Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cheapest Town; Marriage Offer; How the Other Half Vacations

Our bus pulled into a beachside town call Hoi An at around 12:30 pm. The bus is run by company called An Phu. The first hotel we pulled into was called the An Phu. Coincidence? Seems like good business: Wear people down with 18-hour bus ride and no sleep and then bring them to your hotel for the hard sell.

I got off the bus and a hotel sales person showed me a room.
The price: $12.
What am I made of money?
Do you think I just got off the boat or something?

I told her it was too much, I was going to look around town. I started to walk out and the price dropped to $10. I asked if they had a better room. Something bigger with a balcony. Just so happens... I took the new room and agreed to pay $12. The room was almost identical to what I had in Hanoi for $20, except this hotel was new and had a pool.

Questions I should have asked before taking the room:
- The map says the hotel is only 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) to the beach. Is that a friggin lie?
- Is the distance to the beach more like 5 kilometers (3 miles)?
- Does it rain in this town every day or just every day in October when I'm here?
- Is that really your idea of a gym?

Still, to date, Hoi An is the least expensive place and it was fun as well.

Costs:
- nice hotel room (Had both a queen bed and single bed, a/c, nice new bathroom, free Internet): $12
- Huge dinner: less than $3, including a local noodle dish with beef called Cao Lo $.70 (squeeze lime and add hot peppers), excellent hot and sour fish soup with rice $1, 16 ounce beer $1
- ride to the beach $1
- workout in marginal gym at five-star beach hotel: $10 (seems to be a theme in Southeast Asia: a visit to the gym costs the same as a night in a hotel)

The town is worth a visit. (I'm staying 4 days)
- There is a river that empties into the sea. (I've decided to name the river the Typhus because a local white guy told me not to go in it.) Bars and restaurants line the riverside.
- There is a Bangkok/China Tow -style market with food and clothes, etc. It's like a trip to the zoo. Lots of strange creatures being washed in the Typhus that no doubt end up in my hot and sour fish soup.
- Ocean and beach are great but a local cautioned me about the undertow. I would have gone in anyway but it has rained every day.

Marriage Offer

My first day I walked to the beach. The walk took about an hour. The second day I wanted to work out. After seeing my hotel gym, which had 3 pieces of equipment probably left over from the French occupation, I asked the hotel staff if there was a better place. They said a hotel on the beach had a real gym.

I wasn't going to walk both ways to the beach. I walked out of the hotel and a woman renting bikes and mopeds called out asking if I wanted to rent a bike. I said no, it was raining. She ask if I wanted a ride somewhere. I said maybe. We haggled about price and settled on 15,000 dong. She closed up her rental stand and we hopped on her moped.

The woman started talking:
"where you from?"
"Canada," I said
"How old are you?"
" 25, I said. "How old are you?"
"Me 25, too." (She didn't look a day over 45)
"You married?"
"Nope," I said.
"Me neither."
"You like Hoi An?"
"Yeah, it's a very nice town."
"You should get married and buy a house here."

Somehow the conversation got turned around to us getting married.
Here was her offer:
- we get married
- I buy her a big house (she said a big house would cost $30k. I pointed to a small triple decker on the river. She said that one would cost $60k. If I bought her that house she would rent out the other floors.)
- I leave Hoi An and visit periodically

If I had been more attracted to her, I might have started dickering for better terms.

Glossary:

Food stall:

Food sold off a cart, from in front of a house, or from a store that sells other stuff during the day. It's almost like your neighbor opening his garage at night, putting out a few chairs, and serving mystery stew and beer to anyone who wants to pay. Some stalls are open till 2:00 am.
Most food stalls sell some type of stew. The base is a watery brew simmering in a huge pot large enough to boil a queen-sized sham pillow. When the liquid gets low, the cook adds water tap water, a dead kitten, and a few rusty soup cans.


How the Other Half Vacations

On the beach in Hoi An is a 5-star hotel called the Swiss-Belhotel Golden Sand Resort & Spa. The place is one of the most spectacular hotels I've seen but still cheap by US standards.

Here's what it has:
- beautiful pool, steps from beach with a bar that has seats that are in the water. The pool has two small bridges that go across it.
- small gym and full spa (you pay extra for spa)
- several nice bars. A beer in the bar costs $2.50 (and the staff expects tips -- the nerve. I was told not to tip in either Thailand or Vietnam, as people don't expect it and can be confused. I think it is sadistic to confuse someone intentionally, so I've abided by the local customs) The bar I went to had chess boards, dominoes, and a free pool table. The bar staff was confounded when I first asked the price and then wanted to pay with Vietnames dong -- they are used to US dollars and people who don't do boorish things like ask the price of everything. (I've gotten used to asking the price before buying anything. You may be embarrassed by me if we go out when I get home...)

- The cheapest room cost $105 (these were all sold out, so I couldn't see one)

- The nicest room cost $245 (equivalent to about 3 weeks in my hotel)

The nicest room had the following:
- 1.5 baths
- master bath suite had separate shower stall and a seperate bath tub.
- livingroom
- foyer
- huge balcony
- it faces the beach (you're basically on the beach.)
- bedroom that had a bed that was probably the size of two king beds.

Crime watch:
I was at the post office mailing something and a woman I was talking to was doing the same. She put her purse on the counter, filled out some forms, and then her purse was gone.

More Mosquito Bites of the World:
1) Bangkok
- itch minor
- welt: minor
- vector: small, quiet mosquito (I'd just assume let bit me and get it over with)

2) Hanoi, Hoi An
-itch: minor
- welt: minor
- vector: small, quiet mosquito