We left Phong Nha early on a day tour that would take us across to Hue. We went through the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) which was the border that separated North and South Vietnam until 1975, and saw the Vinh Moc tunnels. It was an eerie experience to be in the tunnels, from 5 to 30m underground (though we think the hillside slope has something to do with the outrageous depth we supposedly went to). An entire village lived in these tunnels for over 4 years, and 17 babies were born in the maternity room (see picture below of what constitutes a room underground). It took them one year to complete digging the tunnels with shovels and picks.
We ended up in Hue, and stayed at the DMZ Hotel, keeping with the theme of the day. We had a look at the Citadel for the afternoon, and it was ok. It was constructed hundreds of years ago during some dynasty. No doubt we were being uncultured but we didn't feel like there was a whole lot to tour around, and what was marked on the map was no longer there. We did find a tree with the best lychees that Ben
has ever eaten, so we acquired a few of those and kept going. For dinner that evening we decided to branch out from the delicious Vietnamese we'd been having and had Indian instead. It felt like we hadn't smashed a curry for ages (although it wasn't like our tummys needed any extra encouragement to perfume its duties). We were travelling the same direction with an English/Indian girl and US girl, so we met up and had a fantastic Indian meal at Omar Khayyam's, and rolled back to the hotel with our Indian cravings satisfied!
The next day we hired a car to take us down the coast to Hoi An. As there were 4 of us going the same way it was really affordable ($15 each for a 5 hour trip). We stopped at a beach for a swim, and went up over the mountain to Danang. We also stopped at the Marble Mountains and caught the elevator up to the temples and caves. The whole place is huge and we only saw a sample with the hour we had.
In Hoi An we decided that a nice hotel with a pool was probably due, so booked into
the nicest place of the trip. Hoi An is such a beautiful little town, so quaint with little shops and eateries, plus a few fancy restaurants, and lit with coloured lanterns all along the streets of the old town and river. It was so hot the few days we were there, so we were very happy to go home to a nice big room with AC, and lounge by the pool in the shade for the afternoon. We wanted to get a suit made for Ben, but after reading hundreds of reviews of the tailors in Hoi An, how ruthless they are at getting your business, and how you cannot guarantee that a trained tailor will even be involved in the making of your garments, all the way to stories of women working all night to have a quick turn around… basically we were scared off and decided to wait until Ho Chi Minh. There are so many tailor businesses in Hoi An, some streets are just tailor shops, nothing else! Everyone is making roughly the same thing so its a bit of a minefield, but we did meet heaps of people who were happy with the process
of getting something made, and hoping that it would stay together with the first wash! I did have one dress made because Ben left me to my own devices when he found a sports bar playing the rugby… so thats his fault really!
We also discovered the 'best bank mi in the world' (as publicised by Anthony Bourdain in the food show No Reservations) which is the Vietnamese equivalent of a baguette sandwich. True to its advertisement, the sandwich was mind-blowing. We went back several times. Sometimes I dream of them.
After 4 days in Hoi An we decided that as we were rapidly running out of time on this last part of our trip, we would skip the coastal towns further south, and Dalat too (though this was a hard decision), and fly straight to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon).
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