27 October 2009 – day 11 – Tuesday – Hoi An, Vietnam
Today we left the city of Hue and took our bus to the city of Hoi An. Once again, we stopped several times for photo ops.
In one stop, we saw a teenage boy riding on the back of his family's water buffalo.
At another stop, we saw what looked like a huge pile of sand. In reality, it turned out to be a pile of sawdust because of the nearby sawmill. At another stop, we saw a Christian cemetery.
We drove south down highway 1, following the coast. It was a very rural area, so we saw lots of peasants and water buffalo. The countryside was green with plants and splashing waterfalls.
Lee told us that this area was heavily defoliated by the Americans with Agent Orange. The land became barren and unusable for a while. Eventually the Australians helped the Vietnamese people by planting lots of Eucalyptus trees, which can tolerate adverse conditions. Eventually the soil recovered and the plants came back. Still, you could see many Eucalyptus trees around, and vendors on the side of the road selling the oil.
We saw lots of fishermen boating around.
Some of them had the strange round boats like giant woven baskets.
Others had boats so small they were almost invisible compared to the fisherman himself.
Lee told us that the people had large nets that they lowered into the river at night. Then, they would shine a light for one hour to attract the fish. Next, they pull up the nets and have lots of fish. Apparently they do this several times a night.
We drove through a city called Da Nang.
Next, we stopped at a well-known place in America: a recreation camp known to American soldiers as “China Beach.”
I remember a cute television show based on the place. Well, we got to see the real place. There really isn't anything left of the American camp there. It was just a beach. However, when we got on the bus, we drove by the remains of American airplane hangers.
Lee said they were soon to be demolished. In their place, the government was going to build fancy resorts with casinos and swimming pools and such. We saw plenty of evidence of that construction happening already in nearby areas of the beach.
Our next stop was a village that stood right next to what the people affectionately called Marble Mountain.
The mountain has tons of marble, and the people of the village had learned to carve the stone. The village had lots of little shops where huge marble statues stood. They were beautiful.
We stopped at one place and we bought a green marble statue of a Buddha. Outside on the main road, a cow sat lazily without a care in the world. On the main road I said.
We continued on our journey toward the city of Hoi An. On the way, we saw a large group of school girls riding bicycles in a traditional uniform. I forgot the name. Lee said it was a famous dress because it “covered everything but hid nothing.”
After lunch, we arrived at our hotel. It's called the “Phuoc An” hotel. I joked that it probably had companion hotels run by the same family, called the “Phuoc Off” and “Phuoc Yew”.
After some rest time, I decided to take a walk. Kathy didn't go, but I was joined by one of the couples in our group: Richard and Adelle. We didn't have much time so we didn't walk far. One interesting thing I saw was a rural Vietnamese gas station.
We took the tour bus to the old town, which is at the river.
We walked around there for a long time and it was very interesting. We saw many people selling many things, like several different kinds of fruits, vegetables (some of which we couldn't identify),
cooked noodles, and other wares. One woman had a huge collection of eggs for sale from many kinds of birds.
Another had shrimp that were still alive and squirming.
There were lots of people and lots of shops.
It was raining lightly at times, but still very hot.
We visited a beautiful, historical house that, unfortunately, gets flooded with every typhoon they have.
After we left the house, we walked down the street for a while. We noticed a ferry coming across the river that was crammed full of motorbikes. It may well fit into the category of “overloaded vehicles of the day.”
There was a stream flowing into the larger river and bridges crossing it. One was very old and decorative and it had some cool old statues inside it guarding the entrances. The other was more of a pedestrian bridge.
Next, we visited a nearby Buddhist temple that had some cool sculptures like dragons.
By then the sun was going down, so it gave everything on the river a warm glow.
Eventually we made our way to a restaurant where they gave us a cooking lesson. It was a lot of fun. The best part is that we got to eat the dinner we had cooked.
After dinner, it was dark outside. Walking back to the bus, we spotted a bunch of traditional lamps hung in a couple of shops. It was very beautiful. We spent way too long trying to get a perfect photo of them.
Overloaded vehicles of the day: