Monday, March 5, 2012

Hoi An - redux

            Morning came quickly. Before I knew it, it was already 5am and time to get ready for yet another journey - I had just five hours at my home in Hanoi since my return from California - it did cross my mind that perhaps I shouldn't have pushed for that extra day in Santa Barbara after all, though it seemed a logical decision at the time. In the rush to leave Vietnam one week before, I only had time to pack a single light backpack for the US, but this was now a benefit as I only needed to switch out the clothes I had worn with some clean replacements and voilà, ready to go, as both Santa Barbara and the Central Vietnam coast share a similar climate (briefly) at this time of the year. The cab arrived at my house at 6am sharp, and my host mom got me the Vietnamese rate of 250,000 dong, easily 100k less than I could have negotiated for myself, and far less that would be offered to a typical westerner. I said goodbye and was off on my next adventure: to explore the cities and surrounding countryside of Da Nang, Hoi An, and Hue in Central Vietnam. 

A return to the village of Hoi An

          Once at the airport, I met up with my SYA classmates and teachers as they arrived one-by-one in the early morning from their own homes. They were happy that I was back, and apparently missed me while I was gone, at least that's what they told me…
Luke seemed surprised to see me after my week away

            The flight to Da Nang was only an hour. It was drizzling when we arrived, but we could handle it. We then drove from the airport to a restaurant in downtown that had been around since the war and was patronized by US service personnel those many years ago. We had a simple lunch; soup, some pork, and vegetables. Next we loaded back in the bus and headed over to the Champa museum, conveniently located just a few minutes away. The Champa Civilization existed in what is now Central Vietnam from approximately 200 AD until the 1400s, and was a great rival to the Khmer Civilization during many of those years. To be honest, it wasn't a great museum, but it was interesting to see the Champa statues - they were real Champ-ions. Sorry. Anyway, now we were nearly done in Da Nang, but before we left we make a quick stop to see China beach, which is the very same beach the G.I. soldiers would hang out at when they weren’t in the jungle.
Beach time!

            Now we were ready for Hoi An. Of course as you likely remember, I have already been to Hoi An during my Indochine adventure. But for the rest of my group (except Sarah and Perrine) Hoi An was a new city to explore. It was much different than last time I was there at Christmas -  most notably, it had warmed up and the clouds had gone away. It was still infested with tourists though, but very beautiful nonetheless. We had a free afternoon, which we all spent at the nearby beach, enjoying the pleasant weather and beautiful, wide-open Vietnamese beaches. After a few hours of playing in the water and building sand castles, we packed up and headed back into town.

The next day we took a cycling tour around Hoi An and the countryside. Our bike guide took us to numerous pagodas around Hoi An, and also out into the rice paddies. We stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant that was well off the beaten path. Later that afternoon we headed out to a farm near Hoi An. It was a working farm, but a side function was to cater to tourists. They offer tours to demonstrate how the farming is done in this part of Vietnam. It’s an organic farm, so they don't use any pesticides of anything, just good ol’ fashion technique - probably much like the corn farm my grandpa grew up on in Rolla, Missouri(a). I even got to put on traditional farmer clothes; brown shirt, and the iconic Vietnamese conical hat, but sadly, I had to turn it back in when I was done farming. We had dinner at the farm, and it was very good - with lots of farm fresh ingredients, which I suppose is a little redundant to mention here....

Anna in the fields

Champa ruins at My Son
            For our last full day in Hoi An, in the morning we drove around one hour to the ancient Champa ruins called My Son. They were very interesting to see, reminding me of the Aztec and Mayan ruins in central America, but were much smaller.  After exploring the area, which by the way still has active mines from the war (the ruins are generally safe though), we loaded up and drove onwards. We had lunch at a restaurant outside Hoi An that supposedly specializes in veal, but it was no veal cutlets they were serving, and we didn't really get what all the hype was about. We then had the rest of the afternoon free in Hoi An, so most of us went back to the beach. After a nice relaxing afternoon at the sunny beach, we returned to the hotel to regroup for dinner. Our group really enjoyed getting out of the cloudy, cool conditions of Ha Noi for a while and just enjoying the warmth and sun of the central coast. Now with our time in Hoi An done, we were ready to continue north to Hue.

** The photographs in this blog entry were taken by my classmate, Sarah Weiner
Sarah is not pictured here!

1 comment:

  1. You make me miss this so much...