HoiAn - so beautiful!
I jumped right into adventuring in HoiAn, no wasting time in that city! It was gorgeous and I gladly would have stayed a week or 2!
We got off the bus and James and Dee headed to their hotel and I walked off in the other direction to a backpackers that I wanted to stay at. I was told they were booked for the night but I figured I'd check again and then walk around tell I found something. My luck the private room was all that was left and there was a Chinese girl (Jesse) looking for a room so we split the private room for a night.
Jesse and I shared motorbikes with 2 Canadian guys staying at the hostel and rode to the My Son ruins, a Hindu worshipping grounds. We got lost finding the place but the scenery was nice and the wind felt great! I didn't mention that I have finally arrived in the warmer more humid area of Vietnam. I believe I've only hit the start of the heat and humidity.
The temples were cool, I didn't know anything about them or that they even existed. The Canadians were just looking for company and invited us. I've heard that if you have been to Angkor Watt then you'll be disappointed with these temples. There was a guy leaving when we got there who said it was just a pile of bricks.
My opinion on that comment is, that kind of an attitude doesn't make for a good traveler. Positive energy and a good outlook on things is where it's at!
But he's entitled to his opinion.
We thought the temples were great and I found one that had been damaged from the war. Craters in the ground left from bomb impacts too. I don't know why but I kind of forgot about any sort of war damage after I left Hue.
The lantern festival was that night, the first night I arrived. It was a celebration for the full moon and just so happened to be Christmas Eve as well.
Kids and adults sell colored boxes with burning candle in them for 20,000/ $.89 USD to whoever wants one. You make a wish and someone will help you lower that into the river to float away. I watched the beauty happening around me and saved my $.89 for a meal later.
Jesse joined James, Dee and I for the festival. Eventually the travel parents went back to their hotel and Jesse and I went for white rose. That's a dish that is very specific to this city. It's a steamed shrimp dumpling. Cao Lau, and crispy pancakes are also well known in HoiAn.
Late Christmas Eve night I walked downstairs for water and a girl from the Netherlands was talking about going to midnight mass. I spontaneously jumped in on that and we borrowed a scooter from the hostel. The two of us rode around looking for a cathedral she had seen.
It was my first time driving with a passenger but an excellent time to practice. At night when the streets are a bit less chaotic.
We found the church but the mass was held at 9pm. They were having a few on Christmas Day but I was out with James and Dee. The locals took some photos with us (they like blondes and we both were) and then off we went! Back to the hostel with me yelling, Merry Christmas to every white person we passed in the streets! It was hilarious, it did drain my energy as I was still fighting a head cold but well worth the fun!
Christmas Day Jesse and I rented bicycles and rode to the beach. I had the pleassure of being yelled at by a parking guy, over and over again and a whistle practically blown in my ear. I wanted to scope out the beach before I paid for bike parking. I just wanted to see it first so I rode to the end of the road to look. That's where this man was. He kept yelling at me and blowing his whistle because he wanted me to park. I'd respond back to him to stop and motion for him to please wait just 1 minute. As he kept yelling I motioned to him that I was just looking. I was also trying to figure out the best rates to pay on my phone, for parking. Soon I just flat out ignored him tell I was ready. Jesse followed my lead.
It's frustrating when you can't understand one another but I just make the best of it and hopefully without either party getting angry. I think in this case though he was angry with me.
We finally parked our bikes and eventually James and Dee joined us for lunch, a whole fresh crab for $6 each and then some beach and ocean time. Swimming in the South China Sea on Christmas Day.
I went to dinner with Maddie (a girl I met in Hue and we met up again in HoiAn. She was alone for christmas so we ate at a nicer Vietnamese place called Morning Glory. The place was booming for a Vietnam restaurant. There were reservations, walk ins, a big line and they even had buzzers! Not something I expected to see in Asia. It was SO GOOD! More on the expensive side for this country but even then our total bill was only $12! I could eat everything on their menu!
The open kitchen.
