The Road to Hoi AnOctober 30, 2016 in Vietnam
Today started with a very short walk from the front of our hotel, to the back of the car that would take us the 160km from Hue to Hanoi. On the way, we would take in a few sights, and further our cultural understanding of Vietnam. Or at least that 's what we told ourselves.
The first stop on our journey was Lang Co Beach. In the high season, when the beach would have been groomed each morning, before the local resorts disgorged their inhabitants, it would have been a fabulous spot. Unfortunately for us, being out of season, a large amount of detritus has built up around the high water mark, all along the beach. The plastic bottles, polyestyrene fishing floats, plastic bags did detract from the view. As did the hawkers on the beach.
Having taken but two steps onto the beach, we were set upon by hawkers, trying to sell us all manner of awful, and expensive tat. They were also particularly persistent, given that we were the only ones on the beach, and they had no one else to focus on. It took some raised voices and finger pointing, after repeated polite requests to get them to a) stop following us, and b) piss off entirely.
Retreating to the safety of the car, we then carried on towards Hoi An, via the Hai Van Pass. Throughout history, this pass has divided Vietnam in two, if not from a politcal prespective, certainly from a weather persepctive. North of the Hai Van Pass, cold air from China tends to make the climate cool and wet in the winter. South of the Hai Van Pass, the weather tends to be warmer and drier in the winter. Or so Wikipedia tells me.
On our visit, the Hai Van Pass certainly lived up to its name. In Vietnamese, the name means ocean cloud pass, and as we passed the high point of the pass, we found ourselves travelling through the clouds that give the pass its name. This limited our visibility of the surrounding area, which is quite a shame, as from what we could see, it looked incredibly beautiful. The top of the pass is guarded by concrete pillboxes and bunkers built by the French first, and then the Americans a bit later. Going back even further, the pass has been considered a strategic point since the time of Christ. Though using him as a chronological reference point, seems quite strange in this part of the world.
Our final stop before we got to Hoi An, was to investigate the Marble Mountains. As with so many places in Vietnam, the Marble Mountains are large limestone pinnacles, in an otherwise flat landscape. Taking a lift part of the the way up the main mountain, we began to explore all that there was to see. The top of the mountain had many different Buddhist shires. Some were in the open, looking out from the mountain top to the sea, or inland towards Danang. Other shrines were buried in the numerous caves that dotted the top of the mountain. Climbing through the dim, candle-lit passageways to these shrines, was ever so slightly hazardous, given the slick surface of the limestone steps that were used, and the initially intimidating sight of bat hanging above your head.
And then it was on to Hoi An, whre we arrived at our hotel, in the early afternoon. Having checked-in, and dumped our bags in the room, we headed to the old town of Hoi An, making a pit stop along the way to get some food at a nice wee vegetarian restaurant. Getting into town, we caught up with Will and Anja very briefly, before they dissappeared to jump on the night bus to Nha Trang.
We then spent the remainder of the evening, wandering through the streets of Hoi An's old town. Even in the off-season, it is still a very touristy place. The majority of people wandering around were tourists, many of whom are from France and Germany. The lanterns all over town were pretty cool too.
And that was the day.Read more