A Travellerspoint blog

My Son & Last Night in Hoi An

sunny 32 °C

The Kingdom of My Son is remnants of the ancient Cham civilisation that called this area of Vietnam home between the 2nd and 15th centuries. Although their ancient cities are now abandoned the descendants still live in Vietnam and we even met some of these friendly people during our time in the Mekong.

My Son was an establishment dedicated to intense religious study and was also the site where Cham Kings were crowned and buried. Monks were the only people allowed to permanently dwell in the actual city, although villagers from the nearby communities could visit freely.

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It feels pretty special, maybe even spiritual to be visiting a site with such a rich history and culture attached, unfortunately though that feeling is quickly extinguished when you are but one in a crowd of hundreds of tourists with their hungry cameras and sweaty bodies clambering around you to get a good position to hear the guide recite his daily facts that he so noticeably finds monotonous. Although maybe I’m just disappointed I couldn’t explore uncharted ruins like Indiana Jones. Apart from the sea of tourists it really is beautiful.

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^^ Crowded
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Unfortunately, like most things in Vietnam, it was also an adopted field-headquarters for the Viet Cong and consequently the Americans sent in the B52’s. About 90% of the ruins were turned into craters and those that remained are undergoing delicate restoration.

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^^ The rubble
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^^ Exploring!! :)
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I would still definitely recommend visiting My Son as the feeling of being inside an area that was once teeming with ancient culture is still very much in the air around you, albeit competing with the body-odour of the abundant tourists.

That afternoon we visited the market in Hoi An and just chilled out on the river front, hopping from bar to bar all evening.

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^^ Hoi An Market
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At one point a local woman selling various roasted nuts and banana approached us. She was full of complements; exclaiming how handsome I was, and how beautiful Kirby’s eyes were, suffice to say we ‘fell’ for her and ended up buying some of her banana, for which she was quite happy as it was her first sale for the night.
About half an hour later she returned with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. She had returned to thank us and shake our hands as apparently we were good luck for her and just down the road she sold 10 packets of peanuts, 5 bottles of tiger balm, and a few packets of bananas. She was so pleased with her sales and thankful for the luck we had bestowed upon her that she wrote down her address and invited us to her house for dinner tomorrow night with her family. A really kind gesture, unfortunately this was our last night in Hoi An before we head to Hue, so we couldn’t have dinner with her :(, fingers crossed she is still doing well!

Tomorrow we set our sights to conquering the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam, Hue.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 04:15 Archived in Vietnam Tagged ruins vietnam hoi_an my_son hoian myson b52 Comments (1)

Hoi An and the Crazy Woman on the Bus

sunny 30 °C

Last night we took the sleeping bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An. Believe me when I tell you it was the most horrendous experience we have had so far haha. Where do I even begin?

In theory the idea of a sleeping bus is great; a bus full of bunk-beds that travels during the night while you sleep and you wake up in a new city, awesome!

Where this theory breaks down is... when the air-con is not working and the bus has no windows, when the bus is so overcrowded that locals are sleeping on the floor (the lucky ones in hammocks hitched between two bunks), when the man sleeping on the floor keeps grabbing and touching you all night, when the toilet door latch is broken and slams every time the bus turns a right corner, when the driver beeps the horn every 10 seconds to warn the motorbikes to get out of the way or die, when a German woman brings her three kids under the age of seven on a 13 hour bus ride.

