The beach was definitely the way to go for a bit of a chill out. Good job really as we took a 14 hour train up the coast to a place called Danang before heading a further 45 minutes to the town of Hoi An.
The train journey wasn’t too bad despite hearing some horror stories about the journey involving filth, food poisoning and cockroaches. Obviously it’s not 5 star travelling and the seats are definitely designed for small bendy Vietnamese people (especially when the seats are in full recline!) So, it’s not comfortable but there’s always plenty going on including the commotion each time we stop at a station and an tsunami of Vietnamese traders board to sell their wares.
It always gets a little fraught just before the train is due to set off again. The train staff shout at the sellers as they rush to conclude their transactions. On one station a particularly keen vendor launched herself through the window and gets stuck. There was genuine suspense as half the carriage tried desperately to push her back out before the train started moving again…and there’s no doubt it will start, small salesperson attached or not!
So, Hoi An – a lovely little place that used to be the heart of the trade route and as a result it has a lot of influences from the big trading countries of time gone by. Each having left their influence in the architecture and culture which makes the place a bit of a time bubble. It is very tourist focussed which initially feels a bit weird after Saigon and Phnom Penh as it means that practically everyone there makes their living from tourists so we have become experts at batting off the hawkers – there is a shakey-hand thing you can do that seems to do the trick nicely!
Seriously think we should get jobs as UNESCO inspectors as everywhere we visit seems to be one of their sites -Hoi An and My Son (pronounced ‘mee-sun’). A quick google confirms they do have quite a lot – 962! So that’s probably why. To be fair they are all very beautiful or have some other historical significance. My Son was particularly interesting as it’s a complex of ancient temples, older even than Angkor Wat in Cambodia, unfortunately bombed to bits by the Americans as some of the Viet Cong were based there during the war.
Most of the original brickwork is still intact and in good condition versus the 30 year old renovated bricks which are crumbling and covered in moss. Despite numerous attempts to recreate the ancients’ building techniques – it remains a mystery…
The preferred mode of transport here (as most of Vietnam) is the motorbike and they are everywhere. We’re having a bit of a contest to see who can spot the most unusual motorbike cargo/the most people on a motorbike. Family of 5 is the record so far on one. Alas by the time the camera was whipped out they had sped by. We’ll try to get quicker to capture this incredible sight (always the little baby right at the front gripping the handlebars for dear life!)
The food here is superb and cheap. We have some basic (but lovely) Vietnamese food along the banks of the lantern-lit river: 2 starters, 2 mains, bottle of wine, large bottle of water – under a tenner! You can eat a lot more cheaply than that too…Our pockets are going to sorely miss Vietnam as Australia is shaping up to be by far the most expensive bit of the trip. We can stay in Vietnam in a very comfortable hotel for 4 nights, including breakfast for less than 1 night in the IBIS in Brisbane!
Off to Hue next – a couple of hours train journey up the coast…