Hoi An Travel Blog› entry 10 of 15 › view all entries
Itâ€™s six thirty in the morning when our alarm clock starts doing its job. I donâ€™t feel like getting up because we were rudely awakened half way through the night by a text message from my best friend Justin. I guess he must have forgotten all about trivial things like time zones...
At eight we hop on our mopeds. Trudy and I share a Xe Honda, but Caroline does it the luxurious way, she has the night porter from our hotel, the Pho Hoi II Resort, as her personal chauffeur.
It has rained this night so it is nice and cool and we enjoy the rural hustle and bustle to the full, with the fantastic scenery as a perfect backdrop.
After almost 45 minutes we get to the Marble Mountains, which are actually limestone crags with marble outcrops. The five peaks of the mountains are important Cham religious sites and were used by the Communist guerillas during the Vietnam war for their view over the Da Nang airbase. We leave our transports at one of many shops at the base of Thuy Son mountain. Here the goods sold are not clothes, but marble statues in all sizes. Immediately we get dragged into the shop and therefor Carolines driver has earned his first commission of the day. At this point we arenâ€™t buying anything, first we want to visit what we came for, although we do not really know what it is we are going to see (apart from a mountain).
We climb the stairs, after we have paid the entrance fee, and at the top of the stairs we reach some sort of gate, that leads to the religious complex that the mountain shall prove to be. We encounter an old lady who is the proud owner of the blackest teeth I have ever seen in my life, due to a lifetime of chewing beetlenut I guess. The woman sells incense sticks and we buy a pack, I want my ancestors to be pleased too, you know. We burn the incense in the first temple we get to. Buying something is one thing, carrying it all day long is another. We climb another flight of stairs and follow the track that disappears between the rocks. It leads to a cave that contains several altars, shrines and some large Buddha statues, all carved from natural stone. Everything is lit by the sunlight entering through the holes in the ceiling that are still very large, but when the ivy continues growing the holes will get smaller every year I recon.
There are more stairs ahead and at the top of them stands a tower of seven stories. We go inside, after taking our shoes off, and here we find on every floor statues and carvings related to Buddhism.
Guess what we find when we leave the tower, right, more stairs. This one, too, is worth our while. The views of the countryside surrounding the mountain are magnificent, the party of bare chested overweight Germans not included. I do not mean to offend anyone by this, but we can at least respect the culture of the countries we are visiting and keep our clothes on (especially in and around holy places).
The next cave we visit is difficult to access and not worth the trouble, since there is nothing to see really. Quickly we move on to the last and most beautiful cave. From the stairs going down into the cave I can see the large hall, diagonally intersected by a clearly defined God Beam. The Buddha statue in the back wall overseeing an altar and a statue of the Bodhisatva Quan Am (a future Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy). My fingers start tingling, I feel like taking my whip off my belt, the Raiders March starts playing in the background and I start looking for that one precious artifact... Than Trudy snaps me out of it, asking how much time it can take a man to take one single picture. Back in reality we find out that we happen to be here at the exact right time, because the lighting is only like this between 11 am and midday.
Back at the base of the mountain it is very warm in the paved streets and we check out a couple of shops, the first reason is to see if they are selling something we like, the second reason is the cool shade indoors. In the end we buy a medieval Vietnamese warlord on a rearing horse, cut in one piece from black marble. At first the lady asks $80 for this beautifully detailed statue, but after driving a hard bargain (in my opinion) we have to pay only $30 for it.
We are back in Hoi An at 1.30 pm and after dropping off our things at the hotel we have lunch at the Banana Split Bar. The food, a tuna sandwich, is allright, but we are on our way again pretty quick, because we want to see a lot of things in the old part of the city today and time is running out. On our way to the Information Office we see a small lorry without a bonnet and with an open driverÂ´s cabin. These are very common in this region, but to us they remain a strange appearance. Once we have found the office we buy tickets to the tourist sites of the city.
Next we go to the Tan Ky house, which has been the property of an originally Chinese family for 15 generations now. The streets in this part of town are so narrow, that if I want to take a picture of the face of the Tan Ky house, I have to stand inside the shop on the other side of the road. The interior of the house isnÂ´t that impressive, except for the woodwork with laid in mother of pearl which is fantastically detailed.
Now, with a clear conscience, we can go and eat some pastries in the pastry shop that is in the same street. Sitting outside, enjoying our cakes we buy a newspaper from a man that has clearly been born with a disability that makes it very difficult for him to walk. Purely the fact that he is not begging, but working for his living makes us buy his papers. The man speaks English rather well and he tells us that he is living on his own and that he is doing quite well.
Still eating our pastries we see a man struggling with the bycicle chain that keeps running off his cart. Every few yards he has to stop and put it back on again. A pair of new cog wheels might come in handy...
We go back to the hotel for a little while, because Trudy has got a headache and she wants to get some shuteye.
Around seven pm I wake up Trudy and we go out again for dinner and to do some more shopping with Caroline. ItÂ´s ten when we get back to the hotel again, and we go to bed immediately.