Before I continue let me just tell you about this German woman. She was travelling alone with her three children or ‘babies’ as she so whiningly called them. She had a clipper number 1 shaved head, along with her two little girls and boy. Her outfit consisted of loose hanging shrouds and sarongs, minus shoes and bra, of course. The children were wearing what looked like tea-towels that just hung off their bodies; the poor seven year old girl was struggling to keep her body covered as her dishtowels flopped around with a mind of their own, why isn’t she dressed properly and at school?
It was actually quite disturbing to see, and if this woman was in Australia I can guarantee she would be getting a knock on the door from child services, especially if they saw all the kids and her lining up and squatting next to the bus because the use of the toilet cost 20 cents. This isn’t even the worst, wait for it.
When we were hopping on the bus she told her kids to hold our hand and pretend that Kirby and I had two children, what the fuck??!
Apparently she hadn’t bought tickets for the kids because an adult can travel with 1 child for free if the child shares the bed. So here we were standing on the bus waiting to get to our bunk with a German woman’s ‘babies’ hanging onto us and her begging that we take one of her children each. Obviously we politely said ‘hell no’ and left her to the bus drivers mercy, or lack thereof. After a heated yelling match between her and the driver she had to pay an extra $20 for the kids to get a bed (our 8 open tickets from Saigon to Hanoi cost a combined $38). Who was she kidding though? Of course there wasn’t going to magically be two beds that weren’t occupied, especially when people are sleeping on the floor. So as predicted 5 minutes later two guys hopped on and politely kicked the kids out of their bed and she was left with 3 kids lying on top of her minus $20, and you can imagine what shenanigans went on when three kids are stuck in 1 bunk for 13 hours.
Suffice to say the bus ride was hellish and I wanted to scratch the word ‘sleeping’ from off the side of the bus when we finally made it to Hoi An.

On a lighter note, Hoi An is beautiful and I’m really glad we weren’t disappointed because I was ready to throttle the life out of the next street rooster that cock-a-doodle-doed.

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^^ Hoi An street

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^^ All the buildings in the old district are heritage listed

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^^ An old junk, nestled in the river that runs through the heart of Hoi An

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^^ Hanging out on the bridge

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^^ Playing with the camera

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^^ Looking across the river

When we hopped off the bus we wandered around for a while looking for an affordable guesthouse to stay at. That is when we met a nice lady who kindly guided us to a good cheap hotel ($10 a night) in the middle of the market/old district, where all the attractions are. Little did we know that she owned a tailor store that made custom suits, and her helping us was to ensure our custom later that day. Neither of us wanted anything made so that put us in a bit of a bind. We tried to avoid her but she hunted us down on the street and when we told her we didn’t want to buy anything from her she got fairly angry at us and was unreasonably rude, what she didn’t know was how rough our night had been and Kirby was most definitely not ready to take any shit, and with a selection of uncompromising words and matching body language Kirby put the woman back in her place, something she probably wasn’t used to after always dealing with timid travellers out of their comfort zones.

After a fairly eventful previous evening and day we were ready for some relaxing and thankfully Hoi An is the town famous for its 2.5 cent beers, yeah you read correct, two and a half cents for a beer! Not many bars in Australia give you change for 5 cents haha :).

Tomorrow we are off to My Son, the remains of an ancient Cham civilisation.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 08:10 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus vietnam hoi_an hoian sleeping_bus crazy_lady Comments (3)

Nha Trang

sunny 35 °C

Nha Trang offered us a place to relax and unwind. It sounds weird, unwinding on a holiday? Doesn’t really make sense to me either but there is something about constantly doing tours and sight-seeing that is tiring. We definitely needed a ‘veg-out’ session and what better place than on the beach lounging around sipping cocktails by the pool.

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Literally all we have done for 4 days is sit around drinking and chilling out. The first day in Nha Trang we found a really nice beach front bar called Louisiane Brewhouse with a pool and luxurious mattress clad lounge chairs on the sand. We just sat around drinking $4 cocktails until we were hungry and then we feasted and then we drank more cocktails and the cycle continues. At night we would head up to a few bars/night clubs and enjoy the atmosphere.

In Nha Trang we also discovered the $5 vodka. We were initially drinking $4 cocktails until we realised that you can buy a 700ml bottle of 40% vodka for $5!!! So that kept us occupied for a while :)

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On the third day we decided we should do something so we headed off to the Thap Ba mud baths and hot springs. Pretty cool, it involved more sitting and relaxing…

That night at one of the bars we met a cool guy; I’m almost certain his name was Killy, but I could be wrong, anyway we just played Jenga and hung out with the coconut, apple, and mint shisha.

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^^ Keeping up with times
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^^ Feasting on Pho Bo
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So now it’s the fourth day and we are recharged and ready to get back to the tourist trail. We booked a sleeping bus to Hoi An. Fingers crossed Hoi An will offer you a more exciting blog as we get back on track.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 23:13 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach vietnam shisha nha_trang Comments (1)

3 Day Easy Rider Tour Dalat to Nha Trang - Day 3

sunny 30 °C

Good Morning World! It is the 8th of April and day three of our three day Easy Rider adventure from Dalat to Nha Trang.

