I had planned to travel to the southern central coastline region in middle August with my Austrian friend who would be coming to Vietnam in the summer . However, the plan collapsed because I had to start my new job on August 1st. I then was so down and did not feel any sense of travelling since my excitement for travel was almost gone after having heard that bad news. But better just go, I told myself, in order to enjoy the last bit of freedom before getting back to work. And my mini and impromptu trip to Ly Son Island and Hoi An turned out more interesting than I expected.
I had looked for a Couchsurfing host before going as usual. There were so few hosts in Quang Ngai but I luckily found and was accepted by Thuy, who hosted me for 2 nights before and after my trip to Ly Son. Thuy was genuinely friendly and kind – hearted. She picked me up at the bus station and took me to her home where I had beautifully delicious vegetarian dinner cooked by her mum, who was also kind and inviting. After the meal, Thuy and her cousin showed me around Quang Ngai city which was quite nice and peaceful, followed by nice chats over street food on the riverside. Not exaggeratingly, Thuy and her family’s hospitality has been the best I have ever received so far. And thanks to them, I met Emma who was a Welsh couchsurfer backpacking through Vietnam. She stayed at Thuy’s at the same time as me so we paired up to go to Ly Son and Hoi An.
Ly Son, which is 24 km away from the mainland, is a newly discovered island and is getting more and more popular in tourism. Ferry is the only way to get there. There were different timings of the ferry departures but we wanted to get to the island as earliest as we could so we left Thuy’s house in early morning. When we arrived at the port, we saw a lot of people waiting at the ticket station. Although I had booked my ticket, I had to wait for a while till my name got called. Meanwhile, Emma had to fill in some border papers for foreigners, which was complicated for her. But everything was fine then and we finally arrived in Ly Son’s Big Island.
We walked for hours to check out most of the spots instead of renting a motorbike. . Everyone thought we were crazy, but I was actually glad that we walked because we didn’t think renting a bike is necessary. Additionally, walking brought us more chances to interact with locals who either showed us right directions when we got lost or gave us free ride when seeing us walking on the road. That really helped us realize how friendly they were. Moreover, we got to walk through endless garlic fields and along a nice coastline from Chua Hang (a pagoda located in the rock by the sea) to the Lighthouse, which motorbike users often missed. On the coastline lied a lot of rocks which gave the beach a wild and natural look. Our last stop was Thoi Loi Mountain where we met some nice girls who gave us a free ride (yes, again). Walking for a whole day was exhausting but fun. However, while roaming around the island, we also noticed that there was a lot of rubbish on the seashore and pathways which somehow ruined the beauty of the beach in particular and the island in general.
The day after, we went to Small Island by speedboat, where Emma got to swim while I spent time reading my book. The Small Island was nicer than the Big one with blue water, cool caves and cleaner beaches, but still had rubbish. Although it was a newly found island, it was getting dirtier due to the level of rubbish that tourists (mostly Vietnamese) left. The beach was nice but the attitude of visitors and their scattered rubbish just spoilt its charm. I just felt sad and embarrassed about that. This serious problem really needs to be addressed if the island wants to gain more popularity, especially among foreigners, and develop sustainably.
We left the island earlier than planned and got back to Thuy’s for one night before heading to Hoi An. We had sent many requests on Couchsurfing but didn’t get any acceptance, except Rebekah, so ended up staying at her lovely house. She was a polite, thoughtful, welcoming and generous Canadian expat living in Hoi An with two puppies and one kitty. She carefully arranged a bedroom for Emma and I, took us to a nice vegetarian cat’s cafe where we had tasty falafels, followed by a wicked dinner with her friend at a local family-owned cafe near her house, and also gave us some suggestions on eateries and fun activities in the town. Hoi An wasn’t new to me since I have been there twice, but I didn’t like it so much, which is strange since most of people like this town. Nevertheless, I decided to go back to Hoi An with a clear mind just to check my feeling. The result didn’t change. I didn’t like it still because it was way too touristy. However, I was blessed to be hosted by Rebekah and to have a great time with her and her friends.
Emma stayed in Hoi An for some more days while I went back to Ha Noi for work, officially finished my trip. This is another trip to remember for me, especially in the aspect of human connection. The saying “sometimes it’s not where we travel, but who we travel with” seemed to be true for me this time, as I was more impressed by people whom I met more than the places I went. How glad I was to travel with Emma, who was the most laid-back and hilarious traveller I have ever met. Not only did she never mind sharing vegetarian food and walking for hours under the sun with me, but she also got me into all of her amazing experiences and saw eye to eye with me on independent travel. Meanwhile, I gained a deeper insight into various cultures and lifestyles of people from different backgrounds while staying with Thuy’s family and Rebekah. Thanks to these people (and those I have met in my previous travels), I have experienced the culture in a more exciting way, as well as got to understand better the connection between people which has transformed moments I had the new and unexpected.
Many people have asked me if I get bored when travelling alone, and my answer is always “No” due to the number of strangers and travelers I have met and unforgettable experiences we had together. Traveling solo hasn’t isolated me, but actually has connected me to new people. Those who have entered my journeys by that way have inspired me with their own exciting stories and showed me I was on the right path. Additionally, I realized how well we spent time together is really what matters, rather than how long we know each other and how long our journeys are. Because of that human connection, I’m not actually alone on my independent travel, and neither are you.