Change up the PACE...slow down a little..
We took a walk one day across the Thu Bon River to explore a little of Cam Nam Island...and found it was a GREAT way to escape the noise and hustle and bustle of Hoi An...Initially our intention was to find the animal market that I thought might be located here....so we went looking for it..we never did find it but enjoyed our time on this side of the river anyhow..
We crossed the bridge at the foot of the Hoang Dieu Street..close to the market..Hoang Dieu street is also the location of my shoe vendor...anyhow...across the other side of the bridge the whole pace of life slows down...no incessant horn beeping..no tourists [ except us ] ,no vendors "welcoming" us into they're shops or restaurants..Just a little Peace and Quiet..and some meticulously looked after houses..and people going about they're daily lives..
There's a "high end" hotel at the end of the bridge and some shops and a few businesses...we walked around some residential streets and eventually made our way back to the bridge via a really picturesque waterfront walkway that passed along the Thu Bon River...
Along the way we passed a Memorial that essentially is a tribute to a unit of the 108th Regiment that fought and won a battle here against the French in 1948.We checked out some of the architecture of the local houses and stopped for a drink along the way...
If you want to change it up a little....take a stroll across the bridge ...follow your nose...and find out whats down THIS road...you'll be happy that you did..
- Arts and Culture
Memorial Park and Monument...
At the far end of Tran Phu Street you'll find a really nice little park that's essentially a Memorial to a Polish man named Kazimierz Kwiatkowski...a man that was instrumental to Hoi An's Old Quarter being given UNESCO status as a heritage site.
IN the 1980's he came to Vietnam to participate in a program of preservation of Vietnamese heritage and because of illness died in Hue in 1997.
This small park like setting is surrounded with green space,and a large bas-relief of the man as well as a placard detailing his efforts in this process...
He also was a key figure in bringing that same status to the Cham ruins of My Son...where he worked in the restoration of the ruins...
So...if you're walking about and wondering what this park and statue are all about now you know..
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
Visit the beach.
Hoi An has a beach 4 kilometers out of town.
Last time i was there the weather was quite bad and you could not swim and most beach bars were closed, but when the weather is nice then it´s quite a lively place and the beach is relatively good there.
To get the 4 kilometers there i recommend renting a bicycle in Hoi An.
Cycling there is easy and real nice on small country roads with people working in the rice fields.
Alternatively you can take a bus or go by taxi.
Uyen Motorcycle tour
If you’re looking for an opportunity to "MIX WITH THE LOCALS" this is the trip to take. You travel the local roads, mix with the local people, visit their workplaces, eat at the cafe's the local people eat at and say in the hotels the Vietnamese use when they travel.
Uyen offers an escorted/guided tour by motorcycle (ride one yourself) around the well-travelled "middle circuit" of Vietnam. I took a 3 day tour and have to say it was one of the best experiences. If you need to stop for any photo, view, information, for a chat with the local people or any other reason Uyen is happy to accommodate your needs and translate and advise you.
Day 1 we started at Hoi An and travelled to Da Nang, Hai Van Pass, Lang Co (Lunch), Hue: Visit to Ancient Citadel & Overnight stay.
Next day we visited Thien Mu Pagoda (a 'working' Buddhist Temple / School / Residence) and then onto the village of Bot Do for lunch. Afterwards we travelled on to A Dot, the "Corner" where main roads and the Lao border meet. It's the start of the Ho Chi Min Trail, which we travelled down to an overnight stay at Paro, stopping at several villages along the way.
Day 3 we travelled on through the towns of Ktu, A So, Thanh My and Dai Loc before eventually returning to Hoi An. The town of Dai Loc has an impressive War Memorial, in the style of a "Western" Memorial, which is well worth a visit. Most Vietnamese Memorials are what we 'westerners' would call SHRINES to the war dead, dedicated and venerated but relatively simple to our expectations, but this one is a Full-On Dedicated Memorial with extensive WALLS engraved with the names of the fallen. It 's in need of a bit of extra care now but is well worth visiting and remembering that 'westerners' aren't the only people who made enormous personal sacrifices in times of war.
The territory traversed was fascinating and beguiling and my guide Uyen was a font of local knowledge, both geographically and culturally. Travelling through the mountain areas was absolutely thrilling and during my trip the Ho Chi Min Trail (a 2 lane concrete road) was closed to almost all traffic due to landslides, with only motorcycles being able to travel it's whole length. The two of us truly were the KINGS OF THE ROAD for most of the trip.
