|Blurb: "Hội An is a small town on the coast of South China Sea in central Vietnam. It is located in the Quảng Nam province and is home to approximately 25,000 inhabitants. The former harbour town of the Champa people at the estuary of the Thu Bon river was an important trading centre in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese from various provinces as well as Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled down. During this period of the China trade, the town was called Hai Pho (Seaside Town), during the French occupation. Originally Hai Pho was a divided town, because across the "Japanese Bridge" used to be the Japanese settlement. The bridge (Chùa cầu) is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist pagoda attached to one side. The town is known to the French and Spanish as Faifo.
Symbol of Hội An Ancient TownIn 1999, the old town was declared World Heritage by the UNESCO, as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, whose buildings display a unique blend of local and foreign influences. Today, Hội An is still a small town, but it attracts a fair number of tourists. Many visit for the numerous tailors, who produce made-to-measure clothes for a fraction of the western price. Several internet cafés, bars and restaurants have opened along the riverfront."
Packed and ready to go we seated ourselves in the reception area of the guesthouse awaiting our bus to Hoi An. Now...we weren't really sure about this but had heard that bus trips weren't that bad and it wasn't to be a long one so we thought we'd save some dosh and give it a go. Subsequently my advice to you is NEVER EVER try to save some dosh on travel in Vietnam! A REALLY REALLY bad idea...
The bus journey was a complete nightmare, it arrived an hour and a half late, it wasn't the great tourist bus promised, was packed and uncomfortable...the A/C had to be turned off when the vehicle struggled uphill...we were then offloaded halfway along at an out of the way 'cafe' where the drivers all hung out. Us poor tourist saps then had to occupy ourselves in the heat. The toilet was the most horrible I have ever used! Dark, dank, full of creepy-crawlies, and it stunk. Plus, it was a squat and I have to admit it was the last place I wanted to squat in! At that point I burst into tears, bit girlie I know but sometimes on this trip frustration drives you to it! Then, back to the bus, loaded us on...unloaded us again! Then we were told we had to get onto another bus, this entailed first ensuring that our luggage was swopped from one bus to the other, this quickly disintergrated into a free for all with Paul panicking cause we couldn't find his bag! Finally we were loaded on and found that we were sitting right across from an extremely smelly couple of guys who obviously had never heard of deoderant. And...a guy behind us began to play music on his laptop whilst the bus played strange jangly music overhead!! Paul, lost it slightly here and turned on Mr Laptop! Anyhow, the scenery was nice...and we passed through the longest tunnel in Asia...seriously...its over 6 km long and passes through a mountain taking 5 years to build. We arrived hot and peed off at our destination...2 hours late! Luckily our transfer had waited for us so we were whisked off to our hotel pretty smartish. The moral of this tale...'NEVER take a bus in Vietnam'!
The Lotus Hotel (www.hoianlotushotel.com) looked fabulous on its website and was offering a good deal. And, it was very beautiful however, it mainly catered to coachloads of Asian tourists which meant a lot of staring at the funny white people over breakfast! We started watching the football in the bar that night - the Vietnamese are really into the World Cup and English football so they were most sweet to us and looked after us royally. That was until one of the afore-mentioned coachloads returned from a day out and preceeded to overrun the bar...we made a quiet exit to our room. Next day we went for a walk into town and found that the hotel's website had not been entirely honest as to how far out of town it was! We boiled! That day, we moved to another hotel that had been recommended to us by an Aussie lady we met in Hue...whom we also happened to bump into on our walk into Hoi An. She was staying at the An Phu Hotel so we packed up and moved there (http://www.discover-vietnam.com/html/anphu_hotel_hoian_vietnam.htm)
A nice place, comfy room, good A/C and a swimming pool so we were happy. That night was a GP night so we went on the hunt for a bar showing the race. I ended up following a frustrated Paul into a 5 star hotel where he marched straight up to reception, asked where the bar was, then once there comandered their TV remote and turned on the GP!!! Of course the drinks were pretty darn pricey but...it was a great venue and the staff were fabulous, even organising a full projection screen for us to watch!! We had a great chat with the F&B Manager, a Belgian who after 4 years in Vietnam still had the same opinion as newcomers such as us that the locals were not keen on foreigners!!!
We spent most of the day chilling out as it was soooo hot! We swam in the pool, relaxed...etc. Then, due to the heat we decided to hire a wee scooter so as to get around town with ease. We stopped for dinner at the rooftop restaurant on the Pacific Hotel - the views were great. That evening we went down to the Old Town, lovely at night - lots of nice lighting, cafes, bars, restaurants, artsy shops and lit sculptures. And...finally in Vietnam...friendly locals!! We spent a really nice evening wandering around and finished with ice cream and tea at The Cargo Restaurant & Bar. Great music and a funky atmosphere.
