Published: May 4th 2011May 4th 2011
I made my best purchase to date today. I have invested in a large, purple, painted silk fan. I can't think why I didn't do it before. It's marvellous. Some might say garish, but they are of course just jealous. What a fantastic invention. Instant breeze whenever I want it - and of course the chance to pretend I am a foxy 18th century concubine.
Actually, today my motto was, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I don't know about all this dressing modestly so as not to offend the locals the LP guide was banging on about. The locals are the most indecently dressed of them all. In fact, I've had the most clothes on of anyone I've seen this holiday. Couldn't be bothered swathing myself in drapey linen today so pulled on my shorts and t-shirt and set off. (Slightly regretted shorts later when I got off the motorbike seat and stuck to it. Quite a few times).
A really great day. (Sorry if these entries are becoming dull and lacking catastrophe - don't worry - I'm travelling to Hanoi tomorrow via local bus and plane so lots of opportunities for comedic disaster!) After a breakfast of soup (hm), toast (ok) and soybean sweets (bit like marzipan - looked like potatoes - nice but you wouldn't want more than 2. Or even 1), I set off on the motorbike with Han. We had three massive tombs and a pagoda to visit. We set off around 8 to beat the tour parties.
The sites were stunning. I sat by lakes gazing into the distance on verandahs designed by Emperors purely for the composing of poetry and 'beholding the scenery', I wandered around
pagodas and Buddhist monasteries, I stood and trembled with history, alone in ancient buildings, redolent with dynasties past, the very air blew from a bygone age, musty with silk and incense.
Actually I found out a bit more about the Emperor who had 103 wives and concubines and no son. He didn't have ANY children. He was 20, thin and frail and an aesthete who loved music, poetry and art. His life was strained and sad. His tomb is amazing. About the whole tomb complex and grounds they say it is a place 'where sadness smiles and joy weeps' and do you know, they were bang on. It made me smile.
All these places were set out accordinging to Feng Shui principles and say what you like, they were so ordered and peaceful, I reached a state of tranquility and just being that I haven't been in for a while. It was utterly perfect. There were so few people around too. Granted these sites were out of town, but still.
Han took me to Bunker Hill and showed me where some major war stuff went on. Chilling.
In the afternoon, we cut the hotel out of the arrangements and did a deal that he would take me to see Ho Chi Minh's house, more of the countryside and the beach. The first place we stopped was a tiny little museum. Inside was lots of old farm equipment. Now it could have been dull - but oh no. This 75 year old lady proceeded to show me how to pound rice, grind flour, work a tilling machine - and every job she did, she sang lustily and tunelessly at the top of her voice. She was priceless. Soon we were both giggling like kids and her family were in hysterics too. Then she went to rock a yellow haired baby doll in a cradle and sing a lullaby. Mucho hilarity when I pointed out in sign language and gesturing that THAT baby could not possibly be hers - it was clearly mine (because of the yellow haIr). This took the roof off. Everyone killing themselves laughing. Encouraged by this she then decided to demonstrate betel juice grinding and chewing. Then she motioned to me. I took one look at her red teeth - and when asking what it did was told 'it makes you a bit hot' (????!!!!!!). I declined. I don't want to be ANY more hot than I am thank you and I like white teeth. And don't need any more addictions thank you. I don't think betel juice chewing in Nam (chelten) will do me a whole lot of favours either. She was amazing, threw herself utterly into her performances and I don't care if it was for the tourists. I've seen much more uncommitted performances before paying audiences. It was gold.
We then visited Ho Ch Minh's house. Small, dull, nice to see though and then went to a lovely bit of beach. The whole afternoon I saw virtually no Westerners and really felt I got off the beaten track. A great day.
So, Hanoi tomorrw. Up at 5.30am for local bus BACK to Da Nang (as Hue airport is 'broken'?!) Flight at midday and then all hell let loose. Apparently Hanoi is crazy. And in the sort of state I'll be in after a long distance bus ride and a plane (with or without poo) (if you don't understand that ref, read back) so might I very well be...