A Travellerspoint blog

Visiting My Son (no relation!)

overcast 26 °C

We signed up for a tour to My Son, which is a very old Champa religious site. The first temples were built in the 4th century and were continuously being built until the 13th century. Apparently, every king had to have a temple and they had 72 kings in that time period! (You are just a nobody if you don't have a temple built for you!) It originally covered 3 square kilometres, but due to the ravages of time, nature and war, there is only a small part of it available to see.
My Son

My Son

Looking up inside

Looking up inside

Lion's head decoration - 52 for each week of the year

Lion's head decoration - 52 for each week of the year

Don at My Son

Don at My Son


We were picked up at our place just before 8:00 am and taken to the tour office where we boarded a large bus. It took about an hour to get to the site and there were 2 bus loads in our tour, with one guide. They had little electric trolleys to take us up the mountain (thank goodness!). Temples are always built up high - everywhere we go. We only had about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the trolley stop into the site and it was fairly level. On the way in we stopped at a Champa arts performance put on for all the tour groups visiting the temples. Lots of culture in our lives these days! Then on to visit the temple ruins. We had a good informative visit to the several sites and then it was time to walk back to the trolley stop. I was wearing my Dawg sandals because my runners got soaked yesterday. The path we came back down on was very slippery for me. I had to walk slowly along the edge with Don holding my hand to keep me from falling. I'm a little paranoid about falling - have already fallen once this trip and do not want to do it again, particularly in the mucky rainy path! Finally made it back, but we were some of the last people to board the bus. We had opted to take a boat part of the way back to Hoi An, so after about 1/2 hour on the bus, we stopped and some of us boarded a boat. It was quite nice cruising down the river and we saw something we hadn't seen before, a bridge just for motorbikes! Very practical here!
Boats along the river

Boats along the river


Motorbike bridge

Motorbike bridge


Once back in Hoi An, we were taken to a little cafe for a light lunch, supplied as part of the tour. Then we were on our own again. As we walked thru the market, we stopped to watch a man carving faces from bamboo roots. He looked at Don and said I have just the one for you. He found this face he had carved and enjoyed having his picture taken with Don.
Don with bamboo root carver

Don with bamboo root carver


We did some more looking at the old establishments in the Old Town. One house we visited (about 200 years old) had 7 generations of the family live in it. In fact, they still owned the house and the 6th and 7th generations lived on the second floor (where we were not allowed to go). When the river floods, the ground floor of this house floods as well. They move all the furniture upstairs thru a hole in the ceiling with a block and tackle before the flood.
Showing the flood dates marked on the wall

Showing the flood dates marked on the wall

Beautiful inlaid panels with Chinese characters made with bird designs

Beautiful inlaid panels with Chinese characters made with bird designs


We did go and pick up our new shorts. I think they will be a good addition to our travel clothes. We had bought tickets for another cultural event that happened at 5:00 pm so we found the theatre and settled into our comfy seats. It was only about 45 minutes, but it was entertaining. Although all the different cultures seem to be blurring together in my head, so maybe I need a break for a day or two. After the show, we had supper at a nearby restaurant and then took a taxi home after a long, full day.

Posted by katdill 05:26 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Rainy Day Didn't Stop the Fun

rain 26 °C

After a late start, we took a taxi out to Tra Que, the vegetable village. They were having an early morning ceremony to encourage abundant crops, good weather, and prosperity for the coming year. We arrived too late to see the ceremony, but we got to watch them prepare food for people who had gone out with different tour groups. The care and attention given to this food, prepared over little camp stoves, was remarkable. We had just had breakfast so declined to have some, but it did look good.
Yummy looking food!

Yummy looking food!


The vegetable plots were interesting for us as well. Very small beds with narrow paths between, growing in what looked like mostly sand. We did see fertilizer bags lying around, so we assumed that is how they get so much food out of such a small space. Some people were working in the plots, so we got to see how they get the gardening done.
Vegetable beds

Vegetable beds

Hoeing

Hoeing

Watering - Don needs this outfit!

Watering - Don needs this outfit!


