28 October 2009 – day 12 – Wednesday – Hoi An, Vietnam
This was a very busy day. We were running constantly, but nonetheless it was pretty uneventful compared to some days. I'm very tired, so I'm not going to write as much; I'll be brief and let the photos do the talking.
We started out taking the bus to an ancient ruined Champa city called My Son, pronounced “Me Sun.” On the way, we saw the usual array of birds and beasts.
On the way, it started to rain and the rain got progressively harder. That's when everybody realized that we had left all our rain gear back at the hotel. Major tactical error. Kathy and I had brought our special lightweight motorcycle rain gear called “Frogg Toggs” on the trip, but we had left them in the hotel. Up to this point, the weather has been beautiful and we haven't needed them. I guess we became complacent.
Kathy did have one of our two umbrellas so she was prepared.
We stopped at a local vendor and bought some cheap plastic rain ponchos for a couple dollars.
The forest was thick, and Lee told us that it was very dense, like it was during the Vietnam war. This would be the perfect place to film a movie about the Vietnam war!
The ruins were great. The Champa people were nestled in a valley in the middle part of Vietnam. They were wedged between the Khmer people to the South (who created Angkor Wat in Cambodia) and the Viet people in the North.
The Champa practiced the Hindu religion. In Hindu, there are three main Gods: Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). Lee told us that the Champa people worshiped the god Shiva, but they believed Shiva had the power of all three: Shiva was creator, preserver and destroyer.
I told Lee that I would pray to the god Shiva for the rain to stop. After a few minutes, it did stop, and I bragged about it. I told everyone they should thank me for stopping the rain.
The site was really interesting, filled with the ruins of old Hindu temples. We took lots and lots of photos. The place reminded me a lot of other ancient ruined temples, like Tikal in Guatemala. It was a very cool place.
There were a few fertility statues that were interesting. Lee said they represented the womb and a phallus.
There was a ruined statue of Shiva that was missing its head, and Kathy and I both took turns pretending to be Shiva for photos with the statue.
After visiting the temple, there was a demonstration of Champa dancing by local girls. That was very interesting indeed! They gyrated their hips and body to make themselves more curvy.
Unfortunately, it was very hard to see because of the crowd of tourists that had gathered there.
After the dancing, the tourists moved like a huge herd of cattle to the temple. Thanks to Lee, we had gotten to the temple before any other tourists had arrived, so we got to see the temple buildings without a crowd of people. We all thanked Lee for his forethought. He's the best guide ever.
On the bus ride back to Hoi An, we stopped at a cemetery filled with thousands of dead Vietcong soldiers killed during the Vietnam war. I took a few photos then climbed back down the hill to take photos of the children. Kathy stayed up longer and took more photos.
When we got back to Hoi An, we stopped and ate lunch near the old town market we had visited yesterday. After lunch, Kathy and I didn't get back on the bus. Instead, we chose to walk slowly through the market again and shopped.
Kathy bought some jewelry, but I didn't buy anything. I took a photo of her with the jewelers.
I found a very nice wooden carving of the Hindu god Brahma, but the shop owner wanted $280 for it. I told him the most I would pay was $100, but he said no, so we left without it. We shopped for a long time, but eventually ran out of time.
Using the small hand map given to us by the hotel, we walked from the market toward the taxi stand. We didn't see any taxis, but on the map, it looked like our hotel was just one block away. So we walked down the block, checked the map again. We were obviously getting close. We kept walking, but never saw the hotel. Eventually, Kathy was hot and frustrated, so we went inside a nearby hotel and asked them if we were going the right direction. They said yes, but that the map was not to scale. The hotel was still more than two kilometers (about one mile) away! So they called a taxi for us, and he took us to the hotel. We were glad we hadn't walked.
We got back to our hotel just barely in time to go on our next adventure. Kathy was unhappy because she did not get any time to rest because of our shopping.
Our next event was an optional tour that included a Cyclo ride, a boat ride, and dinner. The Cyclos took us down tiny roads out of town into a more rural area.
Here, the very rich lived along side the poor people.
The rice paddies grew next to fancy houses. There were the usual egrets, cows and water buffalo.
One highlight was when we spotted a group of water buffalo grazing inside a cemetery: automatic lawn mowers.
I was also fond of the many smiling children who waved at us and said, “Hello!”
We also saw a stack of food that had apparently been collected for humanitarian purposes.
The Cyclos left us off at the river, where we boarded a long tourist boat.
The boat chugged off upstream, back toward Hoi An, but after several minutes of sightseeing, the boat stopped working. The motor was fine, but something was wrong with our propeller. After messing around with the motor, the boat driver took off his pants and jumped into the river, then started working on the propeller from there. After a few minutes, he climbed back into the boat and fiddled with something there again. Still, we did not move. He jumped back in a second time, and tried again. Eventually the boat started drifting backwards with the current of the river. The driver climbed back onto the boat a second time, but we did not move. He ended up diving into the river five different times trying to fix things. I think maybe some rope had gotten tangled tightly around the propeller or something. Finally, he had the problem solved and we continued on to our destination.
After the boat ride, the boat took us back to town. On the boat ride back, it started getting quite dark. We saw a man and woman fishing with nets. We sat and watched, mesmerized by the skill of the man throwing the net in a perfect pattern and pulling it back again.
He was proud of the fish he had caught and showed them to us.
Our destination was a restaurant where we ate dinner, back at the old town, near the market we had visited earlier. They had several alcoholic drinks on the menu, so Kathy and I ordered one. We split a carafe of a drink called “The Passion.” It was made of passion fruit, tequila and another liquor I don't remember. I was joking that Kathy should take a photo of me and call it “The Passion of the Bob”. Sitting to my left was a woman in our OAT group who was named Cathy, and we ended up drinking two carafes of “The Passion” with her.
Throughout the trip, I've been commenting that I've been carefully placing myself between Kathy and Cathy. One can never have too many Kathys in one's life! By odd coincidence, Cathy was born twenty years prior to my wife, Kathy, exactly. In other words, she was born 27 December 1943. My Kathy was born 27 December 1963.
As usual, dinner was excellent. By the time we got out, it was dark outside and the lights cascading off the water were beautiful. We went back to the hotel full and satisfied, but tired.
Overloaded vehicles of the day (The first one is blurry but still worth it):