6/06/2013

Hoi An, Da Nang, Hue

Watching the sun set always brings up the possibility of having a great moment. As I watched it settle between low clouds over Hanoi, I embarked on one of those moments, thinking about the past few weeks while appreciating the great blue and red combination over the rooftops of the city.

Hoi An was a very pleasant and unexpected surprise; a charming place, with a couple of pretty bridges and a great taste in clothes, music and colors. Wikipedia describes its Ancient Town as "an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century". The tourists area is surrounded by tailors and shoemakers, and they're good at what they do. It's easy to ride a bicycle around town, and though the sun was very punishing, the place had a certain freshness to it, with lots of trees everywhere. On a random evening I decided to go out of the hotel room and explore the city properly, taking my time to roam around. I did not know it then, but the moon was full, and they celebrate that occasion quite elegantly. The whole city center had dimmed lights, with beautiful lanterns hanging everywhere, and down by the water people were carrying candles, monks had their banners, children laughed and music was played. But not as it usually happens in such occasions. I don't know if this is common elsewhere, but it seems to me that this was the first time I heard all the shops and bars in a whole city center playing the exact same music. What bliss, this gift from socialism, that night - no ultrabass systems booming rap next to a bar that is about to explode with electronic music, and so on down every street you walk by. No! All the shops, restaurants and bars were playing lovely European classical piano music - Beethoven, Chopin, etc, on a reasonable volume.

Da Nang offered me a similar experience, at the beach; there too, between the announcements through the public speakers, vietnamese music played through the whole extension of the beach; the same song all over, in a very decent volume, which also created a beautiful delay effect as the sound brought by the winds play the exact same thing you just heard, but softer and mixed to the sounds of the pacific ocean. Da Nang is one of the biggest cities in Vietnam, and developing quite fast. I didn't really explore the city itself, as I was busy during those days, but decided to at least visit the beach before moving on to Hue. My hotel was about 5 km from the beach, and the sun was also very punishing there. To that problem, I had 3 possible solutions. Renting a bicycle was not possible, so, in order to go to the beach and return from there, I could either hire a taxi car for about 150.000 VD, hire a taxi scooter for about 120.000, or rent the scooter itself for the whole day for 100.000. As I started an automatic scooter for the first time in my life, after putting on the helmet, I heard the owner ask - "You good driver?", to which I replied "Not really. First time for me". He looked concerned, but said "Go slow". I started, and went quite slow. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I just hopped on and got off, enjoying the feeling of finding the balance on a new ride. Then I heard the owner of the scooter shout like crazy, and realized I was driving in the wrong direction on a one way street, with two police officers riding straight towards me. They were baffled by the situation, slowing down to witness it, but moving on to more important things, probably. Realizing my mistake, I turned around and took off, and had no more problems throughout the rest of the day, in which I enjoyed a large stretch of white sand beach, with clear, warm ocean water, mysteriously empty from 14.00 to 17.00. After that it got crowded, but during those 3 hours, I had it all for myself - I saw very few others enjoying the sea, and a small number of people people walking by or jogging. There, as well as with the sun set, one of those great moments just brought itself up, and enjoying the sea while watching the distant fishermen on their floating baskets made me feel like this trip is definitely something I should be doing right now.


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As I said, I was quite busy during those days, so I ended up taking only the few photos above. Nevertheless, I add the below images, which were not captured by me, but I think is important to have here to make justice to both events, which I enjoyed thoroughly.


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I then travelled to Hue, were I stayed for a bit longer and allowed myself to be more of a tourist. There, I crossed paths with the Elder Sisters for the second time, after meeting them in Siem Reap weeks ago, visited the Imperial Citadel, got really drunk, visited a nearby cave, thought about getting a tattoo, worked quite some and moved on further north.

The work was carried forward thanks to Google Hotel's Internet. Something else they offered was free beer from 17.00 to midnight. That, combined with the presence of the powerful Elder Sisters meant a great time and a great hangover the next day. They're rarer and rarer, but they still happen sometimes.


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The Imperial Citadel was ok, but I was not very impressed. The tattoo was postponed to Hanoi. Phong Nha caves, a few hours north of Hue, however, were beautiful, and travelling on little boats through it was a very comfortable and enjoyable experience. After enough time in this mildly enjoyable city (which unfortunately had none of that beautiful harmony of music of Hue or Da Nang), I moved on to Hanoi, where I am at now, after having one of those great moments. Despite the heat, which was a big problem at the beginning, I have definitely fallen in love with Vietnam.

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