Uyen's vehicles are a bit dated but reliable and in retrospect, I would have to say they are perfectly suited for a foreigner travelling in a land where the traffic regulations are very loosely adhered to. I asked Uyen to travel slowly and whilst it was frustrating in some instances, slow travelling on lightweight, low-powered motorcycles is THE BEST WAY for a 'westerner' to travel long distances in Vietnam.
THERE WILL BE OCCASIONS WHERE YOU WILL HAVE TO LEAVE THE PAVEMENT FOR THE ROAD SHOULDER AT VERY SHORT NOTICE!
In July 2010 the fee was US$65.00 per day (motorcycles & Fuel), plus your food and accommodation, which doesn't come to very much as they are all the things the Vietnamese use in their daily lives. Uyen secures the “local” price, not the “visitor” price.
Whilst I was visiting the "Citadel" in Hue, Uyen found my motorcycle had picked up a puncture in the rear tyre. When I returned it had been repaired and we continued on our way without interruption.
Uyen also provides Wet Weather Clothing (for the obligatory after-noon thunderstorms), Helmets, gloves and will provide, or advise, on your hydration needs whilst travelling. I recommend clothing that covers your arms and legs and sunscreen, plenty of water and vitamin or mineral supplements. Don’t travel without gloves, you’ll sun/wind burn your hands.
For meals: eat what the local people eat, you’ll enjoy it.
There are times when it's hard work. But the rewards are great.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but you will need motorcycle skills and a moderate level of fitness.
Ba Le Well
Also called Kiet Well, this well is one of the most famous ancient wells of the Cham people in Hoi An. It was dug around the 10th century and features a square mouth. It is a very special thing that only the water of this well can be used for preparing Hoi An speciality of Cao Lau noodles.
Ba Le Well is situated in the garden of Mr. Ba Lo Le, about ten meters from Kiet Gieng Lane (which links Phan Chu Trinh Street and Tran Hung Dao Street).
- Historical Travel
By the river bridge that crosses over to Can Am Island is the animal market.
The Market is located just around the corner in Bach Dang street. You walk into the market area from the river bridge road, where the Tin smiths workshops are. Just a short way in, and hidden, are the animal markets where you will see the chickens, ducks, pigeons and pigs for sale. There is plenty of wheeling and dealing going on by the buyers and sellers. Nobody seemed to mind me having a look and taking photo's.
I was the only Westerner here, everybody walked past the entrance, so I thought it was quite an interesting find!
It is on the side located nearest the river.
Location Bach Dang Street, Hoi An
- Budget Travel
My Son, My Son!
This place is an hour by car west from Hoi An and if it wasn't for the fact that it was a designated heritage site, I doubt if anyone would really spend and go out of his way to view this unless you're into history or archeology. The ruins aren't much and I could understand why previous visitors were not that impressed with the place. Perhaps if the local authorities would spruce up the area and somehow recreate how the sanctuary looked like in its days of glory then it would merit more "oohs and ahhs!". I do realize that the grounds surrounding My Son still has unexploded mines but the area is not that big so getting rid of mines, though tedious, hazardous and costly, should be a priority so the sanctuary can be better appreciated.
Entrance fee (as of July 2009) is 60,000 dong.
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
My Son (2)
The temple compound is divided into several groups marked by French archeologists with letters of the alphabet.
Each group comprised the following structures: a main tower (kalan), a gate tower, a meditation hall (mandapa) and a building for offerings. Some had also towers housing stelae with royal epitaphs.
Tourists usually start visiting the site from groups B and C. The decorative elements on the exterior walls, the motifs carved in the brickwork, are the evidence of the greatest skills possessed by the Cham artists.
Group A, although once probably the most remarkable, was almost completely destroyed by US attacks and what is left is a mere pile of bricks.
My Son is a definite "must" if you visit this part of Vietnam. Situated about 40 km from Hoi An in a lush green valley it is one of the most important archeological sites of Vietnam. Once the ancient centre of the kingdom of Champa, it is nowadays the UNESCO World Heritage site.
Although My Son cannot compare to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia, it is undoubtedly an evocative place of great historical value.
The earliest temple constructions come from the 4th century AD, but most structures whose remains we can see today were built around the 10th century AD.
The American war reduced a big part of the buildings to ruins. Some of the decorative elements and carvings that 'survived' the war have been removed to the Cham museum in Danang. But still the place makes a lasting impression.
The ticket comprises the transport to the sites, which are about 2 km from the ticket office.