Here is a rough map of the adventure we have been undertaking (google doesn’t have all the villages):

Today we are heading out of the mountains and down to the coast to our final destination, Nha Trang. On the way we stopped at some rubber tree plantations, cocoa farms, and pepper farms.

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^^ Rubber tree plantation
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^^ Collecting the rubber sap
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^^ Cocoa plant
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^^ Kirby learning about cocoa
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^^ Pepper drying
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^^ Freshly picked pepper
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^^ Dried pepper

One of the really cool places we stopped at was a wood furniture store. The men go out to the forest and collect the tree stumps and roots that fell victim to Agent Orange and illegal logging. They carve the most beautiful tables and chairs, dressing tables, and statues. You can pick up a full set of table and chairs, hand carved for around $400.

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^^ Dressing table in construction
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^^ Seat in construction

Most of the day was spent on the road as we had a fair few kilometres to cover before we hit the coast. The road we were travelling on used to be the US army’s major transport thoroughfare through the central highlands to support the northern bases at the frontline, and as a consequence it was the most ambushed mountain pass during the war. This unfortunately means it was also one of the most heavily Agent Orange sprayed areas in Vietnam and the landscape was noticeably scarred by the deadly toxin. In some places you could even make out the flight path of the plane, with rainforest on either side of a desolate poison highway.

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In recent years the land has now been able to support cultivation of rice fields as the poison sinks deeper into the soil; beneath the roots of the rice plants. However, when it comes to the rainforest in the area it is a different story.
Basically the forest grows normally until it reaches a certain height and the roots touch the Agent Orange that is sinking down into the soil. When the forest reaches this level everything dies and the once blossoming rainforest becomes a defoliated barren tragedy, a stark contrast to the rainforest we encountered in the deep Mekong. As you pass through this area an eerie feeling that something is missing niggles at your mind. It took us a while to work out what it was; birds. We didn’t encounter, nor hear, a single bird our entire time passing through this area, a strange occurrence considering there was no cities nearby or any other obvious reason for there not to be birds; obviously another fallout effect of the war.

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What the local people are now doing, instead of watching the forest continually struggle with dying and recovering, are planting Australian gum trees along the affected hillsides; as they grow tall before their roots hit the Agent Orange; they then cut them down and sell the wood. This is only temporary though, as the government has a strong stance on revegetating the devastated lands when the poison sinks further down and they are able to mend the forest. If only the DNA of the people could be mended to stop such a high occurrence of birth defects.

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Finally after a long day on the bike we exited Rotuong Pass where the rail, road, sky, and sea meet on the outskirts of Nha Trang. It is prawn farms galore around this area and we stopped to chat with some local fisherman and prawn farmers. Just as TiTi and Kirby were driving off to head into Nha Trang city Hiep mentioned that I had Science degree with a focus on animals and that I had also done some study on aquaculture and marine biology. As it turns out every single fisherman needed someone like me to work on their prawn and fish farms, and they were all gunning for me. After 35 minutes, some awkward laughing on my behalf, and about a thousand handshakes I had guaranteed myself a lifetime of work if I ever decided to stay in the area. Meanwhile in the city Kirby was having visions of a squashed Kyle on the road as we were considerably late. Thankfully I wasn’t squashed, just flustered from all the attention :).

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^^ Rail
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^^ Meets the road, sky, and sea

So this was it, we had arrived in Nha Trang after 4 days of action packed adventure with the Easy Riders. A few big hugs from the guys later (very cute) and we were all alone in our hotel room, left to reflect on what was our best experience in Vietnam yet.

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I would recommend for anyone and everyone to take a chance with the Easy Riders, they certainly aren’t a gimmick or a rip-off, and they provided us with insight into the history, culture, and way of life of the Vietnamese people that we would never had acknowledged had we not tore up our bus ticket from Dalat to Nha Trang.