Today we went on a 2-hour boat trip down the river. We thought it was going to be a nice comfy boat but we were treated to a 'working boat'. Very authentic I have to say, but a bit of a surprise. We were taken to the obligatory 'craft village' and being the only tourists there were pretty much overwhelmed by people trying to sell us stuff! Sometimes it can make you very uncomfortable. However, the trip on the river was very enjoyable as we got to see alot of day to day life...fishing, boats carrying fruit, vege and all sorts of wares. People washed everything in the river, including themselves! Wouldn't want to fall in that's for sure!
Upon our return to the hotel we had another 'This Is Vietnam' arguement. It involved them losing the key to our room, leaving us standing out in the heat, refusing to replace the key then...when we found the key in our room, suggested that 'maybe' we had forgotten to hand it in when we had gone out this afternoon. We suggested that they in fact had lost the key and that someone had been into our room and we wanted to know whom and why. Anyhoo, it went on for a while and finally I bullied this poor girl so much that when we ended the subject she collapsed on me in a big hug!! An unusual way to conduct business but...hey ho. Later we had dins at The Cargo Bar and then went shopping for souvenirs - some lovely stuff and boy were we going to have to post it all home at some point!!!
An early start today - 5am! We hired a private car to My Son - the early hour was due to two reasons, firstly that it was too hot to wander around there later in the day and secondly, that the place would become overrun with coachloads of tourists later in the day.
Some blurb: "My Son, located within Quang Nam Province, 69 km southwest of Da Nang, was an imperial city during the Cham dynasty, between the 4th and 13th centuries. In view of its architectural and historical importance, is considered to be one of the main Hindu monumental centres in Southeast Asia and the sole heritage of its kind in Viet Nam. The My Son Sanctuary was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999 as an exceptional example of cultural interchange, with the introduction the Hindu architecture of the Indian sub-continent into South-East Asia. and as a unique testimony to an important Asian civilization that has disappeared.
My Son has suffered a lot due to the passing of time and conflict. Most of the temples and and other constructions are in ruins. Major recent destruction occurred in1969 during the American/Vietnam war. The need for conservation efforts is urgent. Youth Volunteers in Cultural Heritage Preservation Project is currently addressing this issue. This project has mobilized local youth to take part in the preservation of the(ir) world heritage site." (http://www.unesco.org.vn/news/yvchp_myson.asp)
My Son was eeriely incredible. Old Wats that were crumbling away but still standing - as old as Stonehenge - and located in the middle of nowhere. Hidden for years. It has suffered through both ancient and modern wars, taken alot of punishment but is still standing. Our guide was very sweet, spoke exceptional english and was very informative. We wandered through the area for a couple of hours, enjoying the sights and the vegetation that made the place so lush amongst such heat. By 9am though, it was boiling even in the shade. So we made our way back to the car and travelled back to Hoi An.
Unfortunately, when we arrived back at the hotel there was a large scale wedding celebration in full swing next door. This was LOUD...VERY LOUD. So, knackered and feeling a wee bit bad tempered we wandered up to our room to try to sleep. We were so tired that we succeeded! That evening we ate at a lovely place called The Red Star Cafe, overlooking the street in the river area. We then searched out a good place to get some clothes made!! www.hoianthuthuysilk.com. What a lovely bunch of young ladies, all of whom spoke good english and made us most welcome. We learnt alot about being young and single in Vietnam, they spoke to us of their problems finding suitable partners, how they wanted to be independant and modern but how Vietnamese men were clinging desperately to the past...it was sad to hear this...
Yesterday was a chore day, fittings for clothing/shoes. Today we posted our large box of souvenirs at the post office. They were very helpful actually, packing everything for us as we worked our way through the mountains of paperwork! That'll teach us. An hour later everything was boxed up and ready to go. As we left the post office, another tourist couple careered through the door with their armfuls of souvenirs...its a trend here in Hoi An I think!
Our checkout at the hotel was a complete fiasco as the credit card machine went down and they wanted us to pay cash. I'm not sure how much money they think foreigners are crazy enough to walk around with... Anyhoo, we refused to pay cash and explained to them how much our credit card would charge for the process of withdrawing cash. We said they should sort themselves out and...that we'd like to have a wee chat with the Manager. This apparently was not possible, not only was the Manager not on the premises but also he was uncontactable. We asked who was in charge in his absence...no one apparently. Jeez, a bit Mickey Mouse eh? So finally one of the chaps said that we could go to their office in town as the machine was working there. I said 'A/C car yes?' he said, 'yes'...and promptly appeared on a scooter holding his hand out towards me. Great. So the farce continued as I clung to the back of the speeding scooter as we whizzed there and back through the dusty streets.
Our taxi arrived for the drive to Da Nang airport - finally something worked smoothly as the transfer was easy, comfortable and quick. The aircraft was roughly the size of a Matchbox model but it kept to time and got us to Saigon safely...