TotW #11 – By making my journey plans I had a hard decision about Vietnam: should I go to Hanoi, the capital city in the north or to Saigon, the countries largest city in the south? Finally I found myself in Da Nang. It’s a small town somewhere in the middle.
Nothing to Play With
I arrived to the airport of Da Nang on a (very) sunny morning. Da Nang is a small city, the only reason I knew about its existence was that that’s where I found a Vietnamese workaway place for one week only. It was an English speaking café in the downtown where my task would have been to make English conversations with the locals. But 4 days before my arrival, when I was already in Hong Kong, they suddenly canceled. So I had to search a new place in Da Nang on workaway very fast since I didn’t want to pay for accommodation (which by the way is only about 4 Euro there). Finally I found a hostel where the boss agreed to accept me but since he didn’t send me their address, I didn’t know where to go after arriving to Da Nang. I booked a room somewhere else and hoped that he will let me know soon.
Yeah, no mistake, I booked a whole room! Last week I spent the nights twice in an airport, twice in a tent and twice in the Chungking Mansion. After all these I thought I deserve a whole room, with double bed and an own bathroom. I walked to the place with my luggage from the airport which was 5,6 km away and as you might remember, the morning was (very) sunny. I arrived fully exhausted and the first thing I did was sleeping through the afternoon.
When I woke up, a message from the workaway hostel was waiting for me, now I knew where to go next day. But until next day I didn’t have anything to do. So first I went to the ocean. There were many constructions along the beach. Da Nang really wants to be a tourist center as soon as possible. Then I went to a restaurant, tried some Vietnamese whatever. Then back to my room doing nothing. It was a boring evening but still, having an own room was a big help to relax.
Next day I arrived to the workaway hostel. Now that the tourist season was over, the boss had some new ideas to improve his business. For example, he wanted to open an English Café. He said he doesn’t really know how could I help him for one week only, finally we agreed that I’ll build the cafés website. He introduced me to a girl, his sisters’ daughter (is it niece maybe?), she was the little secretary of the project. She could help me in anything. Okay, good, so I asked her if there is something interesting here. No, she answered. Da Nang is boring. In this city there is nothing to play with. But maybe I can go for a walk in the evening along the river. Oh, so there is something interesting by the river? No, she answered. There is nothing there. But I can see the lights. Another worker in the hostel was the multifunctional receptionist boy who used to make breakfast, clean the rooms, hanging around with the guest and learning English in his free time.
The tourist season was so much over that there were no guests in the hostel at all. I sat in my empty room (a whole empty floor actually) and thought about my upcoming week. So, as for companion I have the coordinator girl and the multifunctional boy, as for program I can build the cafés website and go to the beach every now and then. Acceptable schedule, but didn’t sound like too much fun.
Blueberry from Tibet
On Wednesday evening I asked the niece girl if we could go to the English speaking café that suddenly canceled my workaway. Just to see what I’m missing. Sure, she said. Before we started, two girls arrived to the hostel. The café was very crowded, exactly the opposite of the hostel. We didn’t like it too much and left early. When I came back to the hostel, one of the new guests was sitting in the lobby alone. I was also alone. So we started to talk.
She’s from Tibet but now studying law in Hong Kong. It’s her first time in Vietnam. She’s travelled a lot alone before but for now she’s with her sister, and for her it’s the first time. Then she said she wants to go out for a cigarette. Do I want to come to smoke? I answer no to this question every single time. Now I said okay. So we kept talking. She’s not really her sister, just her sister-in-law. And by the way, I must know that Tibet is not China, the people of Tibet have a totally different culture and history. China just wants to make the whole world China. Then we took some beers and went to the hostels rooftop. And still kept talking. She went to study to Hong Kong because her parents wanted that. Because parents in China are very controlling. What she really wants to study is psychology. Oh, and her name is Dinkenesh. Well it’s not really her name, Chinese people use to choose an English name and introduce themselves on that to Western people. And she chose Dinkenesh. It’s not a nice name, I said. Especially not for girls. I can find her a better one, she suggested. After some time we ended up with Áfonya. She really liked it. It means blueberry in Hungarian. And then we kept talking so long that there were people on the streets again and the sky started to lighten. There was no topic she had any problems with for some talking and this made me a bit more open too. We went down from the rooftop and walked to the beach to watch the sunrise. Then we bought breakfast from a local sandwich lady and slept until afternoon.
