23 October – Hoi An
7.00am, and fortunately, there’s no urgency to find the bathroom.
But, in the haze of those first few seconds of waking up, how do I feel?
I’m not sure.
I think I might be okay, but I’m a little nervous calling it this early.
Off to the toilet to try and glean some more insight into things. While that wasn’t great, it is far better than it was yesterday.
And even better than that, is the fact that the stomach pains and cramps have gone.
I think I’m alright, which surprises me somewhat, because I really thought I was going to be in trouble today.
Dodged a bullet, it seems….
Downstairs for breakfast and decide to play it safe; fruit and an orange juice, and a pass on the caphe sua da.
It does the job and I’m a little more confident about things now.
Back to the room to get organised for today’s adventure, which is a motorbike trip along the Hai Van Pass, amongst other things, with Quy, from Vietnam Motor Trail.
I’d found Quy, a little by accident, way back in May while researching a possible motorbike tour. He always responded very quickly to my emails, and was more than accommodating when I’d mentioned my concern about potential weather issues at this time.
Nothing was too much trouble, and now, that day had arrived. And while it was fairly overcast, it looked like it would be a pretty good day.
Back downstairs by 8.30am to drop some laundry off with the hotel, and then a few minutes later Quy and Niet arrive.
Straight away they seemed like really nice guys, as well as incredibly friendly.
And as an added bonus, their bikes were comfortable. In fact, the most comfortable motorbike seats my bum has had the pleasure to sit on, in Vietnam.
That should keep Lisa happy, too. I hope….
Quickly on our way, and it’s not long before we’re driving past all those resorts on the outskirts of Danang.
Our first stop is Marble Mountain, and while I was a little indifferent to visiting it, it was something that I sort of felt we should see.
It’s certainly impressive looking from the road, and the whole area is interesting with all the marble carving places. And some of those sculptures are just mind blowing in both design and size.
The other thing that’s noticeable when you get to the mountain itself, is the tourist buses. Yep, it’s rather popular.
Quy gets us a couple of tickets and we head up in the lift.
And the view from the top?
It is a long way up, and it certainly gives you a great overview of the whole area.
We have a bit of a look around, and while it’s ‘interesting’, it doesn’t really grab me. I’d always thought of it as a bit of a tourist trap, even though I knew very little about it, and walking around it just sort of confirmed what I’d thought.
Having said that, the view is certainly worth checking out.
We continue walking, not really knowing which way we were going, so just assumed that if we were heading in a downward direction, we would eventually get back on the ground.
For once, an assumption of mine actually works out.
Back down the bottom, there are even more tourist buses in the carpark. As well as a lot more people.
Hmmm, initial thinking is that this could make things interesting trying to find Quy, but never fear, he finds us.
“Caphe sua da, before we head off?”, he asks.
I think I love him, and a few minutes later we’re sitting in a small local café chatting and savouring.
Yep, that bit was probably better than Marble Mountain itself.
Coffee and chat done, we find Niet who is looking after the bikes, and head off.
Back onto the main beach road and we continue North. The sun has now made an appearance, and that makes the view off to the right, which is the sun shining off sand and water, that little bit better.
I haven’t actually set foot on the beach in Danang, but it certainly looks good from the road.
Turning your attention to the other side of the road however, gives you a completely different perspective.
Further back down south, towards Hoi An, it’s all about the resorts, whereas up in Danang proper, it’s high rise hotel after high rise hotel.
It’s just a bit too Nha Trang / Queensland’s Goldcoast-ish, for me.
And with no shortage of construction going on, it’s only going to become more so.
We get to China Beach, which apparently is the old fishing village, and stop to take in the view.
Looking out towards the water you can see countless Vietnamese fishing boats, and in the distance is Son Tra Peninsula, with the huge Lady Buddha statue.
The whole scene is beautiful, and far more authentic looking than what we’ve just ridden past. While the area here is relatively unspoilt, I can’t help but think that it won’t remain this way for long.
Quy then suggests, that seeing as the sun is now out, we’ll head up to the Hai Van Pass now, and then come back to look at Son Tra Peninsula later.
Sounds good to me!
Off through the suburbs of Danang, and it’s not long before we begin climbing the mountain. A bit further on, and now higher up, those views that we’re here to see, now become the focus.
Three years ago we saw them from the train, and they were as we were led to believe, stunning.
Now, three years later, and on the road a little higher up the mountain, they’re just as good.
Perhaps even better, as we now also get glimpses of the train track below.
On we go, and while there’s a few others on the road, it’s all pretty relaxing. Although we did have to dodge the occasional cow.
A fair way up, and we pull over for a break. But it’s more about the photo opportunity.
Lush greenery down the mountain, with train line snaking through, followed by white sand and the sun shining off the sea.
Yeah, just like last time, stunning.
Trying to get the camera to do it’s thing, we get a bonus. The train to Danang is making its way along the coast.
“Quy!, that’s amazing!”, I say. First he’s managed to coax the sun out, and now he’s delivered a train.
