In the morning we met up with Duc and had breakfast in a little restaurant/cafe’ that was exhibiting photographs of Vietnam taken by the owner of the place. Duc said he couldn’t drive with us to Hoi An for family problems so he brought along a friend who would have done it in his place: Mr. G (I am not entirely sure that was the way he was introduced to us but I am sure it was “Mr.” followed by a letter so I guess we’ll go with that).
We could immediately tell Mr. G was less chatty an sociable than Duc.
We started our ride South, first destination Thanh Toan to see the market and a famous tile-roofed Japanese Bridge.
really enjoyed the market at is was so busy, colourful and different from what we are used to in the west. Raw cut meats were just laying on pieces of cardboard or sometimes even directly on the cement, women were sitting with their feet on the same surface where they would cut the food, every seller had small quantities on sale (surely more than what a small family could eat by itself in a meal but definitely less than what we usually see in our countries) and usually not more than 2-3 different products, that’s maybe also what strengthened the feeling of a small and not very “capitalised” community.
The bridge was slightly less interesting -I guess also because we didn’t have much information about it’s history- but it surely provided a lovely spot in the shade to get some relief from the usual heat.
After Thanh Toan we briefly stopped to see an old war cemetery before heading to the fishers’ villages in the lagoon (the lagoon extends for something like 60-70km in between the coast and Hue).
In the area we saw many water oxes but were never fast enough to stop our bikes and photograph them while still emerging from the water. I found one resting by the fishers’ village and took some pictures; it sounds very silly but I was scared it could get annoyed and dart towards me, looking back I think they are probably reasonably meek animals. So just for the sake of feeling like I was doing something dangerous, I tried to feel a bit scared while getting at a small enough distance to take a good picture with my 50mm lens.
After riding along the lagoon Mr. G took us to the Elephant Waterfalls (there are some more, very different, Elephant Waterfalls near Da Lat, over 700km south of where we were). The waterfalls was nothing like what we were expecting: there were many small waterfalls diving in as many natural stone pools, as we climbed up the hill we found more and more and they were getting bigger and more beautiful. We decided to stop at a very large one that had a wooden platform built around it and swim. The place was full of locals, we only saw a group of three other tourists, which gave us even more satisfaction as we felt we weren’t falling for the tourist traps.
We noticed that the Vietnamese women were all covered up, none of them was wearing a swimming suit and they would all swim with their clothes on. We later asked Mr. G the reason for it and he told us that it is not an imposition of men on women but rather women choose to keep their clothes on to avoid being looked at by men (made it sound like the men could be very creepy..).
As the only two western girls there, we shamelessly displayed our bikinis and swam in the beautiful and fresh water- such a good feeling after having ridden under the sun for a few hours!! I took pictures of many sleeping people (not in a creepy way, I promise) and we just relaxed for a while.
We then went back to Mr G. and our motorcycles and headed to the “lake-shaped” part of the lagoon (Dam Cau Hai) where we had lunch at a palafitte-restaurant, it definitely made the top 5 of our Vietnam meals.
After lunch Mr G. tried to take us to a fancy Spa&Resort hotel nearby where we had a bit of a discussion since there must have been a misunderstanding about our plans: he thought we were going to spend the night at the hotel and proceed to reach Hoi An on the following day, whereas we couldn’t care less about spending time in a resort and wanted to reach the city of lanterns before night. Initially, from his attitude it didn’t seem like we were going to use his services anymore, eventually we did, but from there onwards there was a constant slight tension between him and us.
We went up Hai Van Pass to reach a viewpoint laying exactly on the border between the Hue and the Da Nang provinces.
Hai Van Quan was our last stop before Da Nang as daylight was about to end and we had many kilometres still to go. We arrived in Da Nang at sunset and very quickly went up the marble mountain. The stone stairs going up were very long and some locals were carrying bags of rice, one of them jokingly asked me to help him, he was very surprised, and I think amused, when I grabbed two 10-kg bags and carried them to the top. Once we got to the top of the mountain it was dark so we couldn’t properly see all the temples and gardens and went back down almost immediately.
The last hour of riding happened at night; luckily Mr G. had a proper front light on his motorbike that we could rely on and follow, as ours were so weak to be useless. Riding at night, considering how the Vietnamese drive and the conditions of the streets, was extremely stressful (I even had a really scary dream about it that night, and Silvia woke up to me screaming her name and asking why the sun would not rise).
Almost an hour later we finally arrived in Hoi An, the city of lanterns.
At that point Mr G. took us to the tailor’s shop that belonged to his “sister” and tried a bit too hard to make us buy something; we were not very keen.
We then found a small hotel where to spend the night and Mr G. took off (we were going to meet him the following morning).
After leaving our luggage and motorbikes at the hotel we walked into the centre of Hoi An.
The streets in the centre and along the river were filled by lanterns of all sizes, shapes and colours, making everything so pretty and almost magical. There were many tourists and many clubs/bars, still lovely nevertheless; that’s why after dinner we decided we would spend there two nights.
One more time thank you for making it this far with reading my blog!
Comments, “likes” and share always very appreciated, see you soon for my day Day 8 post!