy cream please!) but thanks to the high levels of pollution we both looked like we’d been sweeping chimneys in 1920 London!
One thing my boyfriend and I joke about (now) is how much easier it is to lockdown a communist country. In the UK it took a while for the idea of lockdown & quarantine to sink in, people were still going out even after the pubs and cafes shut people still went out unnecessarily. In Vietnam the government simply shut off the power.
That’s what we woke up to the following day, a power cut. Fortunately many places had backup generators but these only worked to a certain capacity and therefor cafes could only have a certain amount of people in and only serve a limited portion of their menus. As people who don’t like cash (partly because of dirty it is) we found ourselves in a little deli up from where we were staying one of the only few places that were open but didn’t accept card and every ATM was shut down due to the power cut. Our host was able to provide us with some cash for the day after I had frantically ran up and down the main road several times trying to find a ATM with some power.
We spoke to a few other tourists who had no idea what was happening either, one local explained to us it was a warning from the Government that if people didn’t start closing or limiting the number of people in a venue at once the country would be locked down.
We had intended to have a relaxing day anyway as we were planning to head to Hue the next day which was 3 hours in the car there. I decided today was a great day to do a coffee taste testing session I had read about so we headed once more into the old town of Hoi An.
When we found the location the doors were closed, this time the sign on the door was in Vietnamese, the only part we understood; Covid-19.
By this point there was pretty much nothing for us to do apart from walk up and down taking in the beautiful scenery and the buildings of the main attractions. Many of the tailors were closing and some of the local bars. Almost all the small but highly rated cafes I had on my list were closed.
This was real and starting to get scary. We still had 5 days before we were due to come home and the news back home was very mixed. The UK remained very active at this point but when I spoke to friends and family it was clear the turning point would come any day. As the numbers grew in France and Paris began shutting the main attractions it was time for my cousin & I to make a decision on our trip due the end of March.
As I write this I should be in Paris, I should be slipping rose with my cousin and exploring second hand French bookshops, a trip that is already 6 years overdue for us. It was with very heavy hearts we made the decision to cancel our accommodation and train, having traveling to Asia within two weeks the chances of France letting me in where very slim.
Things continued to escalate when we awoke the morning after. This was the day we had planned to head to Hue, one of the places I wanted to visit. We had planned to visit the Imperial city and a old abandond water park I had found out about online where people could get in and see what was left. Our host messaged us early advising that many attractions had been shut and did we still want to go? This time my boyfriend and I made the decision to cancel as 3 hours in a car to arrive somewhere that was closed wasn’t the best use of our last day.
Instead we got a few more hours of sleep and spend the day at the beach. Things had ramped up so much that I was struggling to sleep now, that night I had awoke to sirens in the distance & remembering the story of some Brits that were packing to go into quarantine & had heard the sirens coming for them before they had finished I had started to panic and work myself up. Taking a few deep breaths I fought back the panic attack but I couldn’t deny there was a part of me that was getting more and more concerned as the days went by.
I found a small beach not to far that had a café with one of the best coconut coffees in the area so after we went back to the deli for brunch (it was now one of the few places that was open & their French toast and coffee was on a new level) and headed to the beach.
Can you guess what we found when we arrived at the beach?
A instagrammers dream beach! Miles of stretched out beach and beautiful blue sea with next to no body there. As for the coconut coffee café? CLOSED!
We walked up & down for a while and took in the moment, under any other circumstances it would have been an amazing moment. Stood on the beach together quite, nothing but the waves. On this occasion there was a heaviness in the air no matter how we tried to laugh it off.
By this point I was looking forward to heading back to a city, surely things wouldn’t be this quite back in the cities?
We jumped back on the scooter and headed back. Surprise the place I directed us to was closed; Covid-19 yet another sign read. We manged to park up outside a little discrete café and order some drinks.
I planned on us going to a small place outside of the old town for dinner that night, however based on the amount of closures we decided the best option was to stick to main the areas. At least if a place was closed we were in close proximity to more options.
I will say this, the food in Hoi An was my favourite in all of Vietnam.
Once we were back we needed to repack the dodgy case ready for our flight to Ho Chi Mihn the following day.
So that’s it for Part 2.
If you missed my Vietnamese second-hand look book can be found here.
Part 3 will be up next week.
Love Tee xoxo