Dragged away from the view, we continue on before reaching the highest point. Now on the other side we begin our descent into Lang Co.
And then, there it is. Quite possibly the most photographed spot in the area. And probably for good reason.
Standing next to the train line, which is next to the entrance of the lagoon, and with Lang Co on the other side of the water.
Yep, it’s not a bad view.
And then, just to add to it, another train makes its way south.
He’s done it again!
Somewhat of a box ticked, we head into Lang Co, before turning right towards the beach.
Yep, lunch by the sea. Or, perhaps more accurately, lunch on the sea, seeing as the timber and bamboo ‘huts’ we’ll be sitting in have the waves rolling in under them.
I can think of worse places to have lunch…..
For me, fried noodles with seafood, seeing as I’m looking out over the water, and for Lisa, fried noodles with vegetables, seeing as the vegetables aren’t from the sea.
While there’s always the urge to shake my head, I’m more than used to it after all these years….
I suppose to be fair, she was struggling a little. The hayfever that she’d been suffering had now turned into a cold.
Oh well, she’ll get over it. And anyway, at least she’s not complaining about a sore bum….
Ended up sitting there for well over an hour, enjoying the food and our surroundings, as well as chatting to Quy.
I even ended up having a beer, which I don’t normally do at lunch. But sometimes a location just demands that you do, and this one, just like down in the Mekong a week ago, certainly did.
We even spoke with Quy about our possible next trip, and because he’s from Hue, he may have even convinced me to give it another shot.
All too soon it was time to move on, and we were once again making our way back up the Pass.
It was now a bit more overcast, and as we got closer to the top, the fog started to roll in. It was now also much cooler, almost cold, in fact, but certainly not uncomfortable.
No cows this time, but we did have goats on the side of the road. Along with a couple of bicycle riders, too.
Okay, it ain’t northern Vietnam, but still, it’s a reasonable mountain. More commitment in one of their oversized calf muscles, than I have in my whole body.
I’m probably smarter though….
We eventually get to the top where the shops and tourist buses are and stop for a break. It’s now very cool, but that hasn’t stopped the hordes from jumping off their buses to have a look around.
While there were heaps up there, interestingly, the road never really felt overly busy when we were actually driving.
Avoiding the others like us, we just stood and watched the low cloud roll up the mountain. It was certainly a very different feel from when we came up earlier.
Another reason to focus on the cloud was to take your attention away from the rubbish. Yes, I’ve talked about Vietnam’s rubbish problem before, and the top of the Hai Van Pass is just another area that is impacted.
I don’t know, it’s something that’s just really difficult to understand, as well as see, at times.
Back on the bikes, and as we head down, you can feel the temperature rising. And by the time we’re back on the flat ground of Danang, it’s now actually quite warm.
Quy and Niet drop us off to stretch our legs with a walk beside the beach of Danang Bay, before picking us up a bit further down the road.
Back over the big bridge at the mouth of the river, and across to Son Tra Peninsula.
Past the traditional Vietnamese fishing boats we’d seen earlier that morning, and then up to where the Lady Buddha stands.
There’s quite a few buses around, which I’m not really surprised by, as it’s no doubt a pretty popular spot.
Our first stop is a look inside the Pagoda there. And, for the first time in three trips to Vietnam, apart from having to remove my shoes a couple of times, what I’m wearing is not acceptable to enter.
My shorts, which aren’t overly short, are too short. But never fear, they have loan skirts, or wraps, or something…. Whatever.
Knees now covered, we head in.
And yep, it’s a Pagoda. A bit like all the other Pagodas I’ve seen, but also a bit different, as they all are.
Interesting, yes, but kind of felt a bit in the way as people were actually in there doing what you’re supposed to do in a Pagoda.
Pagoda seen, we head back out, stopping on the way to return my ‘skirt’.
Reasonably neatly folded, I hand it back to the woman with a ‘cam on’.
Her initial reaction is one of mild shock, followed by a big broad smile.
I didn’t expect that, but perhaps it says something about how she’s treated by other tourists here.
Out into the forecourt with lots of carved marble sculptures, and then over to admire the Lady Buddha.
A little like Pagodas, I’m not really into big sculptures that much. But this is one that I’ve been looking forward to see.
Probably because if you can see it in the far distance from Cua Dai beach, then it must be pretty impressive up close.
And it is. It’s, I don’t know, impressive? Perhaps stunning? Awe inspiring? Or maybe just beautiful.
Whatever the appropriate word, I loved it. And I was a little surprised by that.
The only problem there, was the number of tourists doing what we were trying to do.
And that’s okay, that’s all part of it.
But when you turn up to a place en masse, and then proceed to impact everyone else’s enjoyment of whatever you’re looking at, then I have a problem.
And I don’t care where you’re from; China, Russia, Australia, the US. Wherever.
Slightly annoyed, but trying not to let it affect me too much, we head back to the bikes and drive down into Danang.