Hiep and TiTi were amazing chaperons with great English, and the whole experience felt more like hanging out with two old friends than tour guides. So if you ever find yourself in the mountain town of Dalat in the central highlands of Vietnam, search out these guys, you won’t be disappointed!

Tomorrow we explore Nha Trang, and rest our weary bums, haha.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 22:34 Archived in Vietnam Tagged road_trip dalat poison nha_trang easy_riders agent_orange easy_rider titi hiep motorbike_tour toxin rotuong_pass aquaculture Comments (1)

3 Day Easy Rider Tour Dalat to Nha Trang - Day 2

sunny 33 °C

Last night we stayed in Buon Jun village and it was awesome. Not the best night’s sleep but a true experience. The sounds all night from the buffalo, pigs, dogs, and chickens was like listening to Mother Nature’s iPod, and I had a real sense that I was definitely making the most of this homestay.

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The morning began with breakfast at a little café outside of the village as we watched elephants and their mahout’s pass by.

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After our bellies were full of rice we headed out for the day. First stop was a brick factory. It was surprisingly run by mostly women but they were churning out huge amounts of bricks! How it works is they dig up heaps of clay from nearby and throw it into a pressing machine that spits out the long wet brick, and then the brick gets a fancy insignia rolled onto it and is cut by string into smaller more manageable sizes. The video gives you a better idea than me trying to explain it. I’ve never seen bricks get made, maybe this is the standard way, either way it was pretty cool.

  • * The Video Will Come Later When The Internet Is Not So Crap **

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Just down the road from the brick factory is the ancient Giang Son Catholic Church. Apparently during the war it was a big beautiful hideout for the Vietcong so the Americans bombed the shit out of it and only the front of the church survived. Now it just stands as a relic amid the rice fields.

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^^ Local boys admiring the tourists
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^^ These two ladies fell off their overloaded bike and thought it was hilarious, so I took a photo

A little further down the road we stopped and visited a sugar and mushroom producing family. During our time looking at the sugar being produced I noticed one of the family members slowly walking behind us before re-joining the rest of them sitting around the table, then the next one would stand up and nonchalantly wander behind us. When the next person did it I thought something was suss and watched her out of the corner of my eye. Turns out what they were doing was one-by-one walking past and admiring Kirby’s white skin. When we were leaving one of the girls came over and told Kirby that her blonde hair and white skin was stunning and she was very beautiful. Blushing occurred. On a side note – you have to be really careful what skin creams/sunscreen you purchase while in South East Asia as it is common for them to contain bleach to whiten your skin.

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^^ Sugar! Hiep and TiTi grabbed a big block for us both and were like 'try it' so we were walking around suckling on a huge chunk of sugar, my pancreas hurt.
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^^ Mushrooms - yummy!

Back on the bike for more riding through the beautiful countryside before we entered Eatling National Park. A striking, protected, open-woodland full of waterfalls and swimming holes. We visited Gia Long waterfall and then headed off to cool down. Getting to the waterhole was a challenge in itself. Hiep and TiTi wanted to take us to a swimming hole that we would have all to ourselves and that meant going a bit off the beaten track. Turned out we had to descend down the side of the hill/mountain before reaching our oasis. It was heaps of fun but a bit scary as a fall could result in some serious damage in a remote location. But since I’m writing this we didn’t die :).

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^^ Hiep guiding us to the water hole, haha
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^^ Eatling Park
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^^ Gia Long Waterfall

After cooling off and chilling out we just walked around taking pictures and admiring the landscape, we also ran into a park ranger. When you imagine a park ranger you think of a man in a ute, with a wide-brimmed hat and a walkie talkie. In Vietnam the park rangers are decked out in full military apparel and wield massive machine guns and machetes. Fairly intense, but around here there is a lot of illegal logging and what better a deterrent than a machine gun?!

It was now nearing the end of the day and we found ourselves in Buon Ma Thuot where Hiep and TiTi treated us to a 4 star hotel, the best we have been in all trip! Good times, good times.

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^^ As you enter Buon Ma Thuot
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^^ Feasting on Spring Rolls

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 21:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged churches children road_trip vietnam feasting dalat easy_riders machine_gun easy_rider titi hiep motorbike_tour buon_jun brick_making giang_son eatling_park gia_long Comments (0)

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