Hoi An Old Town and beaches have been wonderful and it was hard to tear ourselves away but we decided to go on a day trip to take in the famous Marble Mountains. We hired a scooter from a local family near the hotel and made the 20km journey up the coast towards the city of Danang. That’s after we fell victim to the classic petrol scam whereby the attendant fails to clear the pump usage back to zero before pumping ours. This results in us getting half the petrol that we paid for. The guy was relatively aggressive and ‘spoke no English’ so we let it slide. Apparently these little scams happen frequently in Vietnam and can include getting incorrect change at restaurants and catching taxis with rigged meters that run fast. It’s only usually a dollar here or there but it gets tiresome.
The road to Danang is well paved and has a dual carriageway but the driving is still completely out of hand. You share the roads with water buffalo, bicycles, speeding cars and almighty juggernauts. People drive way to close to you or better still, drive at you on the wrong side of the road. All the while you are immersed in a cacophony of incessant horn beeping, shouting and bike motors. It’s an experience that keeps us on our toes.
The Marble mountains are a set of 5 craggy marble hills that punctuate the otherwise flat landscape just 10km south of Danang. Each mountain is named for the natural element it is said to represent; water, wood, fire, gold, earth. Thuy Son, the mountain that we visited is the largest and most accessible.
It has a number of natural caves linked together by walkways.
The caves contain Buddhist shrines and a full representation of heaven and hell, with grizzly looking depictions of torture in the base of the cave and a heavenly view at the top of an insanely steep staircase.
The surrounding gardens are adorned with wonderful flowers, ponds and beautiful pagodas with stunning panoramic views out to China Beach.
We saved the best for last with Huyen Khong Cave which has a small corridor leading to a cathedral like space illuminated by natural light.
The shafts of light glowing upon the Buddhas and Cham carvings made the place feel very atmospheric.
We had a great time exploring the area before heading back to the hotel for a well earned dip in the pool.
The weather here is amazing but incredibly warm and we start sweating upon immediate exposure to the sun which means we are getting through t-shirts at a rate. We also have a knack for spilling ice cream and other street snacks down ourselves frequently which can’t help with laundry turnover.
We walked into town in the evening which is such a magical experience. The old town’s pedestrianised lanes are bustling and the buildings are illuminated by a mass of colourful lanterns.
Hoi An just glows and it’s impossibly romantic. The river dissects the old town and everyone takes to their rowing boats as the sun goes down.
The water reflects the colourful hues of the lanterns everywhere and women sell candle lit lanterns that you can buy and release on the water. We made a couple of wishes before setting ours free to float away.
All the heritage buildings boast open air terraces which make them perfect for sunset cocktails or dinner with a view. We found a quiet little restaurant with amazing people watching and great food. Vietnam is definitely up there in producing some of the best food we’ve had on this trip and each region has its own specialities. Last night I tried Cau Lau which consisted of home-made thick noodles and marinated roast pork, served with fresh herbs, bean sprouts and crispy pork skin. It was insanely tasty and cost about 2 quid. The diet starts when we get back!