Three countries, twelve cities, and ten weeks of travel later, I am starting to discover what kind of places I like to linger in.
Before setting out on this extended trip around much of South East Asia, I would have considered myself a beach bum with a preference for hippie seaside towns, where you eat your lunch of grilled fish at the beach, and then watch the sunset on a cozy wicker chair with a bottle of beer in hand.
It appears I was wrong about myself, or perhaps in light of new options, my preferences have changed.
I visited two seaside towns in the past few weeks, yet both left me longing for something more.
I went to Sihanoukville having heard rave reviews from others who had gone before me, but I must have arrived too late because what I found instead was a beach littered with garbage, broken glass bottles floating in the ocean, construction materials left abandoned on the sandy shores, and some particularly aggressive child vendors who threw fits and turned verbally abusive when Sam and I didn’t show any interest in buying bracelets. That was enough to put me off spending time at the beach…in a beach town.
NHA TRANG, Vietnam
While there was nothing off-putting about my stay in Nha Trang, I felt like it was missing a little something. The beach was nice, not like Cuba’s beaches which come in fifty shades of turquoise, but enjoyable enough for a quick dip in the South China Sea.
So why wasn’t I prancing around the beach with a giant grin plastered on my face?
Could it be that, gasp, maybe I’m not such a beach bum after all?
What kind of places am I drawn to?
There are two cities that stand out in my mind from the past ten weeks of travel, and they both share a lot of similarities:
Melaka was the first stop of my trip and it immediately won me over with its red Chinese lanterns, century old temples, decaying colonial facades, winding streets and narrow alleyways, burning incense, dizzying night markets, and delicious Malay delicacies sold in street stands.
Wherever I went in Melaka, there was always a stimulating colour, smell, taste, or sound. I spent more than a week in the heart of Chinatown, and it’s not a place that I tired of.
HOI AN, Vietnam
Another city that has recently won me over is Hoi An. Within minutes of wandering the old town, I knew this would be a place that I’d be sad to leave.
Hoi An has so many charms that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin!
Do I tell you about the bright colonial buildings that come in shades of mango, papaya and royal blue? The white balconies that have been weathered and stained with moss? The traditional music that floats from the open windows down onto the streets below? The locals who ride their bikes around town donning conical hats? The cafes where you can enjoy a cup of Vietnamese coffee while you lazily stare out at the Thu Bon River? The colourful lanterns? The tailors? The food markets?
This is one of those cities where there’s always something to hold my gaze or capture my interest. Not to mention the fact that the old town of Hoi An looks like something straight out of a fairy tale! I wouldn’t be half surprised to see a dragon waking from its slumber.
I’m not ready to relinquish my beach bum status quite yet, but these little colonial port cities are sure starting to grow on me!
Beaches, cities, sleepy towns?
What kind of places do you enjoy visiting?