|The old US Army checkpoint on the Hai Van Pass in torrential rain|
Well the car journey was uneventful and easy, though the view over the Hai Van pass was lacking due to the pouring rain, Top Gear did it in their own inimitable style here though in the opposite direction (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1zfuBgCUqY),
|View down the pass. The Top Gear boys had a better view, but even their trip wasn't in perfect weather (but better than ours!)|
|One of the big caves in Marble Mountain|
still, it was a nice drive and enabled us to stop for lunch, be taken to the marble carving shop by the driver in case we wanted to buy a lifesize statue to put in the backpacks and to stop at Marble mountain. This last we really enjoyed, it is a group of 5 peaks for earth, fire, water, wood and metal. We just wandered around for an hour going into and scrambling out of caves past Buddahs to viewpoints, all sorts. We did get just a bit lost and got back to the car slightly late but were forgiven by the girls as they wouldn't have gone there on their own, so everyone was happy and it was nice to be dropped off at our hotels after a comfortable journey, particularly as it was now pouring down.
|View from the top. At least it had stopped raining (well, almost!)|
|Full sized hand carved statue anyone? They will give you a 'very good price' or so they say!|
|It's raining in Hoi An!|
Due to the inclemency of the weather we ate in the hotel, and although it was no worse than any other meal it was a little more expensive, the options were a bit limited and there is a fab restaurant just at the end of the street! Food here has been most of the best we've had in Vietnam, lots of seafood and chilli!
|Still raining - a lot!|
|Hang on, it's stopped! That's the Japanese covered bridge, as depicted on the back of a 20,000 dong banknote|
|On the beach in Hoi An. That's a traditional fishing boat in the foreground, fancy going to sea in one of those, particularly in the swell you can see in the background! I like this photo, I think it's art (without the 'f'!)|
Out to the old town the next day, the whole area is a UNESCO heritage site with preserved old houses some of which are still lived in, some are now restaurants and shops, and temples. Motor traffic free for most of the day it is a lovely area. We didn't get far before rain stopped play and we retreated back to the hotel where we did manage to sit by the pool albeit fully clothed.
|Look at that for a splendid lighthouse|
The following day dawned wet, but by the time we'd eaten a huge breakfast the sun was out, so we hopped onto some bicycles and peddled off to the coast, all the way to the point at the end to find a lighthouse. B really wanted to go up it but despite the open door there was no sign of life so we prepared to head off, just chatting to a French lady when some random bloke asked if we wanted to go up, shouted inside and carried on his way. We were welcomed inside, minus shoes, given some binoculars and with strict instructions to shut the door behind us on our way down sent up. Good view, well worth the effort, and the $1 he charged us on the way out!
|Great view from the top of the Pacific and river and out to the Cham Islands, no diving at this time of year, the sea is too rough|
|How's the vertigo?|
|the vegetable gardens (allotments to me!)|
Deviated back via the 'vegetable garden' marked on the map, just for a look to find what looked like loads of allotments all looking healthy, lush and green and apparently growing just in sand! You would be so proud if yours looked like this! Life being hard as it is another 'chill' by the pool was called for, this time in the proper attire, B even went in!
|Water buffalo's in the rice paddies. 'Hey mum, it's a bit deep for little me!'|
|By the pool|
|On our free bike tour. The white statue they call a unicorn. bit different from our's|
We'd booked a free bike tour for Sunday with students wanting to practice their English, so 18 of us met up and cycled off ( it's very flat round here ) onto a ferry which was an experience in itself before going to a boat makers, a rice paper makers a family temple (where we played charades?)
|That's the ferry we came in on. Pack them in don't they? But I'm sure it's absolutely safe and there's nothing to worry about!|
|The boat building stop|
And a sleeping mat makers. AND a wood shop with some tiny kittens! It was interesting and we would never have seen these things on our own but we did feel like the parents in the group! Despite having slightly sore nether regions we decided to cycle round the old town and over to another island while we had the bikes (rental being an exorbitant $1 a day!) Before back to the pool, it was nice once you were in!
|And the rug making stop - I won't bore you with any more!|
|Hoi An river front. The whole town is like this, it's really very pretty|
Having cycled past a row of food stalls we decided to have a drink and a course at a few, this seemed like a really good idea, but we only managed 2 dishes, having expected 3 , perhaps it was the extra waiting time, or the fresh daily made beer at 17p a glass! Still room for ice cream though, 57 flavours we'd been told on our way past! It was one of those serve yourself places, give you a big cup and hope you'll fill it. We were both very restrained, only two small scoops each, still came to the same price at the main course and two beers! (£4)
|That's a soft shell crab pattie she's eating. A bit crunchy and bits of claw and leg got stuck in your teeth, but is was not too bad, and only $1 (£0.60)|
|See that Chinese writing on the pillar...|
So yesterday thought we really had better actually look round the old town which we did, trying to be careful as your ticket gets you into five of the twenty three possible venues, we managed more than that though as some just had no ticket collectors, including a free music and dance performance with some very strange instruments, a strange song version of bingo no one understood, but two people won and finishing with a song to the tune of Auld Lang Syne! Many of the houses had pulleys and hatches to move all the furniture from the ground floor to the first floor as nearly every year somewhere round October or November the rain causes the river to burst its banks. Fortunately we haven't experienced that!
|Each symbol is actually made from images of birds|
|Those yellow markers are heights of flood water, usually in Oct or Nov|
It's probably as well we are leaving tonight on the overnight bus (eek) as it would be very easy to spend lots of money, there are lots of nice souvenirs here and you can get clothes and shoes made to measure in the blink of an eye. It's all very tempting!
|One of the temples, just to give an idea. There were many of them!|
It's been a strange place, sociable in some ways, unsociable in others, we are 20 mins out of town (but that was a choice for an affordable pool) and except for one morning have been the only people at breakfast. In town however we have bumped into the young couple from our kayaking trip on Cat Ba Island two weeks ago, and an Aussie couple with a baby we met in Ninh Binh when they were having a bit of a holiday before he taught for a fortnight in Hue, we then bumped into them in a bar in Hue and then on Sunday we ran into them again here as they'd come for a day trip! It is one of the good and bad things about Vietnam, there seems to be a big tourist trail it's really hard to get off! As far as cheap living goes though we are rating it quite highly, the hotels we've stayed in have all been newer and of a better standard for the money than in Thailand or Malaysia and have all included breakfast which we found to be a really expensive meal if you wanted something Western or a tricky meal if you just wanted something recognizable. We are off season though which has helped with the price but has made the weather variable! I think I'd rather have a bit of rain than have it roasting all the time and it's not cold. Some people have complained about the service they've had which I think is unfair, there has been much more English spoken than we expected, and as ever, if you are friendly and polite to people they are friendly and polite back.