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Published: November 20th 2012
Inge on the nightbus
The nightbus was actually confortable, although the beds were short (for long people) and the master snorer
After a fantastic stay in Halong Bay it was time to start moving south. This time we went by night bus. It actually turned out to be a rather good experience. The bus had individual “beds” and it was only possible to lie down. The bed was about 40 centimeter to short for C, but it could have been worse. We left Haiphong at 6 pm for a 12 hour ride to Dong Hoi. The trip went well apart from a snoring Vietnamese in the neighbor bed. He must be a favorite in the new Olympic discipline, snoring on the loudest possible level. I thank the higher powers for the music feature on my Iphone. On the highest volume I only just managed to play louder than the 120 DB snoring sounds. So I somehow managed not to become a murderer and send many warm thoughts to Steve Jobs. A prolonged stay in a Vietnamese prison with snoring, green spitting and fatless food is scarier than the shower scene in Psyco.
We stayed in Dong Hoi for one day. Dong hoi is a very authentic Vietnamese city with almost no tourists. It has a nice beach, no pushy sales people
Local fisherman in Dong Hoi. He actually caught (small) fish on every single throw
and very reasonable prices. Dong Hoi is close to the Phong Nha national park, which was our next destination. This area is famous for discovery of some very large cave systems and is a Unesco heritage area. It is a beautiful place with rice fields, rivers and limestone formations. We spent 3 days in Phong Nha and visited two caves, Paradise Cave and Phong Nha Cave. Both of them are impressive and definitely worth a visit. Should we choose one over the other, it has to be Paradise Cave. The cave is found deep in the national park and how the cave was discovered in the middle of the jungle is a mystery to us. The entrance is rather small, but once inside the cave, it opens up to a room of cathedral dimensions. The analogy is not completely off. We found the atmosphere almost religious in these gigantic open spaces deep inside the mountain. There are beautiful stalactites and rock formations wherever you look. We could walk 1 kilometer into the cave which has a total length of more than 30 kilometers. This was really a fantastic experience. On our way back to our hotel we made a short
Phong Nha Cave
The Phong Nha cave is reached by a 30 minute river boat. We sailed into the cave, with the captains rowing in silence. A special moment.
stop at Nuoc Mooc Ecotrail in the jungle. Here we witnessed a new record. One of our newfound English friends managed to do a giant jump on the spot, when a 2 meter snake crossed our path. He has Olympic potential. He skipped the swim in the river, which we found very refreshing and funny to let the current from a small waterfall take us a little downstream.
We also have to mention our hotel in Son Trach. We got a nice room for USD 12. Well, it was the staff that made this experience to something special. In the evening we asked if we could have breakfast in the morning. The answer was confirming. So we showed up at 8 am and asked for breakfast. Here is a brief sample of the conversation. “breakfast, NO. Breakfast at seven, yes. Breakfast, NO”. Well, we had to accept that and went to an alternative place and passed the staff eating breakfast!!! This is typical Vietnam. To finish the story, we would like to have breakfast at the hotel on our departure day. So we asked if this was possible, and got a confirmative answer. Since we had climbed a little
Phong Nha landscape
The beautiful limestone cliffs in Phong Nha. Not quite the scale of Halong Bay, but still very nice
up the learning curve, we showed up in the restaurant at 06.45 am. Here is a small sample of this dialog. “Breakfast, Yes, No, Breakfast, no, Yes. Well we just went to another place. This hotel reminded us a little about Fawlty Towers.
The local bus from Son Trach to Dong Hoi was quite an experience. We definitely paid an over price for the ticket, but we had no alternatives. Included in the price, we could witness how much S H I T, they can fit into a minibus. We could hear how loud the Vietnamese are able to talk. We could see how much green spit they were able to produce in the span of 2 hours. We could count how many times the driver could push his horn during a 45 kilometer drive. But we survived after all.
The minibus ride from Dong Hoi to Hué was even more interesting. We bought our tickets on the bus station. Not really surprisingly the driver wanted extra money for our luggage. We paid him half of what he asked for, and then we took off. Inge thought he looked like he was high on Red Bull. He had
Rice harvest in Phong Nha
The hats makes me think of the Vietnam war movies
this really wild look in his eyes. She was correct. Shortly into the drive he started to drink Red Bull heavily. We wonder how much sleep he gets. I (C) quickly got an association to the movie Mad Max, the road warrior. Here we found yet another candidate to the Olympics. Our friend definitely made a record attempt in dangerous over takings. He managed to keep a distance to the trucks in front of about 1 millimeter and we made it to our destination in one piece. This experience in combination with smoking passengers, some guy who thought my head was a suitable resting place for his hands and yet another 100.000 green spits, made me (C) just a tiny bit fed up with Vietnamese. It was good that Hué turned out to be a nice city.
Hué is the old emperor city in Vietnam. We visited the impressive citadel, that unfortunate got pretty damaged during the war, and also visited a couple of the emperor gravesites a little outside the city.
