Monday, April 30, 2007

Day 22-27: Learning every day

Hoi An continued to live up to our expectations, and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this cultural town. The architecture of the village is protected by international heritage law, preventing old buildings and structures from being ruined or replaced, and modern architecture is not to be constructed. As a result, Hoi An is consistent in its artistic beauty, making it an especially romantic, warm, attractive and enriching place for tourists to fall in love with. Unfortunately, the effect is a town targeted towards tourism, where prices tend to stagger over the years and the Vietnamese of Hoi An see every opportunity to make an extra dollar from all visitor to enter the town. Freelancing motor bikers are standing in every corner of the streets yelling ‘motobike’, twisting their wrists as if they were accelerating the throttle, repeating ‘motobike’ over and over until the next tourist walks by, and the process starts all over again. The result is a constant mantra of ‘motobike’ throughout the town.

On our third day the tourism of Hoi An became even more apparent when we booked a tour to the My Son archeological site. Although we have witnessed numerous Cham temples on our journey so far, we still had to pay a visit to the largest, most famous of them all – the Cham temples at My Son. We were picked up at 5:00 to make it to the sun rise over the temples, but before all tourists had been picked up, every seat of the bus filled, all groups of tourists gathered and seated at a restaurant to purchase an over-priced breakfast and the guide had calmly finished his soup, the sun had risen way above the mountains. Disappointed we were lead to the site like a herd of cows, and the guide monotonously started informing us about the history of My Son like he has done so many times before. At that time we realized how spoiled we were, traveling through the country on bicycles, seeing and experiencing things many other tourists never could dream of. We promised ourselves not to go on any more tours in Vietnam.

However, like other tourists we wanted to make use of the tailors of Hoi An. I had two T-shirts made, two caps, and a summer dress for my girlfriend. We also did extensive shopping in the Hoi An market, buying few souvenirs and gifts at bargain prices. We have developed excellent skills of bargaining and price negotiation. In other countries of South East Asia you must always bargain when purchasing clothes and souvenirs, but in Vietnam you must negotiate every purchase, even when buying water at a food stand, or getting an ice cream, or paying for breakfast on the road, or renting two chairs at the beach, or buying dinner in a small village. The Vietnamese people are very friendly and helpful, but they are also smart and do not miss an opportunity to make an extra dollar. Consequently, the prices vary tremendously throughout the country, and you must pay extra attention to when you are being fooled or tricked. We have paid 3000 Dong (Euro 0,20) for a whole branch of bananas consisting of 20 small bananas, but in urban areas you can easily pay double just for one banana.
Getting up on our day of departure from Hoi An was difficult since we now were used to sleeping in after three days of rest and recovery. Our bodies hurt, but not from exercise, more from staying out late at night and enjoying 3000 Dong (Euro 0,20) local fresh beers. On our last night in Hoi An we had made dinner at one of the local restaurants with instructions from the head chef. It was great fun and we learned a lot about Vietnamese cooking as well as drinking fresh beer at a rapid pace. Nevertheless, we were on our way, cruising along the deserted road next to the Cua Dai beach before lunch, heading towards China Beach, about 25 kilometer north of Hue and 10 kilometers east of Vietnam’s fourth largest city, Danang. The road was newly built and carried us quickly to our destination despite tired bodies. Arriving at China Beach was exactly what we wished for. We checked in, rehydrated and walked 30 meters to see a huge open beach, stretching as far as the eye can see. The turquoise water was foaming as one to two meter waves crashed into the shore. After lunch we swiftly rushed back to the hotel, borrowed a pair of surfboards and tried out the immense waves.

The next day was going to be our last beach-stop traveling north on Highway 1A; Lang Co Beach about 30 kilometers north of China Beach. Lang Co Beach has nothing special to offer but for a secluded beach and lots of Japanese tourists who apparently cannot swim, thus we took the opportunity to relax and update our dairies. Every morning when we have pedaled out at 6:00 we have just missed the sunrise. Therefore, on the day we set course for Hue, we decided to begin cycling at 5:00. We lived up to our promised, but the weather Gods thought differently, and this morning the sky was covered with clouds, not letting a single beam of light through. Instead, we were blessed with an extraordinary beautiful landscape all the 65 kilometers to Hue. Before entering the city, we stopped to have a chat with some young boys walking a herd of bulls. I find it amazing how a small ten year old boy, with nothing but a weak whip, can handle a group of large animals weighing up to a ton each. We were impressed by their herd of bulls and skills, and they were equally excited and awed about our bicycles. A fair trade of experiences took place.

Hue is another tourist paradise and we were not up for crowding with hundreds of other people, looking at the same thing at the same time. In one afternoon we finished the necessary attractions and decided to make our own tour the next day, cycling along the Perfumed River. The following day, after lunch at the river bank with a breathtaking view, and three Vietnamese coffees each we crossed the Perfumed River to explore the other side where tourists rarely set foot. Cycling around the isolated villages was fascinating, but also very demanding as children ran after me, screaming “Helloooo”, pulling my bicycle, jumping onto my rare rack, smashing it with sticks, and finally I had had enough, and wanted to pedal back to the hotel. Unfortunately, we had been so caught up cycling the landscape that we had lost our way, and to be able to get back we had to find someone willing to take us back across the river. Finally we found an elderly woman who charged us 10000 Dong (0,60 Euros) to take us and our bicycles on her small, narrow canoe, which could capsize at any time. Luckily, we and our bicycles made it alive back to the hotel.
Now we have just arrived in Hanoi after a long, but comfortable bus ride. At our arrival I headed for the Chinese embassy to apply for my Chinese visa. I wanted to leave as much time as possible for the authorities to process the paper work. To my astonishment, the embassy was closed due to a Vietnamese holiday and do not open until another 10 days. Stay tuned.



  1. Has it been that many days already? Wow, time flies. Great pictures.

  2. Hey Dan

    Great to see you are having so much fun! The pics are unreal!! It's defintely making me remember what it was like there. Anyhow, we're keeping a track of your travels, and am so envious! Great site!!!! Keep up the great reviews!

  3. what a phantastic project - very brave of you. Great pictures, very interesting diary. I envy you!

  4. Thanks for your comments! I will do my best. Keep checking in! It will only get better.