22nd February 2012
The journey on the night bus was comfortable enough, but punctuated with bumps that woke me from my slumbers from time to time. The boys slept through it all and needed some encouragement to come back to the land of the living as we pulled into Hoi An bus station.
The free taxi pickup was waiting for us and we loaded ourselves and our bags in for the short drive to the hotel. On arrival there was some confusion over the room booking. We were told that there was no double-double room and that there was a choice of two rooms (for double the price) or a family room for half as much again. When its 6 o’clock in the morning and you haven’t slept that well this was not a scenario that we wanted to be faced with!
The hotel staff were kind enough to bring us some orange juice and let is use their internet so that we could search around for some other accommodation. After making a short list of nearby hotels I hit the pavement with Osakr and we made enquiries. All of them were either fully booked or more expensive and so we decided that we may as well stay put (for today) so that we could all settle for some rest and recuperation – and a swim as the hotel had a pool.
The room was large enough with 3 beds, but smelled of damp and the mattresses and pillows were moist to the touch. All in all not a great start to our Hoi An experience. To their credit though, the hotel did not argue when we asked to move rooms and allocated us another family room on the ground floor that was much better, and a stones throw from the restaurant and the pool. Plus, there were 3 free cocktails each between 6 and 7pm.
Happy at last, we left the hotel for an exploration of the town on foot. After 30m or so we passed a lady renting out bicycles and on the spur of the moment we rented 3 for us, two with the extra seats on the back for the small boys. And then we were off into town, dodging the traffic and heading for the old town. We cycled round to the Japanese bridge and then found a place to park up the bikes so we could explore on foot. One thing was abundantly clear; getting to the old town from the hotel was easily achievable on foot, no bike necessary.
The old town of Hoi An is extremely pretty. The old buildings are painted in yellow and chinese lanterns adorn the street. We could not help but be charmed by this place as we followed the Lonely Planet walking tour guide to get acquainted with her. We can usually tell when we like a place as the numbers of photos we take run into the hundreds!! This town was definitely in this category and it is even more charming at night when the lanterns are all lit and the Japanese bridge is subtly illuminated. But more of that later…
After walking around for 3 hours and eating a fabulous lunch where we just ordered the first 4 things off the menu and then shared them between us – delicious spring rolls and pancakes, we got back on the bikes and cycled to the newer part of town where there are more hotels. We searched for accommodation at a more reasonable price but there was none to be had. We rapidly came to the conclusion that Hoi An, as well as being charming, was also an expensive place to stay – especially if you haven’t booked far in advance.
We dropped the bikes off and returned to the hotel for some rest before dinner. We chose the Mermaid for dinner (as recommended in the guide) and we weren’t disappointed – well actually the boys were as I had told them that the staff were actually half man half fish, Mateo rounding on me angrily when we arrived at the restaurant and exclaiming “They aren’t mermaids!”. Otherwise, the food was very good and after filling our tummies we took our tired bodies off to bed.
23rd February 2012
We decided to visit the Marble Mountains today a good 20km outside Hoi An on the way to Danang. We rented scooters from the hotel and helmets for all and set off along the coast road, passing super resorts and golf courses on the way. We weren’t quite sure exactly what we were looking for, but had a suspicion that they were some mountains made out of marble that were somewhere on the road that we were driving along.
Eventually, after what seemed like more miles than we should have done we spotted some rocks thrusting out of the ground with what looked like temples on top. No signpost indicated the way, and so using Zen and the art of navigation we took a likely looking road which led us to the rocks. One of the mountains had a glass elevator hanging off the side for a rapid ascent to the pagodas on top.
We rode down the main road, past shop after shop selling marble figures and statues, all with friendly locals shouting free moto parking. At last we arrived at the main ticket office and steps (marble of course) leading to the summit. The free parking was obviously with a catch – “You come my shop after, maybe buy something”. Not promising anything we bought our tickets and began the gruelling ascent, stopping every now again for the boys to be photographed, as usual :o)
The Pagodas were simple but tranquil set in leafy gardens, the wooden buildings accentuated with splashes of colour here and there
but to be honest the boys were really rather more interested in the caves where the incense smoke hung thickly in the air to give us some nice photo ops.
It was a really great place and well worth a visit. We enjoyed a good hour and half exploring the temples and caves before we returned to ground level and the awaiting marble sellers. A few dong lighter and richer by one marble turtle we climbed back on the motos and headed back to Hoi An and the hotel to grab our beach stuff for some fun in sand and surf.
As the sun sank lower into the sea we packed up and returned to the hotel to clean up and then, after a short detour to buy the night bus tickets to Hué, we hit the old town for some food, this time armed with the camera to snap the illuminations
and the boys lit lanterns to put into the river to float away on the current
Another lovely day drew to a close and we sped back to the hotel on our motos – which we had been made to park outside the old town as it is closed to traffic in the evenings – what a splendid idea!!
24th February 2012
The day was bright and sunny and we spent the morning lounging by the pool enjoying the warming pool and the heat of the golden globe. It also brought a very nice surprise the shape of Debbie, John, Brook and Lavina – the English family that we had met in Mui Ne. They had arrived on the night bus and were in the process of searching for a hotel. In the end, they settled into our hotel and joined us by the pool. After the shadow of the hotel cut off the heat we started to get moving and once again rented some bicycles, negotiating a half-day rate as it was already afternoon by now.
We cycled to the beach stopping now and then on the way to take some photos, and spent a few happy hours running in and out of the waves. Oskar and Luca chatted with a couple of lads that were trying to do handstands, and skim stones, and we played some football. As the sun began to sink we thought it might be a good idea to cycle home – not having any lights on the bikes! Our parting was put on hold as we espied Debbie, John and kids walking up the beach. We chatted for a while before finally heading back, and of course, we could not help but stop for more photos….
After a quick clean up we set off into the old town again for some food and to enjoy the calm, colourful and tranquil area of this pretty town before heading back to the hotel and bed.
25th February 2012
Our last day in Hoi An. After we had breakfasted it was back into the pool again. The children played happily together with our friends’ children for most of the morning after which we once again rented some bikes and set off to the beach. On arriving there, the wind was far too strong to be comfortable and so we dropped the beach idea and cycled back to the hotel. This time, however, we took the time to explore some of the side roads and alleys through the rice paddies and buffalo. Some people were working in the fields, and we saw one man fishing in a small pond, but otherwise the place was pleasantly quiet.
Back at the hotel again, to pack, again! We arranged to have dinner with Debbie, John and family at an Italian in the centre of the old town. The food was great, the wine good, and the company excellent. We certainly paid for the privilege as the meal was not cheap, but it was worth it.
After the restaurant we went in search of some Beer Hoi – or fresh beer. It is locally brewed stuff that is meant to be drunk straight away, rather than kept for any length of time. The best thing about it is it only costs 5,000 VND per glass. John and I set about drinking the place dry, and Tania and Debs hit the Dalat wine. Whilst we got better acquainted and definitely more merry, the children played out in the street by the river and occasionally surfaced to say Hi or to complain that one of them had done something to the other.
And as midnight came and went we weaved our way back up the street to the hotel and to bed, faced with an early morning wakeup and a bus trip to Hué. Thanks guys for a great night, and see you soon? Perhaps.