Published: June 5th 2010June 2nd 2010
Hoi An is a magical and timeless place that has preserved it's historic Old Town and port, earning it World Heritage status. Walking through Hoi An's narrow lanes feels like little has changed in over 300 years as mercifully all motorised traffic is prohibited. Old sailing vessels and fishing boats still dock at the quaint port with it's lantern lit Chinese bridges and bustling markets. Tourism is rife here but the character and beauty of the town is mostly unaffected by it's presence.
Captivated by it's charm, we stay in Hoi An for a record eight nights. We spend most evenings by the river eating and drinking in the many cafes and restaurants watching reflections of myriad coloured lanterns play on the water while soaking up the unending carnival atmosphere of the streets. During the day we ride out and explore the area dotted with ancient sights and staggering scenery.
Tom: "...Arriving in Hoi An around dusk we find an affordable hotel and rent our obligatory motorbike. Soon after we are having dinner with a Londoner and a Brazilian girl in a local restaurant, again the vegetarian fare is delicious. One of the many joys of traveling is the ease at which total strangers can meet, eat dinner and find themselves in inexhaustible conversation for hours. Who we are or where we have come from rarely comes up, seemingly unimportant - instead the exchange of experiences and ideas seems the common ground. The world feels like a very small place when on the road and any prejudice or stigma inherited when in our territorially claustrophobic origins melts away, leaving a group of receptive human beings free and happy. I have grown to love this easy camaraderie amongst travelers and will miss it greatly when i eventually return home.
Ness: "...We head out on my Birthday following a vague hand drawn map to the ancient Cham city of My Son. We ask directions whenever we can because the map turns out to be grossly simplified. It's a lengthy 50 km ride through small towns, villages and rice fields but we eventually arrive at My Son. We park up the bike near the ticket gate and continue on foot following a roughly paved path leading under the canopy of jungle trees. After passing a couple of shacks sheltering lounging men in hammocks we walk out in to the open and look bright eyed in wonder at the ruins before us against a backdrop of mountains rising in to the clear blue sky. The city was first settled in the 4th Century and occupied until the 13th Century, the different periods leaving their legacy in the stonework. We explore the ruins wondering what each building was used for and marveling at the intricately carved statues. We find a sacrificial stone alter perhaps used for the oxen depicted in the carvings, perhaps more sinister. This place has a definite atmosphere to it...
...I am unsure at what point we went wrong but we end up hopelessly lost on the way home and find ourselves in a town 30 kms off course. The sun is sinking rapidly as we speed back to retrace our steps. Now dark we cannot find the My Son road at all and the locals are offering hugely conflicting directions.
Ness: "...With huge relief we ride in to Hoi Ann. Starving; we go out for a Vietnamese vegetarian curry and sit on the balcony overlooking the Thu Bon River. Now becoming very adept at using chopsticks we devour our delicious meal and make a start on the beer. We reminisce about our journey and start planning what seems our last leg with a mix of contentment for our achievements so far and apprehension about our return home. A couple of Tiger beers later we head off on the motorbike to the familiarly named 'Happy Why Not Bar'. We arrive in time for happy hour and order more drinks plus two free vodka buckets to see my Birthday in with. The once white walls of the bar, upstairs and down are now covered in permanent marker where hundreds of people have written their telling comments. We spend the evening enjoying the company of other travelers, soon getting drunk on our strong but surprisingly good tasting buckets. We fill a section of wall with our drawings, thoughts and quotes.
Tom: "...Today we rode out to Ngũ Hành Sơn; "Five elements mountains" which is one of the most captivating and beautiful places i have ever visited. Hundreds of steps weave amongst the peaks branching off in many directions over high passes, through caves and past historic temples and pagodas. The view over the nearby town and China Beach is staggering! Ness and I strive to explore every path although some of the more precarious routes over the summits force me to turn back. One path leads us in to a huge subterranean cavern where a massive stone god presides over the open space upon his throne. The ceiling high above is open to the sky through a fissure where vegetation hangs down in to the darkness. Obviously a temple of some kind the atmosphere is like nothing i can describe and i sit on the floor for a time in stunned silence.
There are more photos below