Maddie had a few outfits custom made by a few of HoiAn's many famous taylors. being mahad been considering it because so unmet her outside of one of them before going to dinner. All my friends and fellow travelers say "you must get custom clothing made here!" It's THE place to do it. So I did. I bought 2 pairs of shorts and a dress from this place. She measured me that night, I had a fitting the next day and then picked it up the following day. She did a good job but nothing turned out how I had hoped unfortunately. I'm actually really regretting that purchase and wish I could return it. Hopefully it will grow on me and I'll like it more when I'm home. Right now all I can think of is the unnecessary extra weight I just added to my backpack.
I rented a scooter on my 3rd day there and got lost trying to find James and Dee's hotel. I was supposed to meet them at 8am but things came up and a few errands on my end slowed me down. I got lost near the beach so ridding up and down the coastal road a few miles wasn't exactly awful.
Eventually I found their hotel, then the 3 of us headed to the marble mountains. The two of them on together on their bike and me, on mine. It was about 30 minutes to an hour before we arrived at the mountain. It was easy to get there, a straight shot down the coast line. My two comrades let me lead the way because I was told of an entrance fee that was cheaper than the main one. We did a drive by of the entire front side of the mountain and then turned around. When I found what looked like the entrance I turned in. Dee waved at me to acknowledge she had seen me and they drove past. That was the last I saw of them for the next several hours.
I did what I could to reconnect with them, even walked around tell I found someone with wifi so I could text them. After 30 minutes or more I messaged them that I was buying my entrance ticket and going in. I didn't see them tell after I was finished with my tour.
The mountain was super cool! It was indeed a marble mountain with vegetation growing on it, several caves inside and pagodas and Buddhas spread throughout. There was lots of rugged stairs and also some marble rock scrambling to be had. I think it took me around 3 hours to complete what I thought would only be a one hour visit.
When I finished, I went back to my wifi location and a message came in at that moment from James that they were at a cafe across the street. I met them at the the tail end of their lunch and James ordered me a ginger tea for my throat.
Da Nang was our next stop after the mountain. We had passed it on the bus going to HoiAn and it looked beautiful. The 3rd largest city in Vietnam, right on a beautiful beach that the locals don't use AND they recycle! How very Portland, Oregon of them! So we just drove into the city and cruised around on the scooters.
We decided to head back when the sky started to show signs of rain. And eventually we got caught in a very steady sprinkle that soaked James and I! A great way for me to get over a cold. I should have brought my rain poncho out that day. Dee was nice and dry since she was ridding behind James.
Speeding down the highway at 45mph, I heard a woman behind me. I checked my mirrors and then turned my head, she was yelling something at me. I kept on going but she wouldn't leave me alone and she was getting closer! Then I realized! I was near the marble mountain and she was asking where I was going, trying to sell me parking for my scooter! On the highway while I was doing 45mph! I yelled back at her, "I'm going to my home!" And just like that she left me alone.
I've now experienced sales on foot and boat - rowing up to the ship in Halong Bay to sell shells. NOW sales on a scooter, going down a highway! Sales in motion!
I went to Morning Glory 2 more times before I left HoiAn, it was so nice to eat healthy. The foods good here but there's just to much sugar and oil added to everything, MSG, bread and rice.
On the last morning I was there I woke up early so that I could go to the local street market. One of the 4 owners of the hostel I stayed at went to the market every morning at 6:30 to buy fresh food for our breakfast. I wanted to experience it with a local so I asked to join her. It was fun watching her negotiate with the sellers and to have them yelling at her, to buy from them and not someone else.
Similar to how they treat westerners.
Heading back to the hostel on the scooter and western man and his wife stepped out in front of us. They didn't see us because their backs were turned to us but they caused us to have to put our feet down to not crash. The guy turned to us and thought we had done something wrong saying, "Ha! Amateurs!"
I left the beautiful HoiAn that night after 3 nights and 4 full days. I'll return to this city one day and Dee and James are talking about going back to stay for a few months. I can definitely see them there.
Next stop NhaTrang, supposedly the 6th nicest beach in the world.