20.11.2012 - 23.11.2012 31 °C
We boarded our bus for a trip of several hours down the coast to Hoi An. We stopped at a local market which sold everything from clothing
We continued our journey down this beautiful country with mountains on the interior and beaches stretching for hundreds and hundreds of miles on the east coast.
Our tour guide, Lee, became famous for his impromptu stops along the way whenever he spotted something of interest. One such stop was to see basket boat making up close. He had a chat with the local people to ensure we would be welcome and then we all trooped around to learn about these interesting little round boats which are very similar to the rudderless boats we saw in Wales which were called coracles. First they weave a mat
then fasten it to a frame
then coat it with water buffalo dung and then coat it with a resin they obtain from a local tree
The final product looks like this
Continuing on the way, we stopped at China Beach - the setting of the TV show of the same name.
There was a beautiful huge Lady Buddha on the hillside we could see from China Beach
Around noon we arrived in the quaint port town of Hoi An. Due to its location it was an area of very active trading over the centuries and you can see evidence of many cultures (Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Persian) in its buildings and architecture.
Dragons in front of a Pagoda
Quan Thang shop/house built in the late 17th century and carefully restored
We arrived at the lovely Glory Hotel to find flowers on the beds
and a spectacular pool
which we were too busy to take advantage of!!!
For dinner, we headed out to a cooking class at a local restaurant. We noted that a number of the restaurants offer this activity so it must be a popular one in this area.
Our group ready for our cooking class
The Chef/Teacher watching Roy wilt banana leaves over a flame to make them supple enough to wrap a piece of fish in for cooking on the BBQ.
Andrea, the Chef, Roy, Linda and Dave
Kent, the Chef, Phyllis and Nick getting ready to deep fry rice paper-wrapped rolls which we had all made.
To make the evening complete we celebrated Marilyn's birthday with a gorgeous cake.
The next morning we rose very early as we wanted to be the first visitors to the My Son Sanctuary - ruins from the Champa Kingdom (2nd to 15th centuries). When we left later in the morning we realized how wise Lee was to get us on the road so early because people were arriving in droves and it was a very hot day.
My Son Champa Ruins
Bas relief carvings on the exterior, likely done in situ. They used no mortar to hold these stones together and no one is positive how they were able to build these structures.
On our way out we were able to watch some local folk dancers.
On our way back, Lee spotted another opportunity for us to learn more about the local culture. This time he spotted a small shop making brooms.
Local people making brooms
Lee with newly manufactured brooms.
Right next door there was a little business weaving cloth on a very old, noisy loom.
In the afternoon we took a cyclo-rickshaw ride through suburban Hoi An.
Andrea, Marilyn and Linda
Hoi An seems a little more prosperous than some other communities we visited.
We did stop to visit with a local family of a man, his wife and two daughters. His wife had very red lips and black teeth from chewing the betel nut.
From the cyclo-rickshaws we boarded a small boat and took a cruise on the Thu Bon River.
and sailed back to the old town for dinner.
The next day we rose early, had another great breakfast and boarded our bus at 7am. The Da Nang airport is a lovely large very modern new facility and was not at all crowded at 9 in the morning. It had good WiFi so we caught up with emails. The aircraft was an ATR 72 Turbo Prop with a 2 and 2 seat configuration. It was a nice aircraft and was quieter than any of the previous Turbo Prop aircraft we have flown on.
Sue and Roy getting off the plane
The flight was just under 1 ½ hours and they gave us the usual bottle of water. It was a gorgeous flight right down the coastline of the East Sea which we often refer to as the South China Sea. Vietnam has pretty well a continuous beach for hundreds of miles all down this coastline. You can easily see the deltas created by the various rivers that flow into the sea. It is very flat near the coastline with a ridge of mountains running north south along the center and west of the country. It is lush and green after the rainy season. As we came to Nha Trang we could see that resort development is starting and this seems to be quite a tourist area. Apparently this is one of the areas that the locals will come for vacation. There is a great deal of fishing and fish farming in this area with the major products being shrimp, tuna, anchovies and lobsters. They have a huge lobster export market to Japan and consequently lobsters are very expensive here. They are not our East coast lobsters but rather the smaller speckled Caribbean warm water lobsters.
From the plane they take you by bus to the terminal.
Mercedes on the bus to the terminal
After collecting our luggage we boarded our small charter coach and drove for about an hour to the village of Xom Gio. Xom Gio is a small rural village of about 2000 inhabitants spread over a fairly wide rural area. Our tour company (OAT – Overseas Adventure Travel) has selected Xom Gio as representative of a typical rural community in this area that has not been invaded my tourists. In fact we are the only tour company to visit this village. Our small tour coach was even too large for the village road so we disembarked on a little rural road and walked into the village. We met the village chief who invited us into his home. His wife had cooked us an amazing multi course lunch.
Wife of the Chief cooking lunch
We all sat on little plastic stools at 3 make shift tables under the shade of the bamboo and frangipani trees in front of his house while the chickens scratched in the dirt beside us.
Mercedes, Michael, Dave G., Dave H., Linda
Bob, Nick, Roy, Andrea, Sue, Phyllis, Sim
Clockwise from left: Sherry, Kent, Patty, Bob, Andrea, Marilyn. Background: Roy, Nick
Village Chief and his family
After our lunch the chief and his wife held a questions and answer session with our group on a wide range of topics including the village’s history, culture and daily life. He also talked about social issues such as spousal abuse in the village and alcohol abuse. He talked freely about the Vietnam/American war. It was quite interesting as the chief was an officer in the South Vietnamese army during the war. He considered that a far far away issue now.
Although the family members are primarily rice farmers they also breed lizards which are considered a delicacy and excellent source of protein. They asked for volunteers to select, catch, kill, clean, cook and eat one of those critters. Roy, Dave H. and Dr. Bob were the adventurous ones to try out a lizard. After the first bite they all agreed that they were in fact quite flavourful and reminded them of chicken wings.
Roy selected and caught the lucky lizard
Over the past several years OAT has worked with the village chief to provide some financial assistance to four of the poorest families in the village to help the community upgrade their housing. Housing in the rural areas is extremely rudimentary and usually consists of a small concrete shell of a house with one central common area where people gather to eat and sleep. Due to the practice of cooking on an open wood fire, most of the time there is usually a separate small area for food preparation as well as an outhouse style structure outside the normal house structure.
After our visit to the chief we walked through part of the village to see a family who were making and selling baskets.
Andrea learning how to weave a basket
We walked on to a house where they were making chopsticks from bamboo.
We returned to our coach past more markets
and on to the busy streets of Nha Trang
and our hotel, the Angella Hotel, which seemed to be "wedding central" with a series of weddings being celebrated most of the time.
The next day we took another boat tour on a "drawing" boat
to a local fishing village
We had the opportunity to ride in a basket boat
and spent the rest of the morning on a lovely beach
We later visited the Long Son Pagoda
Interior Altar at Long Son Pagoda
which has a 79 foot tall white Buddha and was established in 1963 to honour monks and nuns who died demonstrating against the Diem goveunment of South Vietnam
After another long and facinating day we were ready to rest up for our trip the next day to the agricultural and university center of Dalat.