Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hoi An

I am writing this a while after the bus ride between Hue and Hoi An and I do not really remember anything about it so I guess it was rather painless.

I had only heard great things about Hoi An. Most people I had talked to had extended their stay in Hoi An so I was expecting a really wonderful place. There is a problem with getting my expectations up because it is often hard for the place or the thing to live up to my expectations. This was the case for me in Hoi An. I was a bit let down.

Hoi An did not get bombed during any of the wars so most of the building are still standing that have been around for a long time. The bulding are still damaged since Hoi An floods at least once a year and sometimes more than once. I visited one house where they have marked the flood levels each time it floods.

I don’t understand why they did not move to higher land years ago. They move all their belongings each time it floors to a higher floor and go somewhere else to live until the flood recedes. Why not just move?

Don’t get me wrong the town has some interesting buildings and a really interesting Japanese bridge. This is a picture of the Japanese Covered Bridge.

The town also had loads of tailors and it is suppose to be very cheap to get clothes made. Maybe this is what everyone loved about the city. Since I was not buying clothes getting ask about buying clothes all the time was just the same as everything else I am always getting ask to buy.

I spent one day looking around the city and one day visiting My Son which is not that far from Hoi An. I booked a tour to visit My Son at 5AM which they call the Sunrise tour which is suppose to have a lot less people at the site. It turned out that it was on New years day but since I had not been staying up until midnight and did not want to stay an extra day in Hoi An, I booked the tour on a day I usually would spend sleeping.

I had met a lady from San Francisco on the day I arrived in Hoi An and ran into her again on New Years eve. She had been in Vietnam a little over a week but had not eaten at one of the little street stands. This was something she wanted to do so I suggested we give it a try. We visited 3 different stands and tried 5 or 6 different dishes. It was a great way to spend new years eve even though at about 10PM I figured it was time for me to call it a night.

I managed to get up for the 5AM tour of My Son and it was rather a miserable day with rain for most of the tour. Even with the rain My Son turned out to be just the opposite of Hoi An for me. Everyone that I had talked to said it pails in comparisons to Angkor in Cambodia but since I have not been to Angkor I was really impressed. My Son is a site with a number of temples that were built by the Champa people prior to the 15th century. The Champa people migrated south at some point and My Son was sort of forgotten until a Frenchman was shown the site in the late 1800s.

My Son was boomed during the Vietnam war because the area was used by the VC but luckily the French had moved a number of the sculptures to a museum after the discovery. I visited the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Danang the following day.

I decided to take the local bus to Danang from Hoi An because they ran often during the day and the tourist bus was only at 7AM. My guesthouse said the local bus to Danang was not a good idea because of a number of things that I forget now. I often have problems with getting advice where someone wants to sell me something. I have no idea if they are being truthful or not. The guesthouse wanted to sell me the ticket on the tourist bus and I did not get a good feeling from this place. When I checked out I was sure they were trying to take advantage of me. I corrected them on the currency exchange and they changed it as soon as I said something. I paid what I thought was over charging for the laundry since I did now know for sure how many kilos I had given them. I was sure it was not 3 kilos. The funny thing if they would have said it was 18,000 Dong a kilo instead of 12,000 Dong a Kilo I would have paid the same and cared less but sort of pissed me off that they were trying to cheat me. This is a problem with traveling I never know when someone is trying to ripe me off or not. I talked to one person about this and he said it does not feel right than more than likely it is not right.

I did have problems finding the local bus but that was more the fault of my guidebook. The map in the book had the bus station in one part of town and it was now in a different part of town. I had one of the guys on a motorbike that wanted me to pay him to take me to the station telling me I was going the wrong way and it was a long ways but I did not believe him. I finally walked into a hotel and ask for directions to the bus station and they gave me a map and the bike driver was right I was walking in the wrong direction but it was not really that far.

I found the station at last but saying it is a station is pressing it. I found the bus and someone said it was going to Danang. The book had said this bus was really bad about over charging tourist and since I could only pay on the bus I figured I would be over charged. If they just put up a sign in the bus that said Tourist 40,000 Dong Locals 7,000 Dong I would pay the extra but it is the feeling ripped off thing that gets me. When the guy started collecting money I figured I would be first so that I would not be able to see what others were paying but he avoided me and collected from everyone else on the bus except me. He seemed to make a point of keeping the money exchange out of me eyesight. When he came to me I just handed him 10,000 Dong since the guidebook said it should be 5,000. I figured if I got change that would be great if not I was also OK with a bit of overcharging but he wanted 20,000. I said no and said no one else paid 20,000 even though I was lying because I had no idea what anyone else paid. I stood my ground and he finally left me alone and kept the 10,000 Dong. I am still not sure what I would have done if he would have said get out. Maybe offered him 200,000 Dong. Someone set next to me shortly after this and paid 7,000 Dong so figured I was right but really stupid for standing my ground for 60 US cents.

The main reason I went to Danang was because I wanted a change from the long bus rides and decided I would rather have a long train ride. I also wanted to see the Cham Museum. The first thing I did after finding a hotel was head to the train station. It took me awhile but finally I found the train station. They would not sell me a ticket and from the counter persons limited English I understood that I had to buy a ticket on the day of the train.

After the train station I made my way to the Museum of Cham Sculpture and found it really interesting. The museum also had some pictures of Temples that I wrote down to see if it would be possible to visit while in Vietnam.

I got up early the following morning and got a train ticket with no problem.

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