Friday 22 Dec
There’s no dignified way to eat pot noodle. The noodles themselves do no act the same way as pasta, as they’re all scrunched up and knotted together. If you try and suck them us it just makes a horrendous mess. So you have to try and shovel them in, your head bent as close to the pot as possible, glasses misting up, whilst looking like you haven’t eaten in weeks. Anyway, it was quite pleasant. I can’t describe the flavour. Maybe there was a faint background of seafood, but it was tasty, if indescribable.
It looked lighter outside, so I went downstairs for a quick walk. I had around 90 minutes before my lift to Hoi An arrived, and I wanted to see the beach in daylight. It turned out it was still raining, so the lovely raincoat was needed again.
The beach looked lovely. The sand stretched a long way in either direction, but the sea was very rough. The waves were breaking quite a long way out - maybe 50 meters or more - which lead me to believe the sand sloped gently. But there were signs up with accompanying red flags, all saying no swimming. The waves were amongst the biggest if ever seen, somewhere between 2-3 meters perhaps (hard to judge without any scale, like a human, especially as they were breaking so far away). Whether any swimming is ever permitted, I’m not sure.
A little further up and I came to a strange sight. Nestled in between all of these posh new hotels was what looked like an old fort. High up, on a huge piece of rock abruptly jutting up from the ground there was a building. It looked like a castle ruin from the side, but there was a large sign on the front, leading to the assumption that the building has now been repurposed as a spa. The ancient juxtaposed with the new, as a nightclub resided as the bottom.
On the journey, we passed the Marble Mountains, where I was due to go the next day. I hoped the weather would be at least a tiny bit better, as it looked like a pretty miserable trek up those steps in the torrential rain. There were also, for around two km, shop after shop after shop selling sculptures. Calling them "shops" is a bit misleading. Think of garden centres in the UK, and imagine around 20 or more of these in a row - that what these were, all selling nothing but sculptures. These sculptures ranged from something you could get in your car to vast things more than four meters tall. Gods, deities, figures such as Mary - there were hundreds of them.
Given the weather it was appropriate that we also passed (flooded) Rice paddies - complete with a water buffalo!
In Hoi An I was staying at a place called "Vincent's house". Vincent himself greeted me, and he gave me an incredible introduction to his town, including providing me with a map and recommendations of where to see and where to eat. It was at this point that Vincent told me about Bánh mì, which up until now was a term I had not heard (though I'd probably seen it, subliminally). There was a place he insisted I go, so there I went. It was cheap, tasty, and not over-filling. Whilst I ate it I saw that across the road was a transport company. They offered four hour “limousine bus” trips to Hà Nội, and 20hr ones to Ho Chi Minh City. They looked really comfortable, with fully reclining beds. This is great if you’re here in a budget but with weeks at your disposal. I was happy with my flight options.
The first place a came across was an old historic house, free to enter, which offered a view into the past
There are a host of gorgeous temples to be seen in Hoi An. All exude a real sense of peace and tranquility.
“I am looking.”
“Look, sir, look!”
I couldn’t stand any more than 2 minutes, and quickly retreated to the calm of the streets.
Eventually, after leaving the old town and crossing the main bridge (not the one to the night market - that came later) I made my way to an island. My map showed that it had another bridge to get back to where I came from without retracing my steps, but it turned out that this whole island was a theme park, complete with accommodation. I had no idea what was in there, but theme parks in the rain are pointless, so I found a tiny shop to buy a beer and use the loo.
I saw a sign for "Heart of Darkness Brewery, Saigon", which caught my attention. I was beginning to realise (though much more was to come later) just how much Vietnam was still affected by the war. The American film, Apocalypse Now (of which there appeared to be several bars), was a blend of the Vietnam war and Joseph Conrad's book Heart of Darkness. Marlon Brando played the part of a character called Kurtz, who had essentially gone mad and native at the same time. It's a strange, disturbing film, yet in Vietnam they had chosen to name a brewery and various types of beer after it. Naturally, I had to stop and try one!
Having eaten the (very tasty) grilled rice paper, it was time to head back to the hotel and get some rest, ready for my trip to the Marble Mountains the following day.