Gritty and dim, under an overcast early morning sky, we've arrived at just the right time to witness this historical town coming to life. On narrow streets filled with dark wooden homes, we cycle into the heart of Hội An; a living, breathing relic of years gone by. The city is an eclectic mix of modern day tourism and 16th century Vietnam—it feels a bit like being on the set of a kung fu movie.
Adding to the ambiance of the ride, there is a loudspeaker, somewhere, pouring out the crisp tones of an Asian tune. As we round a bend in search of a place to sleep, we come upon the music's unlikely source: a garbage truck. The classic Chinese song General's Mandate (used in many a kung fu movie), is the townspeople's call to bring out their trash!
On the next block over, a shot of color infuses the dreary dawn. Stone houses painted in peeling yellow are speckled with damp patches of moss, shimmering in the morning dew.
Further on, we're passing through the first stirrings of a riverside market. Noodle makers in pointy rice hats are busy slicing large sheets of translucent dough into strips, alongside fruit sellers who squat by their mountains of bright orange citrus.
Green vegetables, vibrant in their bundles, are stacked for sale next to towers of precariously placed eggs, and the butcher's area offers the now familiar sight of raw, bloody flesh. There is a questionable looking addition spread across one of the tables that catches our eye: a single skinned, dead animal with a long curved tail. Could this be our first dog?
Wading through the throng, we arrive on the other side of town, one part exhausted and one part floored about the prospect of exploring this town. It is already our favorite place in Vietnam, and we've only been here half an hour.
Two hours have passed, and, having suffered a rare bout of indecision, we've now ridden up and down practically every street in this city trying to find the perfect place to stay. After the umpteenth round of hunting, we finally settle for an overpriced hotel (infuriatingly, it's the very first one we visited). While I unload the bikes, Tara practically sleepwalks inside. There, she climbs into bed, and falls fast asleep before her head reaches the soft, waiting pillow.
As for me, I've passed some point of no return, and find myself more or less wide awake despite a mostly sleepless night. So, I spend my time working on programming projects while Tara snores quietly beside me. A few hours later, there is a knock at the door, and two friendly faces peeking around it. Pete and Natasha are here!
Getting Tara moving is approximately equivalent to having a leaden zombie for a partner, and it takes her a moment to figure out where we are and what day it is. I'm not exactly feeling spry myself. While we know our friends would understand if we said we were too beat to go out, we suck it up and mobilize anyway—we really want to see them!