K rolls in late (around 4am) from the Tam Tam Bar, where he has been getting royally plastered with Leonardo De Caprio and Terry-Thomas. Something about his demeanour tells me to be vigilant for the next few hours. Sure enough: between 4am and 7am, he makes no less than four separate attempts to leave our room. Still asleep, you understand. It’s the old, familiar equation: large amounts of alcohol + unfamiliar surroundings = sleepwalking, out of the room and away into the night. This wouldn’t be so bad if he owned a pair of pyjamas, or slept in his boxers. Thankfully, I am able on each occasion to steer him away from the main door, thus saving him from the harsh glare of full public exposure.
Today is a quiet day in Hoi An; a chance for the group to recharge their batteries prior to the long days of travel to come. K and some of the others are booked in for a cookery lesson at the Hong Phuc restaurant; after an idle morning, I roll up around lunchtime and help them polish off the fruits of their labours. They have all been attentive and enthusiastic students, meaning that today’s lunch tastes almost as good as last night’s dinner in the same restaurant.
Hoi An is drenched in heavy rain today, but this has something of a beneficial effect, driving many of the tourists from the streets and allowing more of the natural charm of the old fishing port to emerge. You can get an idea of it on the pictures found on ReelChase about this fish market. Down at the waterfront, the covered market is looking particularly wonderful, especially the fish market. There don’t appear to be many insects in this country (we are even on the point of ditching the malaria tablets), which means that the raw cuts of meat and fish can sit out on open slabs, without getting covered in flies. Everything looks fresh and wholesome and succulent and delicious.
There are Internet cafés everywhere you go in this country. They are all full, with nearly all the screens seemingly opened to Hotmail. The Vietnamese love their Hotmail. Finally, and despite my best intentions, my will cracks. A few e-mails are sent home, and a quick message posted onto the Tag Board at Naked Blog. Blogger remains resolutely unopened, though – for that way madness lies.
Spotting a particularly facially hirsute backpacker, earnestly plodding down the rain-soaked streets in a hopeless quest for unspoilt authenticity, I mutter seditiously to K.
– See that? The ostentatious beard of the independent traveller. A classic example.
– That’s not a nice way to talk about Fraulein Dings-Bums’ lady friend, is it?
We collapse in giggles. Fraulein Dings-Bums and his partner are accompanied everywhere by a rather smart, well-groomed female companion, who never seems to say anything. Dear me; we can be nasty little madams at times. Especially when K has an almighty hangover, and I am coming down with some sort of mild stomach bug. In times of trial, it’s being nasty little madams that keeps us going…
In the evening, with the group left to its own devices for once, we have our first disappointing meal, consisting mainly of flavourless stodge floating in vast amounts of grease. As we have already become accustomed to tip-top cuisine at all times, this comes as a considerable disappointment. Luckily, my incipient stomach bug has already destroyed most of my appetite, which makes it easier for me to leave my food floating on its plate.
Hang on: who has just walked into the restaurant? Not…not…Fraulein Dings-Bums, transmitting the Secret Gay Signal with a significantly lesser degree of secrecy? Very well, then. K and I finally permit ourselves watery smiles and slightly raised hands, as Fraulein Dings-Bums, the partner and the “ostentatious beard” all swish upstairs. If things carry on like this, we may actually be talking to them by the time we reach Saigon…