Mon, 15 Nov 2004
Day trip to My Son // at 23:59
No windows in the hotel room, freezing cold air-conditioning. What time is it? No idea. Time to get up yet?
Round to the Camel Café, each of these tour companies seems to have its own chain of shop-fronts and cafés, in every town we get to. A quick breakfast and onto the bus, sitting next to a Spanish guy who was having great difficulty understanding the guide's accented English — not really surprising, with the accent and the quality of the PA system, I think everyone was having trouble with the accent.
An hour and a half up to My Son, then two hours or so walking around the ruins. The mini busses and jeeps seemed to be taking forever to ferry everyone up the last kilometre of the road, so Jo and I walked, along with a number of others. Magnificent ruins of temples, lush undergrowth, only the sheer number of people around was a problem. A reminder that you can't really seem to travel freely the country, everyone arives en-masse in a coach, and its hard to get away from the idea that although you're free to visit, you're free to spend, you're quite constrained on where to visit, and where to spend. It also makes it hard to take those magnificent “temple against the jungle” photos, when there are fifty to a hundred other people all trying to do the same thing!
The largest temple of them all was apparently still intact until the 1970's when the Americans first bombed it, then landed a team of sappers to blow it up. The Vietnamese make a big deal of telling you how the Americans destroyed this world heritage listed building — what they don't tell you is that the Viet Cong were using the temples as a base, precisely because they believed the Americans would not attack them! Magnificent pieces of stone sculpture lie around, some displayed in buildings, some outside with labels, mostly just lying where they last fell. Amusingly poor signs in English tell some of the story, or just ask that you “...not climb on the tempes”
Back in the bus for the first 20km, then half of us got out for the boat trip while the rest stayed on. After quarter an hour of waiting around our transport arrived, another river boat trip, tasty noodle lunch and a journey down stream taking us first to “the clay pot island”, then “the wood boat island”. On the first of these we quickly discovered where all the thousands of tonnes of red clay plant pots in the world seem to come from, I've no idea how much clay is left in the island, but at the rate they seem to be making pots, they'd better start thinking about what to do when they've dug their island away! The wood island seemed to be the source of much of the world's outdoor timber furniture, it looks almost laughable when you see so much of it in one place at a time. The men wander around the workshops barefoot with a cigarette hanging off one lip, buzzsaws and sawdust all around, the women man the tills, selling the produce. Four or five fishing boats lined a construction line, from a bare set of ribs and framework to an almost finished boat. The one thing I didn't find out was how they move them from one stage to the next down the production line and eventually into the river...
Once back on dry land again it was beer time on the Hoi An waterfront, before heading off for another walk around through the markets to explore a different set of streets. Pure chance lead us to a great colonial-style hotel — annoyingly, I forget its name. Amazingly too, the Ramones were playing on their CD player. Definitely a sign to stop and have another beer — then some spring rolls. Very bizarre to be sitting in a tropical courtyard, sipping beer and listening to Ramones.
More walking, more shopping. Somewhere along the way I got completely disoriented and came back out of shop and turned left instead of right, starting to head back the way I'd come. Jo realised, I didn't, much confusion. Is it the northern hemisphere playing tricks on my sense of direction, or is it the beer? Some silk pencil cases and silk purses (no sow's ears) for presents, and Jo found a beautiful lacquerwork photo album for 95.000dong — we'd seen some others, but can't seem to find the right combination of size, colour, and price!
Pizza for dinner! A tasty passable pizza too at the Treats Café, lots of hustle and bustle, lots of travellers, a pair of German girls complaining about the size of their servings, then complaining when they were charged extra for larger serves. Is it the Germans always complaining, or do I just notice complaining Germans? Two other unlikely looking travellers were sitting at the next table, both meat-packers from Bordertown in South Australia, they'd just spent five weeks in India, which they said was very hard work but memorable, and were relaxing in Vietnam taking things easy.