Kiwis to the rescue!

Quy Nhon

I might have given the impression previously that independent travel is impossible in Vietnam. Not quite so, but here’s how it does work:

Buying tickets for transport is virtually imposssible on your own. Ticket offices at the train stations will ignore you, see straight through you, and generally pretend that the oversized white person with a big backpack turning a bright shade of pink in front of them, jumping up and down and generally beginning to behave quite unrationally, just doesn’t exist. Tickets are therefore bought through hotels and travel agencies, which means that every tourist in Vietnam, down to the very last one, mainly travels up or down the exact same route with the exact same stops in the exact same spots. No imagination is allowed as per government decree it would seem. The only upshot to this is that the open bus tourist buses are so cheap there is no humanly possible way of doing it cheaper. To somebody as tight when travelling as me, that makes up for most failings.

Sometimes though, it doesn’t take much at all, and you’re stranded in “no tourists ever” land. A simple move, such as getting off of the bus halfway between Hoi An and Nha Trang (a mammoth 12 hour journey otherwise), and stopping in Quy Nhon, a big fishing and industrial port, with a sizeable town attached.

This is where independent travel problem #2 manifests itself, as a fair number of embarassed receptionists manage to convey after much gesticulation, miming and broken English: “hotel not allowed foreigners“. Which, as you can probably guess, throws a bit of a spanner in the works as these foreigners would very much appreciate having somewhere to stay.

Virtually no English is spoken anywhere since Quy Nhon is very much off the beaten path (which is funny, as it is in fact, very much on the path, the bus goes right past it – I have travelled long and far in my life to get to remote places in the hope of finding somewhere actually remote, and it is quite an insult to find such a remote gem right in the middle of it all).

Boiling in the midday sun, we find one hotel that’s listed in the lonely planet but it turns out to have reverted to an army hostel and foreigners very much not welcome (or maybe the receptionist was just enthusiastically pointing out the view of the pavement across the road, I’m not sure), so we stumble ever onwards and just as we are on the verge of despair, not to mention heatstroke and dehydration, we stumble into ta-daaaaah! (major fanfare please):

Barbara’s Kiwi Cafe and Hostel
A haven for the independent traveller, run by a genial kiwi lady called Barbara (as you might have guessed). The hotel is a gem of an old building, slightly run down compared to the mini bar cum satellite tv splendour of the standard tourist fare, but with an even more splendidly decadent feel because of it. Barbara is wonderfully helpful (an added bonus in a town where she might be the only person who speaks english), the hotel has cold drinks and food (the only western food in town at that, if you are so inclined), and last but not least, Barbara being a kiwi, she stocks a whole collection of items designed to make a kiwi homesick, (and me even more, err, I guess kiwisick would be the word – I don’t think I’ve ever missed Queenstown quite as much as I did that night in Quy Nhon), from all the magazines all the way to vegemite and Anzac biscuits, Barbara has it. Great place, great ambiance, worth stopping in Quy Nhon just because of it, it will quite possibly make it on the top hostels ever list.

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