Three nights in town
in Da Nang, Vietnam on 12th March, 2012


I checked out of my hotel in Nha Trang and walked across to the corner shop. The corner shop was a house with the front wall missing. There was a living room with products all over the floor that were for sale. There was an elderly gentleman in his boxer shorts walking away from me as I entered. I said hello four times before a woman appeared from a back room and turned him around towards me. I bought some cookies from the hungover-looking, half-naked man and made my way for some lunch.

I was in a foul mood throughout my train trip up to Da Nang. People cut the line in front of me at the train station. They tried to pull me back so they could get on the train first and again while getting off the train. People selling stuff on the train would skip past me and I'd need to flag them down to buy anything. I felt like I was being excluded. To add to this I'm missing my friends and family more and more as this journey goes on.

When I awoke in my hotel the next morning in Da Nang, it was overcast. I could hardly see anyone outside and this didn't feel like a place tourists visited. But walking along the beach I felt so refreshed. I was in need of a re-charge and walking alone in a cool climate just is what I needed. 33C+ weather non-stop for months was taking its toll. I saw around 20 people in the space of an hour. For Asia, this is the equivalent for being the last person on earth.

I walked past 7 or 8 restaurants on the seafront before I found any that looked open and had anyone sat inside. I found one and the Vietnamese customers inside said hello to me as I sat down. The staff were looking at me through the kitchen window and some would become shy and move away quickly when I made eye contact.

Back in 2002, during my first evening in Germany, I went to a restaurant that normally didn't have foreign customers (bar the Danes). I had the same feeling alien feeling sitting down for lunch here. It felt odd at first to be singled out and feeling out of place.

I saw four white people during my first day in Da Nang. Walking into shops usually one of two things would happen, I'd be greeted warmly or they looked at me like I was the police busting down their dirty little operation. I like the feeling of being the first to discover a place. I'm hardly the first white person here but it sometimes it felt like it.

During the afternoon there was a windy rain storm. I opened the curtains in my seventh-floor hotel room which faced the beach and mountains and I watched some videos off my laptop. Among them: Full Metal Jacket, Top Gear's Vietnam special and some History Channel documentaries of the Vietnam war. It was bizarre thinking some of the videos I watched were filmed where I could see out of the window.

The rain cleared up by the evening and I walked back into town. The neon lights everywhere really brought the city to life and made walking around a lot more special. Da Nang very much comes to life visually at night.

On my last full day in Da Nang I bought a train ticket to get up to Hue which is about three hours away. I showed the sales woman at the train station the ticket I wanted off my iPad. She was shocked with laughter as I handed over the device with the ticket details written down on it. She was embarrassed and shy as she showed me my ticket.

Before my train ride to Hue I took an hour and a half to walk along the beach. The sun had finally come out and the wind made the waves coming in pretty strong. I saw a five other tourists, a group of Russians, which made me think I wasn't completely nuts for staying here for three nights.

The train ride from Da Nang up to Hue was amazing. I recognised a bunch of the places from the Top Gear Vietnam special from 2008. There were waterfalls, huge cliffs over the sea, beaches that didn't have anyone on them and rocks poking out of the dense forest. It was one of the better train rides I've been on in Vietnam.


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