We’re two weeks into our Indochina adventure. Two weeks of traipsing from hotel to hotel. Two solid weeks of being flown, taxied, tuk-tukked, guided, assisted, welcomed, massaged, treated and entertained. It’s unrelenting. Some sort of change is needed, and it comes in the form of the Palm Garden Resort at Hội An.
We still get the welcome, the catering, the friendly service and all that. But because we’re staying here for six whole nights, we’ve temporarily put a stop to the traipsing-from-hotel-to-hotel bit. We have a base! We can unpack! Hang things up! *sniffs* Get laundry done!
It’s a large resort – not that I have anything to compare it with – with a choice of bars and restaurants. The main dining room is a cavernous, brightly lit hangar that’s so big it’s possible to stand at one end and detect the curvature of the Earth. We give that one a miss. In fact we’re not exactly regulars at the others, either, once we discover how much cheaper it is to eat off-complex, so to speak, in one of the restaurants that have sprung up across the street. Enterprising lot, the Vietnamese.
The next five days become more like a regular beach holiday but with less sunshine (we’re here at the start of the rainy season). We spend the time eating, reading, exploring, running up the bar bill, swimming in the pool, swimming in the sea while keeping an eye out for jellyfish – if we see people standing in the shallows and pointing downwards, we don’t venture in – and visiting Hội An itself, a five minute cab ride away.
Hội An is worth seeing, especially the Old Town. (Has anyone ever recommended visiting a city’s New Town? ‘You’re going to Lima? You simply must visit the Modern Quarter!’)
It’s Full Moon Eve on our first visit, not an official holiday but a good enough excuse for the town to go into partial party mode. This is on the riverfront when the night is still but a puppy:
Full Moon itself really does bring out the crowds. The town goes lantern and candle crazy, with locals pestering you to buy a candle in a little box, then lower it into the river while making a wish. We join in, because we’re tourists, but we wonder just how environmentally friendly the practice is. Wait, that should have been my wish! ‘I wish I knew how much damage this is doing.’
Most evenings we have a nightcap in the resort’s nightspot, the Contino Club. Service is very fast on account of the fact that we are generally the only people in the bar. There’s a resident house band who play a medley of what would normally be described as crowd-pleasing songs if only there was a crowd here to appreciate them. The stage is set up for three musicians but only the singer and the guitarist ever turn up, not the percussionist. So, perhaps after one nightcap too many, I ask to make the duo a trio. They say yes and suddenly it’s all ‘Killing Me Softly’ with a luscious bongo accompaniment being played out to an audience that’s now 50% smaller.
Carol shot some video footage but there’s no way I’m sharing that.
I mentioned that our visit took place during the start of Vietnam’s rainy season. There isn’t a lot of rain but the sky is frequently overcast, which perhaps helps to keep the temperature up in the high thirties. So we have regular dips in the pool. It never quite gets this empty but it’s generally free of people screaming, throwing each other about or suddenly landing by the side of the pool from the direction of a 10th floor balcony.
One evening I notice for the first time the trendy green highlights in Carol’s hair. When did she have this done? How come she hasn’t mentioned it? Should I have said something? Turns out this bold new venture is news to Carol, too. She’s aghast. In fact she’s as aghast as ever I’ve seen her.
A panicky search on the internet tells her that the hotel’s swimming pool is to blame. Specifically, the amount of copper that’s added during the cleaning process. The copper in the water is oxidised by chlorine, which then binds to the proteins in the hair strands and produce a green tint. Ordinary shampoo won’t get it out. A little more rummaging reveals the unlikely remedy: tomato ketchup. Lots of it, lathered into every follicle. So that’s what we do.
I’ve no pictures of that. Sorry.