Tuesday, February 16, 2010

lanterns and buses

Been a few days since I've posted anything. Things are going well, have just had some limited access to computers and internet. I just arrived this evening in Hue after a few days in Hoi An - it is incredible how different the change is now from the south up here in the north. On the bus trip we had to pass through a long tunnel that goes right through a mountain. When we entered we were in blue sky and sunshine and upon exiting the tunnel it was overcast drizzly and cold! Definite change from the last few days down south. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Friday night I experienced my first sleeper bus. Overall not the worst experience of my life, a bit jolty and bumpy and lots of horn blaring, but with the help of a couple sleep enhancements I managed to sleep the majority of the night waking up only about four times over the 12hr bus ride. We arrived in Hoi An at about 5.30am, a bit disorientated and groggy with no idea where they had dropped us off. One of the guys on the bus I had met earlier during the week so we decided to get a ride with some motorbike taxi's to help us find a hotel to stay at, as neither of us had booked anything over TET. This itself was an interesting experience. Normally I would always figure it out myself and find a hotel myself, but Hoi An is quite spread out and there isn't really a distinct area where accommodation can be found. So we jumped on the back of the scooters and they drove us around town to a few different hotels until we found one (third time lucky) that we thought was suitable enough (price, smell, internet, breakfast inclusions...). Let me tell you that it is a difficult thing to hang on to the back of a motorbike when you have a rucksack on your back, and a small day pack on your front without falling off, but we made it!! We ended up staying at the hotel Phouc An which was very very nice. In the end we decided to share a room to save both of us some money as the rooms are always twin beds, which worked out quite well.

We were both starving so had the hotel buffet breakfast (at 6am) followed by showers and then my friend went back to sleep and I decided to wander into town as I can't sleep in the day. I had a great time, and quite productive wandering around town. Contrary to popular opinion, I think TET is agreat time for people to travel actually, especially in Hoi An (apart from the escalated prices on everything) because it meant you weren't harassed by people. Hoi An is renowned for its tailors. And from my wanderings I would not hesitate to say that there's at least 100 and most likely many many more tailors within the main area of the town. Many were shut, but there were a few still open for business. I probably spent about 4 hours wandering around town, tried Cao Lao one of the local dishes at a street vendors before going back to the hotel. We had lunch and then borrowed the hotel's pushbikes which we were allowed to use for free to ride out to a nearby beach (approximately 5km). It was a nice drive but a bit crazy towards town because there were vendors and flower markets absolutely EVERYWHERE. With the exception of sydney flower markets, i've never seen that many flowers in one spot! They were for both TET and valentines day and the markets were packed to overfull because they would be closed for a few days after TET and everyone was getting last minute supplies.

Saturday night was TET, and I met some girls I had seen earlier in a tailoring shop who ended up being from Sydney (first sydney people i've met so far - everyone's from melbourne!!) and through them met some melbourne guys they were travelling with. We all decided to meet up for dinner at an awesome restaurant called the laugh cafe I think. Totally recommend it, it was brilliant (we went for a repeat dinner on sunday night we were so impressed). After dinner we wandered down to the river to watch the fireworks and celebrations for TET which was fun and beautiful. People were selling coloured boxes with candles that were placed into the river to float down. It looked beautiful but I couldn't help but wonder where the rubbish was all going to end up and the unlikelihood of it being cleaned up!! The fireworks at midnight for new year (the year of the tiger now!) were impressive but unfortunately many of them couldnt be seen through the significant smoke as there was no wind and all fireworks were being set from the one location. One of the guys described it like the smoke from a napalm (probably spelt that wrong) bomb!!

Hoi An itself is a beautiful town. It has been all decorated with hundreds and thousands of coloured lanterns which are pretty by day and gorgeous by night.

Sunday was a bit of a cruisy day, i slept in significantly and wandered around town and then rode to the beach again before dinner with my new friends. Many of the local sights were closed because of the new year holiday so unfortunately i never got to try white rose (a specialty dish of the area), or do a cooking class there. However on Monday morning before my bus to Hue I did manage to get up at 5am to do the 'sunrise tour' of the My Son ruins. It was quite ironic actually as we arrived there probably an hour after the sun rose in the end because they kept stopping for unnecessary things. then upon arrival sat us down to give everyone an educational session about the ruins. You could just tell that everyone just wanted to go and get on with it and take good pictures then figure that out later. It was pretty cool though, as it is set in a valley with big mountains and it was all misty. Beautiful, not hard to see why it has been UNESCO nominated for world heritage listing. There are some massive bomb craters left from when the Americans bombed the sight, partially to destroy them on purpose to bring down the moral during the war. They were built by the Cham people, and there is alot of mystery surrounding the towers like many in south east asia, as to how they were built. the language of the Cham has been lost, so inscriptions on the temples are not known. The bricks used on the towers are very smooth with no cement used to bond them together. The thought is that they may have used some sap from trees in the forest, but after many experiments by scientists they have given up trying to figure out how they did it!

After My Son I managed to get back in time for breakfast then just wandered around a bit, had some lunch then waited for the bus to pick us up to take us to our current location in Hue. The bus trip was pretty uneventful. Its pretty cool the different people you meet, I've been given some recommendations for places to stay over the various countries I'm visiting and good guides to contact as they are welcoming, honest and helpful.

This morning I'm just about to head off to do a cooking class at a restaurant a few of us went to dinner at last night, and then probably head over to the citadel. Get to learn some of the local specialities such á bun bo hue (rice noodle beef soup hue style), fresh and friend spring rolls. I am loving the food. ít terible i'm probably eating 4 times a day some times!!!! sooooooooo good the food!!

Current plan is to stay here in Hue for about 2 days then catch a sleeper up to Hanoi then onto Sapa and Halong Bay in either order. After that will head over to Laos and currently debating my method of doing so. I originally was going to fly but i might join a group of backpackers heading over the chinese border to Yunnan and get into northern láo that way!

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