Next evening we went out to bring some dinner to her sister and ended up strolling on random streets for hours. And still kept talking. The sister asked Áfonya to bring her french fries and Sprite. And it’s a bit sad. Typical Chinese tourist, she said, doesn’t care about the local specialties, just wants to eat what she already knows. We should upgrade her, she should have nice memories about her first trip. I said we could bring her to a restaurant next day.
On Friday me and Áfonya went to the beach, then met the sister, ready to bring her to a restaurant. Meanwhile the sister was walking alone in the city, found a tattoo shop and decided to get her first tattoo ever. Áfonya said okay cool, then she will get her fourth tattoo ever. They chose two weird pictures, one with sun and moon for the sister, one with bird and fish for Áfonya, and we went for dinner. The restaurant was recommended by an American volunteer who just arrived to the hostel earlier that day.
On Saturday we went to the tattoo shop, Áfonya got her tattoo first, then we left the sister in the tattoo shop and rented a motorbike. It was my first time driving a motorbike. We went to the mountains on the north of the city and stopped whenever the scenery made it worth. Áfonya didn’t have a driving license either but was really experienced thanks to her trips to Thailand. In the evening we visited the Dragon Bridge. The Dragon Bridge has a dragon figure waving along the bridge and the head spits fire and water every weekend at 9pm. We drove there with Áfonya to see how it looks (it was super boring) and agreed to visit the old town next day.
Next morning she drove her sister to the airport with the motorbike and told me that she’s too tired to go the old town. Okay, then I bring back the bike. It was a sad decision because we just filled the tank last evening. I didn’t want to waste the fuel money so I started to drive south along the beach, thinking that I’ll turn back soon. But while I was driving, an old woman just drove next to me. Hello, she shouted at me, how are you? I’m okay, I shouted back, and you? I’m fine, where are you going? I have no idea. Then why don’t you visit the Marble Mountain? The what?? The Marble Mountain. What’s that? It’s a mountain. Aha, is it far away? No, it’s very close. Where is it? Just follow me, she said. So I did. After we arrived, she put my motorbike in front of her souvenir shop, it was next to the mountain and wished me good luck. On the mountain there were Buddhist statues and temples, they were pretty but boring. There were also some caves there, they were also pretty and a bit less boring. I couldn’t make any photos because I didn’t expect this little bypass, the only thing I had in my pocket was the money for the motorbike rental guy. I came down from the mountain about an hour later and the old lady wanted me to buy some stupid stones and necklaces from her shop. I refused and drove back, left the motorbike by its owner and went to the beach with Áfonya for the last time before her departs.
She couldn’t go in the water because of the tattoo so we were just chilling on the beach and watching the Pacific Ocean. She told me that if she could became anything in the world, but really anything, she’d choose to be the Pacific Ocean. So she could be in Vietnam and in Argentina at the same time. I think if I could become anything in the world, but really anything, I’d prefer to be a panda bear. Because they are just playing around all day and in addition they are officially protected.
Then Áfonya flew away in the afternoon and I found myself in the same situation as before her arrival: there is the hostel where I can do my job alone (which I ignored a bit in the previous days, I must admit), there is the beach right next to it where I can go alone and there is nothing else. So when I had to go next day, I didn’t mind. Áfonya left. The website is finished. My job in Da Nang is done. In this city there is nothing to play with anymore. My further stories have to take place in other cities.
I am now sitting in Saigon, my flight to Bangkok is in the next morning. I decided to stay in an AirBnB room instead of the airport. It has an own bathroom. I was going to come to the house by foot because I hate taxis but I couldn’t find it. I asked an old man if he can help me and he brought me and my luggage right to the entrance on his motorbike. He didn’t accept any money. I should have stayed more than one night in Saigon I think. There might be things here to play with.
Weekly Best Of
+ hanging out with Áfonya
+ getting that website finished. It’s not very professional but still makes me proud.