Getting there was half the fun. We walked to the local bus station north of town. We enquired and were told that a bus was leaving at 10am (in a half hour's time) No probs! We waited by the bus, but an amercian guy put his pack on the bus & wandered off looking for cheap drinking water (he said they over-charged at the bus depot) Funny thing was, it left in 10 minutes, not at 10am. So we were OK - but this guy's pack was on the bus and not him!!!! We pleaded with the driver to wait, but not possible. What to do??? We didn't want to leave his pack unattended at the bus depot.
Meantime, our friend from USA rocks up at the bus depot and realises that the bus has left without him!!! He grabs a local with a motorbike, races after the bus and finally, all is well!
Moral to the story - don't leave sight of your luggage!!
The story goes that they have plundered the mountain for so much marble, they had to stop, or there would be no more mountain left, so the marble is now imported from China. The village of Ngu Hanh Son, at the base the mountains is lined with marble carving shops, selling everything from tiny charms up to huge monuments.
The "mountains" are actually a series of 5 marble & limestone peaks, which were once islands. They are named after the five elements - fire, water, soil, wood & metal.
The highest mountain, Thuy Son, is climbed by stairs built into the side of the hill. a lovely pagoda that can be climbed overlooks the beach and the views across the surrounding country are stunning, making it well worth the trek.
There are many caves & shrines to explore and these have become Buddhist sanctuaries. They also served as havens for the Viet Cong during the war.
One of the caves, Huyen Khing Cave has a high ceiling pierced by 5 holes. If you get here at around 11am-mid-day, you will see the sunlight filter through, illuminating the central Buddha -very "other-worldly".
Entry 15,000 dong.
My Son, the Champa Kingdom's Capital
My Son, the Champa Kingdom's Capital, is located about an hour from Hoi An, and can be reached by cheap tour buses or by private taxi. Cheap tour buses cost a few dollars but they all arrive at the same time, so when you visit, the archaeological site will be packed. Taxis cost about 20 dollars and give you the chance to explore the site in a less crowded and rushed way.
My Son was a center for spirituality and worship of Champa Kingdom, which had their spiritual influence from India. In the past it would have looked like a forest of ceremonial towers - now, after much of the site has been destroyed by bombing during the Vietnam war, only about 25 of the original towers are left standing.
A path leads you through the site and past all significant monuments, although the best one that you'll see is the first one you'll encounter, after walking up the hill past the entrance. The main temple here is dedicated to SHiva, while others were used to keep the sacred books and for ceremonial purposes.
Once you get to My Son you need to buy an entrance ticket (55000 dong, july 2007) before crossing the bridge. here your ticket will be checked and you'll be directed to some parked green jeeps, who will drive you to the "real" site entrance, still some kilometres far... uphill and through dense forest.
If you are in a Romantic mood the girl in the picture will take you for a row boat ride in the canal, on Thu Bon river but a more scenic tour is the motorboat ride. We took the ride from the old town back to our hotel. It was sunset and as it went dark, the lady navigating the boat seemed to lost her way, or got confused by the many fishing nets around. Instead of 30-40 minutes it took us more then an hour, but it was pure pleasure
Cua Dai Beach
Just 4 km away from downtown Hoi An is Cua Dai Beach. It's a nice stretch of white sand with calm blue ocean water lapping the shore. It's a pleasant respite from town as it gets hot in the mid-afternoon. During weekdays, roaming vendors seem to outnumber beachgoers and it's possible to purchase fresh fruit, massages, or beach toys to help you further indulge yourself on the sand.
There are a few different ways to get to Cua Dai. You can rent a motobike, have a motobike take you there, or you can rent a bicycle. I opted for the third choice and my guesthouse rented a bike to me for 20,000 dong ($1.25) for the day. It was a rickety piece with a basket on the front and I was the object of much jeering on the way to the beach and along my return. It did the trick though and it only took me about 20 minutes one way with Cua Dai being a straight shot out of town. There's a minimal fee for locking motobikes and bicycles at the beach.
- Budget Travel
Kim Bong Village
If you take the tour with the boat coming back from My Son then you'll end up at Kim Bong. This carpentry village is in Cam Kim commune, just on the other side of the river from Hoi An. Most of the architectural projects in Old Hoi An were constructed by the village natives. The furniture being made here is incredible and is available to be exported. Also of note, many of the fishing boats in central Vietnam are constructed here.
- Arts and Culture
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Have fun and fun!
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Budget Travel
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