It rained on and off all day, sometimes misting, sometimes a downpour. We spent some time waiting out the downpours under canopies, etc.
We walked about 1 km down the main road to An Bang Beach. We were told it was the nicest beach around. The long stretch of sand is inviting, but the ocean was wild! And there were signs up warning against swimming there, not that we were planning on swimming in the rain.
Lovely sand at An Bang Beach

Lovely sand at An Bang Beach

Wild ocean

Wild ocean


We had lunch in a restaurant by the beach, which seemed very understaffed. Never had such slow, bad service - family-run, but 1/2 the family must have been on holidays.
After lunch, we took a taxi back into the city and did more exploring of the Old Town. We visited a couple of places where they have craftspeople creating their work and demonstrating how it works. And of course, selling the result. One place had these women embroidering pictures that were amazing! Very tempting for me! They also showed us weaving and silk worms and spinning the silk, etc.
Fantastic embroidery

Fantastic embroidery


One of the craft workshops seemed to be for the benefit of disabled/challenged people, sort of like Sheltered Workshops. Their weavers are two Downs Syndrome people, whose mood shows up by the colours they choose in their work.
We also visited some of the historic buildings, such as the Quang Trieu Assembley Hall, which had fantastic carvings thru it all. It was filled with people actually praying or receiving a fortune - huge cones of incense being burnt. They had the best dragon I have seen so far this trip.
Wonderful dragon

Wonderful dragon


We managed to fit in a fitting (Pun intended!) at the tailor's for our shorts. A couple of slight adjustments and they will be ready tomorrow.
We tracked down a traditional arts performance that was free and enjoyed a few minutes of that.
Traditional Arts performance

Traditional Arts performance


We had bought tickets for the Water Puppets performance so we set out to walk to it. Of course, it started to pour as we were 1/2 way there. After waiting about 10 minutes under a canopy, we decided to just keep on going. We did have rain jackets and one umbrella, after all. But we were pretty wet when we got there - Don't jacket has lost any water proofing it had and my shorts were soaked (including my camera!) because my jacket doesn't come down far enough! The water puppet show was interesting, although apart from an English introduction to each segment, all the voices and singing were in Vietnamese.

After the show, we walked a couple of blocks (hardly raining at all by then) and found a restaurant (Cafe 43) for supper. They had good cheap food and we ran into an Englishman we had been talking to at the tailor's earlier in the afternoon. Then it was time to taxi home and go to bed.

Posted by katdill 04:26 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Old Town Hoi An

overcast 27 °C

After breakfast at our homestay, we set out to find a drugstore (to refill my Imodium stock) (which has worked finally!) and to visit a tailoring shop recommended by our hostess, Duy. The drugstore was easy and close to home, so no problem. The tailoring shop was farther away, but not hard to find. We walked the streets thronged with tourists and vendors who had just re-opened after New Year's and wanted to have a good day to start the year off right. It seemed that most of the people who wished us Happy New Year, also had something to sell us! However, it wasn't too much of a problem, although it is the first time on this trip that we've had vendors approach us on the street. As Don points out, this is the most tourist oriented city we've been in, apart from Siem Reap, where we were insulated from the touristy parts by where we were staying.
Some of the many silk lanterns used as street decorations

Some of the many silk lanterns used as street decorations


Woman carrying lunch makings with her yoke and selling as she goes along

Woman carrying lunch makings with her yoke and selling as she goes along


We found the tailoring shop and after Don did some hard bargaining, we ordered a pair of cargo shorts each, made to our specifications. Tomorrow afternoon we are to go back for a fitting.
With the hard work done, we went to Streets for lunch. This is a restaurant which trains street kids for useful professions. A good cause and good food as well.
Gladstone bags anyone?

Gladstone bags anyone?

Paper cutouts which collapse into a card

Paper cutouts which collapse into a card

Fantastic fabrics

Fantastic fabrics


We walked the streets for quite awhile, both watching all the people as well as all the fantastic merchandise. At the riverside, there were many dugout canoes offering rides to tourists. They all seemed to be paddled by women. We passed on the opportunity having just had a recent dugout experience that far exceeded what they could offer.
Woman paddling a dugout and she has lucky yellow flowers on her boat

Woman paddling a dugout and she has lucky yellow flowers on her boat

One of the dugout paddlers taking a break

One of the dugout paddlers taking a break


Hoi An's Old Town is a UNESCO Heritage Site, famed for being a surviving seaport active from the 15th to 19th centuries. It's decline in the later 19th century means it did not modernize and has stayed essentially the same. Most of the buildings are painted yellow, although lots of them show the accumulation of moss and grime from the years.
I still have my cough and as we passed some fruit vendors at the side of the road, I coughed. These women immediately offered me a little bottle and motioned for me to put it on my nose and temples. It was eucalyptus oil. I tried it and it seemed to help. I thanked them and we went on. We decided to turn around and go back down that street and met two of these women coming up the street. So I took their pictures with their loads. Then they had us lift their loads and wear their hats for a picture. Nice women, but when we bought some rambutans from them, they charged us more than Don felt was appropriate!
Two of the fruit vendors

Two of the fruit vendors

Don trying on the outfit - it was a heavy weight!

