Thursday, March 21st, 2013 – Hoi An and My Son Temple

Distance travelled today 0 kilometres – Total distance travelled 1385 kilometres

By ten in the morning, we had already eaten three breakfasts ! Because the tour left so early and we were supposed to come back after the hotel breakfast, we ate some bananas, mangoes and pomegranates at half past four in the morning so as not to starve.

The minibus finally arrived at half past five, so we did not see the sunrise over the temple anyway, but what could be done. The first thing the tour bus did was drive the group about five blocks away for, you guessed it, a breakfast. We all got a hot drink and a baguette with an omelette inside. Then we finally set out for My Son, to see the remains of some temples of the long defunct Cham kingdom. It is said that the Cham were very dark-skinned and that their descendants still survive in a few settlements around the area.

We just missed the first light of dawn, but it was still quite dark when we arrived. Just as night falls very quickly, daylight arrives with the same speed.

In daylight (!) the remains of the temples themselves are remarkable, but not as remarkable as they once were.

During the conflict, the Viet Cong used them as a base and so the Americans bombed the whole thing. If you consider what still remains, the pre-conflict ruins had to have been even more impressive. The bricks were assembled and then stuck together with tar or gum from the trees, no cement was used anywhere.

Today, unfortunately, the site also includes huge bomb craters. At the site of the main temple, which towered for eleven centuries to a height of 28 metres, only a pile of bricks remained …..

We had a sympathetic and knowledgeable guide, but at times not even David could understand his strongly Vietnamese accent. We did understand the basic point though, namely that all Hinduism is about procreation, because that makes Shiva happy and what would one not do for Shiva ? We saw a number well preserved statues and carvings and quite a collection of stone lingams, which, according to David, is simply a penis.

The tourists in our minibus were multinational. In addition to the two of us and the Vietnamese driver, there was a four-member group of stereotype reinforcing Germans, a couple that David thought were Dutch and two Americans. The Americans and Germans drove with us back to Hoi An. The Dutch were dropped off on a deserted bank of the river with the promise of sailing trip. There were no ships or boats nearby, so we promised them that we would tell people from their embassy where they were last seen. Luckily, we did not have to keep that promise, we met them again, at around seven in the evening, at the reception. They said the river trip had been nice.

Instead of a river trip, when we got back to our hotel, they were still serving breakfast and we were happy because it was very good indeed.

For the rest of the day, but not necessarily in this order, we slept, read, shopped, had a dress made for me, took a taxi to the beach, stayed there, found that we had chosen the worst weather we had seen so far to sunbathe, drove back, handled our email and looked for the instructions for the following day’s trip. Just writing it all down was exhausting.

First we went to the dress shop where I explained to the proprietress and her daughter that I basically wanted a new dress that was exactly the same as the one I was wearing. It was a bit old and getting thin, but I really liked the style and the proprietor claimed she could reproduce it exactly. Suffice it to say it was an accurate claim. David was fussed over and pitied in the shop because of his still visible injuries. I was just a customer. The ladies set to work with tape measures and had recorded my size in what seemed like only a few seconds. It took longer to choose the material for my new one !

Before heading to the beach, we went looking for a bookstore, because David had finished reading his book. At “Randy’s Bookstore”, we soon learned that the owner was an American with a large motorcycle. As soon as we saw his photo, we realised that he was the one who showed us the way to the Japanese Bridge the previous day. Hoi An was just so small. Needless to say he greeted us as “the two who could not find the Japanese bridge in Hoi An“.

The sea was blue and the sand was fine and soft, but we are not really “beach people” ! We sat there for a while but remain mystified as to why people spend time doing it. It was hot and dry and we could not wait to leave.

After returning from the beach and only four hours after first visiting a dress shop, we picked up my new dress. This was, as promised, an exact copy of the one I was wearing. In the end, however, the lady and I had a nice chat. She practically forced her business cards on us and I had to promise her that I would recommend her. So I recommend her here. When you go to Hoi An, be sure to take your favourite clothes and have new ones made according to them. For the very high standard of workmanship, my dress was very cheap, but if they make three garments, the third is at a discount. I only had one made and David was sure that I would come to regret it. (Note from the author: after a year I started to regret it).

We relaxed a bit before taking an evening walk. We decided on dumplings for dinner. It took us a while to find the dumpling seller, but in the end it had moved to the only logical place, the dock where the ships were loaded. The streets were absolutely was full to the brim with mopeds and people going home from work.

We accompanied the dumplings with some drinks and after dinner we found another restaurant with delicious desserts. Happy Buddha !

Back in the hotel, knowing we needed to get up early in the morning, we were soon asleep after a long day !