The Citadel is surrounded by a 10 kilometer long wall and inside there is a citadel within the citadel. It is called the forbidden purple city.
River near Paradise Cave
We took a refreshing swim in this river. Just the two of us and a myriad of butterflies and dragonflies. A magic moment.
Only eunuchs and the concubines were allowed here. One of the emperors, Tu Duc, had 104 wifes and countless concubines. Well, one really has to applaud him. I (C) believe that most Danish men have enough to cope with in just one wife.
The emperor family ruled Vietnam in the 19 th century before the French took over. The Citadel showed how luxurious they lived. The tombs are almost even more impressive. We visited the Minh Mang tomb. It is constucted after confuciatism principles and has a beautiful layout. The monument consists of 40 buildings and is surrounded by a 1700 meter long wall. Very impressive, but we can ask our self, what is the point? A rather scary story from the emperor rulings, was the funeral of emperor Tu Duc. 200 servants participated in the funeral. They got rewarded by beheading, so no one would know the exact location of the grave and thus keep it a secret for grave robbers.
We rather liked Hué. It is a fine city, where you eat well and it offers many interesting excursions.
After our visit to Hué we went to Hoi
One of the impressive buildings in the Citadel. The Citadel had scars after the war in form of bulletholes in some of the walls.
An. This time, the bus driver was very calm. We had decided to stay for 7 days in Hoi An and take the plane to Saigon. No more long bus transfers in Vietnam! In Hoi An we found a hotel for USD 10 per night including a big room with air condition, 2 big beds, TV and a mini bar. Hoi An is an old trading town and its main feature is the many well stored old houses built by the Chinese and Japanese from the 17’th century and onwards. It also has the nice feature, that the ocean is only 6 kilometers away. We liked Hoi An even though it is very touristy. You can’t walk for 3 meters without hearing “please buy something from me – happy hour”. The town has an old tradition for tailoring. We don’t know how many tailor shops there are, but it is a lot. Both of us had a shirt made in the best material at a cost of USD 28 pr. shirt.
On Christians birthday we had a special experience. We went on a small private tour with a Vietnamese man, Mr. Phong, who fought for South Vietnam in the
Citadel, Hué II
One of the beautiful statues in the Citadel
war. We went to his home in a village outside Hoi An and here he gave us a lecture in recent Vietnamese history. It certainly gave us a new perspective on the American involvement in the war. Mr. Phong has a high school diploma and was enrolled as an officer in the army. He told us how people in the same village and families fought on different sides during the war. It was also interesting to hear the story after the war. As an officer he had to be re schooled to the communist way of thinking. In an amusing way he told us: “Ahhh, so this is Communism. Now I know. Communism is very good. I love Communism”. Mr. Phong only needed one year of re education since his cousin, Mango, could help him. Mango is a Communist and fought for the North. As a former officer in the South, he could only get a job as construction worker. He told us how Communism used to work. In the evenings the workers gathered and they got points in accordance to how hard they had worked on that day. He made a rather funny illustration. First he poured water up
Minh Mang Tomb, Hué
One of the guardians of the tomb
in a glass really quickly and drank it hastily. That gave 10 points. Next he poured water up really slowly, and afterwards sipped it slowly while pretending smoking a cigarette. That gave 2 points. The amount of points decided how much food you were allocated. He told us, that you can only be a member of the Communist party if 3 generations in your family have a clean sheet. That means no fighting for the south and no religion. However many Communists worship their ancestors, but keep it hidden. There are really an impressive number of temples in the Vietnamese homes. Many of them have a lightshow that would make a Danish nightclub pretty jealous.
Mr. Phong gave a tour of his village, where we met Mango. It is crazy to think about these two friends fighting each other during the war. We saw a memorial for fallen village people during the wars. It made a big impression. It was sad to see that many were young people aged 20 to 25. There was even a 13 year old boy on the memorial plate. It is only soldiers from the North that are written on this plate! According to
Minh Mang Tomb II
One of the temples in the complex, very impressive indeed
Mr. Phong, the South didn’t allow children to join the army. We also saw some bullet holes as a grim reminder of the war, a small local market with betel chewing old women. It means pitch black teeth and red lips. It is probably not a tendency that will make fashion in Denmark.
The birthday was finished by a 2 hour massage in the Palmarosa Spa. It was a heavenly experience. Afterwards we had dinner at the Cargo Club with steak of Australian beef and a big ice dessert. A big thank you to Inge for the nice present. One could easily get accustomed to this life.
We have come to Hoi An in the rainy season and have experienced heavy rain, overcast periods and lovely sunshine (and a small earthquake)! We have been bathing in the big waves, seen water coconut palms and experienced the local folklore on the market. We have listened to a symphony of ringing bells, scooter horns and car horns. The food is much better than in the north and we have found a small oasis of a local restaurant called Vina Ngon. We had an excellent lunch with drinks for USD 4.
Old building, Hoi An
A typical scene from Vietnam
We enjoy life and live it very much in the present J.
Tomorrow we fly to Saigon for the last episode of our Vietnamese chapter.
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