Heading for Hoi An

17 10 2009

Friday 16/10/09 Sorry this is old news. Internet was down.

The landscape is so different here in Vietnam from anything we have experienced elsewhere. As far as the lie of the land goes all we have seen so far is flat, flat, flat – apart from multi story buildings the country is generally featureless. (with the exception of the marble mountains which we saw yesterday and are just a couple of small karsts really). Flat countryThis is partly due to limited visibility created by low cloud and sometimes smog. Even when the sun breaks through it is mostly hazy. In Da Nang we have had an occasional glimpse of the mountains which are not too far away but to some extent the country creates an agoraphobic feeling which makes it challenging when trying to get ones bearings. A bit like arriving in a new place by night and not really feeling you know east from west till you get up in the morning and see the sun.

LEAVING Da Nang

The night gave way to morning with occasional glimpses of sun between beautiful soft warm rain showers. Someone has said that you don’t have to find a cyclo, they will find you when you want one – and when you don’t! We have had that experience with motor cycles as well. (Mostly little 2 strokes the size of postie bikes or not much bigger) Footpaths are not used for walking here but for parking bikes so you can’t get past without stepping onto the road. What should be a 6 or 8 minute brisk walk can literally take 20 -30 minutes. Heading for the tour office I opted for the back of the first bike that offered and it sure beats walking as a friend of Jeff and Ruth Murnain explains well: Pedestrian nightmare by Jasmin

So while Maree packed I managed to arrange a bus trip from Da Nang to Hoi An, about an hour down the coast. A car would pick us up from the hotel and deliver us to the bus station in time for the bus. At the appointed time we left our room to check out and found the lift out of order. At least it was DOWN five floors to the desk. Waiting to pick us up was not a car but two motor cyclists! They were quite willing to take our suitcases with us and our back packs. We were not! We called a taxi! That might have been ok except that he took off with the intention of taking us to Hoi An itself instead of the bus station. When we realised what was happening we tried to insist he take us to the bus. And that would have been okay except that he did not understand any English and we do not speak any Vietnamese so we had to find someone to interpret. That would have been ok too except that he took off again with no idea of where the bus station was. The penny dropped when he stopped a second time and we realised he was asking directions. We finally directed him to the Tour agent and got another taxi to catch the bus. Oh well we did manage to catch it – just in time!

There was much more evidence of Typhoon damage as we approached Hoi An. Flooded roadsides, shredded and uprooted trees, mud and little heaps of debris along the way. But talking to the locals this happens most years just sometimes it’s a bit worse than others. Houses in the area are generally double story and they just haul everything upstairs in a flood and clean up afterwards as a matter of course. We were shown flood marks of 1½ metres on the walls from a fortnight ago and told it was the same height two years back.

The bus dropped us unceremoniously on the side of the street in Hoi An where we had the intention of trying to find a cheap hotel. We needn’t have worried. We were immediately ushered (herded?) into the nearest hotel foyer and encouraged to, “see our rooms”. RoomSo here we are in what would have been a very up market early to mid 20th century hotel in the classic style – a bit tired now but with wide marble staircases, heavy mahogany timber trimmings, 24 hour service, a concierge on every floor, swimming pool, own bathroom, aircon, personal balcony and character – all for the modest price of $30 a night

We’re enthralled with Hoi An, it’s a step back in time and a living museum. Maree on BikeSet on the Thu Bon River, the town (pop. 76,000) was an international trading port as far back as the 17th century. Influences from Chinese, Japanese and European cultures are preserved in local architecture and art. Roaming the narrow lanes it’s easy to imagine how it might have looked 150 years ago.Roger with Guide

After unpacking we took a tour of the ‘old town’, with a personal local guide. We must have looked a sight travelling the first kilometre on the back of motor cycles considering our size and ability to look over the head of the drivers. They wore helmets but we weren’t given one!

Coming home we travelled by cyclo. A cyclo for the uninitiated is like a bath chair propelled from behind by pedal power. Quite an experience with Maree feeling very vulnerable sitting on my lap, and holding the backpack. It seemed particularly incongruous with the driver answering his mobile phone at one stage while continuing to pedal. Then it started to rain and we got the “giggles”. CycloHow we got back to our hotel in one piece is anyone’s guess.

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6 responses

17 10 2009
betty

I am absolutely enthralled with all you are seeing and experiencing thank you for such graphic description love mum

18 10 2009
Roger and Maree

Thanks for the encouragement. I must say I’m starting to weary of all the reporting.

17 10 2009
Matthew

Ooooh, that sounds simply awful! Gives one a heightened appreciation for one’s own cozily-stuffed Wingback and a jolly good book! Rather! But bully for you! Wouldn’t catch me doing all that adventure, eh what, not in a pink fit.

18 10 2009
Roger and Maree

We must be becoming adrenalin junkies inour old age.

17 10 2009
Ruth and Jeff

Its us again – Saturday night……..what an adventure you’re having……..love reading all about it.
Global leaders summit worth attending, inspirational,very high standard presentation/setup etc.

18 10 2009
Roger and Maree

Good to hear you’re keeping the home fires burning. 🙂 Thanks for the prayers. I’ve tried to find somewhere to worship in the morning but it seems the local catholics are the only option.

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