23rd Feb ’12 Hue to Hoi An via Danang railway station.
So here we are back at the railway station yet again ready to catch The Reunification Express (again) this time further down the line to Danang the jumping off point for Hoi An. Well the station was packed with locals and tourists with much jostling on the platform before the train pulled in, followed by a mad scrum to get on – by those Vietnamese know how to shift and push their way to the front. We kind of went with the flow and were swept aboard and then the train set off, closing its doors on people still on the platform and trying to get on – now I understand the scrum!! Inside it was chaos as people tried to find their seats and find places for their bags, huge boxes and sacks of god knows what, after a bit of ticket swapping and juggling for space everyone ended up with a seat.
The scenery was very dramatic, steep mountain slopes leading down to pristine white beaches in hidden coves and the train vanishing in and out of tunnels through the mountains, then criss-crossing over roads, past
fields and rice paddies and onto yet more amazing craggy cliffs and sumptuous beaches.
This was only a short journey – 2 ½ hours and soon we were entering the city suburbs and then pulling into Danang station. Outside there were lots of taxis lined up and waiting for the train customers, however while I was having a fag a guy came up and asked if we wanted to go to Hoi An as he had a car which was heading that way, having come from Hoi An already. This was a fab bit of luck as it meant it cost us only half of what it should have been and we were dropped off right at our hotel!
So in we climbed and we were soon on our way – which was right along the coast past China Beach (where the Yanks first landed in Vietnam). However you couldn’t actually see much of the beach as big corporations have bought up massive stretches of it and are in the process of building 5* all inclusive resorts or exclusive apartments. The local people no longer have access to the beach and have to use small sections often miles
out of the way, such a shame.
We also passed the Marble Mountains, somewhere we had thought of visiting but the sight of a large concrete lift going up the side of one to a temple was just so wrong and owing to all the building work the place just did not look appealing at all.
After about 40 minutes we were checking into our hotel which actually had a swimming pool woo hoo! (and a very large Intrepid tour group!)
I have to say Hoi An is a gorgeous little town, its streets are full of coloured lanterns, it is on the banks of a river with a lovely little bridge (lined with lanterns) crossing over to an island, there are old ladies selling paper lanterns with candles in them to float down the river and at night the whole place is lit up and is so beautiful.
We decided to stay here for 5 nights as we were so taken with the place and the hotel with a pool was the perfect place to just rest up for a bit.
Our second day there was just spent lazing, swimming and eating. We found
our first bit of ‘rock’ music in Vietnam that night as we wandered past a restaurant we got lured in and as we were the only customers we could pick the music! So Red Hot Chilli Peppers it was, we reckoned if we’d picked Mettalica they would have stood no chance of getting any other customers judging by the people walking past. Anyway the food was delicious, even though they made my dish extra spicy as they thought it was for Howard! A little girl appeared selling bracelets and boy did she have the patter so I now have 2 bracelets and she went off very happy having made a sale and cadged a spring roll off us.
The next day we decided to do the Lonely Planet’s walking tour of the town so we bought our entrance tickets (you have to buy these and then have the option of picking 5 places you want to go in to see) and were all set. We visited the Assembly Hall which I had thought would be some austere concrete block but turned out to be beautiful with lots of plants and dragon sculptures, the museum was ok and the old
house was ok – even though you could only go in downstairs and it was just a couple of rooms. We then headed down to the river to have a drink and watched the boats go by and the ferry come over laden with people and followed by another ferry laden with scooters. We then visited a nice temple, walked over the covered Japanese bridge and into another section of the town which was also full of small shops and stalls. The best thing about this day was there was no scooters in the old town area, which was a wonderful relief! We then walked back through the market selling everything from strange fish and creatures, to every fruit and vegetable imaginable to every t shirt ever created, plus all the usual tourist souvenirs, with everyone trying to sell you something. It was then back to the hotel and a much needed swim in the pool. We also booked a tour to visit the ruins at My Son the next day.
So the next morning and we are up at 7am and there was no water! Aaarrrggghhhh! After breakfast we were off on our tour. The Vietnamese guide we
had was hilarious, always making jokes and with a great sense of humour – his English was pretty good too, although he seemed to say everything at a very high pitch and very loud.
The ruins at My Son were just that, such a damn shame, they are temples and towers built by the Cham people built around the 7th century and subsequently bombed to bits by the Americans in 1969, bloody shame, bloody wars!
Howard still whizzed around examining every brick and giving off an air of panic as we were on a time limit. The sight was in the jungle with towering mountains surrounding it and it must have been spectacular back in its day.
The trip continued back by boat down the river to Hoi An, which was pleasant and we even got a bit of rice and veggies for lunch, followed by a stop at the ‘wood carving’ village (yawn). We were dropped off right at the far end of town and walked back to the hotel – I reckon we have now covered every inch of Hoi An town!
That night we went back to the chilli peppers restaurant of 2
days ago, as the food had been so good. This time we were greeted like old friends and welcomed in but no offer to pick the music this time, so it was sounds of the 60s this night and Howard surprised me by knowing the words to Running Bear and Little White Dove – he blamed Neil!!. The same little girl came round with her bracelets but when I showed her the ones I was wearing she just said ‘oh my god’, asked for a coin from England, shouted bye and vanished!!
On the way back we passed a tiny shop where Howard had bought a t shirt and me a pair of earrings from 2 days before, well the girl who runs it greeted us like old friends, she introduced us to her sister and even remembered when we were leaving Hoi An and made no attempt to sell us anything, she was just genuinely happy and pleased to see us. This is one of the things I love about Vietnam!
Our final day we did nowt and it was great!
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