Through the city, past all those resorts, and we’re soon back in Hoi An. Timing was perfect for school pick up, which would normally annoy the hell out of me back home, but here, I love it.
I’ve said before, I just love the way the Vietnamese kids present themselves in their school uniforms.
Back at the hotel, we have a goodbye to do. And it wasn’t an easy one. Both Quy and Niet really are lovely guys, and I would be more than happy to use them again if we were in the area.
Lisa heads upstairs to get cleaned up; yes, you do get a little dirty on the bikes; and to recharge her batteries somewhat. She’s still struggling a little.
Me, on the other hand, is all good. Must have just been a quick 24 hour thing.
As I head off in search of beer, I run into Phuc, the owner. We have a bit of a chat about what we’ve been doing, and he then asks me if I’d like to have a look at a new part of the hotel that is currently being built.
He shows me the construction site, and he talks about how he’s going to set it all up. Like most Vietnamese we’ve come across, he’s very family oriented. He’s also incredibly customer focused, as well as very keen to do what he can to see his business succeed.
With the enthusiasm he has, I don’t think he’ll have any problem with that.
As I leave to find my beer place, he suggests catching up for a beer tomorrow night.
“Would love to”, I respond, which was always going to be the answer, regardless if we had anything planned for tomorrow.
Back to my beer place from Saturday night, and there’s not too many there. But the ones that are there, are a little surprised to see me.
Well, that was until a couple of them recognised me and yelled to the woman who runs the place. She turns to see me, gives me a big smile, and then races off to get me a beer.
Ahhh, a relationship!
I can’t see me mate from the other night, but that’s alright, I’m happy to sit by myself if I have to.
Taking in the world around me while enjoying a beer, while also watching the geckos on the walls. A young guy sitting nearby says something, that sounds like ‘gecko’, to me, and smiles.
We do the cheers / yo thing, and kind of have a conversation without really having one.
Oh, how I wished I spoke Vietnamese….
But I don’t, and that’s okay, because a limited conversation due to language limitations is far better than no conversation at all.
And perhaps, in some ways, it might even be better.
In the end, at least for me, this is what it’s all about.
Much happier being the western guy, either being stared at by the passing parade of tourists, or in some cases ignored; yep, some went out of their way to avoid eye contact with the ‘poor lost tourist’; than to be one of those of the passing parade.
Eventually it’s time to go, so I shake my new mate’s hand, while giving him a cam on. He reciprocates.
Walking back towards the hotel I pass another beer place. And there he is; my mate from Saturday.
We have a quick chat, but I decline the offer of a beer.
“Tomorrow night?”, I ask him. “Here?”
“Yes”, he says.
“Okay, I’ll find you”, I tell him, really hoping I get another opportunity to catch up with him.
Back to the hotel for a quick shower, as well as arrange a meet up with Gary, an expat Aussie who I’d ‘met’ on Trip Advisor, and who’s been living in Hoi An for the last few years.
Minor details sorted, we head over to Cua Dai street to find a place to eat.
Looking for something different from the other night, as well as trying to avoid going into town. Just after something a bit more local.
We walk past quite a few restaurants chasing the tourist dollar; yes, they’re easy to spot; and interestingly, there aren’t too many in them.
We also pass a couple of street food places that do happen to have several locals patronising them.
Knowing that I need to push her out of that comfort zone occasionally, that she’s sometimes hesitant to leave, I ask the question.
“No”, is the response, followed by, “I’m not feeling that adventurous tonight”.
Annoyed? Pissed off, even?
But also somewhat understanding of the fact that she’s not feeling the best.
Just showing my caring side…..
Back down to what I call ‘our’ street, mainly because it’s the one we walk along to get into town, and we stumble across a phó place, which just happens to be next door to the Lantern hotel, our accommodation from three years ago.
“This?”, I say, partly nervously, but also with a hint of annoyance in my voice.
“Okay”, she says, perhaps both fortuitously and reluctantly.
Turns out to be pork phó, and it’s run by a husband and wife.
Well, the husband seems to do most of the work, while the woman seems to be the boss.
Regardless, it’s local and simple. Just the way I like ‘em.
And the phó?
And at 40 000 Dong per bowl, plus a beer and a coke at 15 000 each, well, it’s not a bad $6 AUD spent.
But again, it’s more about where you’re doing it.
As we head back to the hotel, it starts to drizzle. I drop Lisa there, and then go around the corner to my local takeaway beer shop from the other day.
Three of the 450ml Saigon bottles, a coke, a Fanta (because we never buy Fanta at home), and a packet of chips to keep someone happy.
“Can you please return the bottles tomorrow?”, the girl asks.
“No problem at all”, I reply, thinking one, this is just the second time I’ve become aware of this return policy, and two, hmmm, now got some work to do tonight….
Back to the hotel, and the drizzle is now quite steady rain. That’s alright, the beer will deal with that.
Do the usual bed stuff with beer in hand, and think about where I was 24 hours ago.
Yep, dodged that bullet.
And then, to add to that, what a great day we had.