Don trying on the outfit - it was a heavy weight!


After a rest on a park bench, eating rambutans, we got a taxi to bring us back to the homestay. I was ready for a rest - so much time lying around has reduced my endurance, I think. But after awhile, it was time to find some supper. So we went out and found a nice little cafe with a lovely woman operating it and good food. So a good end to the day.

Posted by katdill 05:49 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

A Long, Long Train Trip

rain 28 °C

We got up at 4:30 am to catch the 6:00 train. The train was very prompt and left right on the dot. Unfortunately we had seats that didn't have a good window! And the train was so busy that every seat was filled and at each stop when someone got off someone got on and took their seat. We were in an air conditioned coach so it was quite comfortable, in fact toward evening it was chilly. We finally arrive at around 11:00, which I consider very good after seeing the number of people on the train. There no food stops, the train has staff which periodically go thru the cars selling all kinds of food. They even had reusable plastic food trays which were picked up and cleaned for the next batch. At one point they came thru and sold bags of dragon fruit. We had passed thru miles and miles of dragon fruit plantations, but I'm quite sure she said they were from China. We didn't get many pictures due to the lack of a good window, but Don took a few out the window between cars.
Our train coach

Our train coach

Ocean bay filled with boats

Ocean bay filled with boats

Rice paddies at various stages

Rice paddies at various stages

Selling dragon fruit

Selling dragon fruit


We arrived in Da Nang and walked over to our hotel which was only two blocks from the train station. There we fell into bed like dead wood. Next morning, we hung around the hotel until 1: ish -waiting for my guts to settle-still searching for the magic drug to cure me. Then we caught a local bus to Hoi An, which was about an hour ride. Strangely enough, it was raining! And we were warned it was going to rain for several days! A taxi got us to our Homestay (Strawberry Garden) and we settled in. After a rest and some research, the rain stopped so we walked a few blocks and found an open restaurant, the Green Grass. It was a tiny place, had good food but four dogs and one cat running around the place. We've found we can pick a restaurant, but when we get there they are often closed because of the Tet holiday. So usually by then any open restaurant is a good restaurant. After another little walk, home to bed.
Lantern shop we saw while looking for a restaurant

Lantern shop we saw while looking for a restaurant

Posted by katdill 01:49 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Sick in Ho Chi Minh City

semi-overcast 31 °C

Well, the silence of the last couple of days is not due to a lack of internet. We've both been under the weather with digestive issues. Got up New Year's Day and didn't feel too well. First thing I heard drums and lots of noise. So I got dressed and went out to the street. There were lion dancers performing in front of a restaurant and they also did a dragon dance. Apparently, they get paid to come and perform and give good luck to the business. I had breakfast but then decided to stay in our room, close to the toilet, and rest. Don was a little more adventurous and went out to buy bananas and actually had lunch at a restaurant.
Lion Dancers

Lion Dancers

Dragons

Dragons

Dragon with the wife of the business owner

Dragon with the wife of the business owner


Yesterday, our hostess wanted us to get out of the room so they could clean it. So after trying breakfast again, we went for a walk to a nearby temple (pagoda). That was pretty much it for the day. Back to lying around reading and playing games.
Temple pagoda

Temple pagoda

Another temple building with beautiful matched bonsai trees

Another temple building with beautiful matched bonsai trees


The mini-drama that's been going on since we arrived, is that I forgot my camera charger and one battery in the hotel in Phnom Penh. Plugged it in to charge overnight and forgot it! So multiple phone calls and emails later, Don finally has retrieved it from the bus company. It even came on the bus last night and left again this morning without taking the package off the bus. So when Don arrived to pick it up, they had to phone the bus driver and get him to transfer it to the bus coming this way at the border! Yikes! So we will be doing many checks before leaving anywhere to make sure we have everything.
Tomorrow morning we have to get up early and catch the Reunification train at 6:00 am. We'll ride the train all day, scheduled to get into Da Nang at 10:00 pm. Hopefully, they stick to schedule

Posted by katdill 23:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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