Hey all! Sorry for the back up in posts, I’ve just been super busy and the wifi hasn’t been super great. I’m currently writing you from a sleeper bus on my way to Phong Nha, though this isn’t an overnight bus. But a lot has happened since Ho Chi Minh City so I have plenty to talk about.
The city I was just staying in was called Hoi An and I definitely liked it a lot better than HCM. Hoi An is a lot smaller and looks more like what I had pictured when I thought about Vietnam. Since I ended up getting to the hostel around 6pm the first thing I did was get dinner at the hostel. I ended up getting a tradition dish from Hoi An called Cau Lau which is essentially noodles, beef, some greens, wontons and some pork spring rolls. It was amazing!
After eating I hopped on a bike and went with a guy who had been in Hoi An for a week to check out the night market in the old city. The city is filled with tons of lanterns, which when reflected off the river makes for some really beautiful scenery. We also walked through the night market, which was pretty much just a bunch of food and gift stalls.
The next day I decided to go to the tailor to get some clothes custom made, which is a huge thing to do in Hoi An because it’s so cheap and they’re famous for it. After my fitting I decided to wander around the old city during the day to see what it looked like. I ended up running into a guy from my room in the hostel and we spent the morning in a cafe writing postcards and then grabbing lunch. In the afternoon I decided to check out the beach and while it definitely wasn’t the nicest beach I’ve ever seen, it was nice to have some downtime and just relax there for a bit.
The next day I decided to rent a motor bike and take a trip to the marble mountains. This was the first time I’ve ever driven a motor bike and it was amazing! Definitely a must do in Southeast Asia given how they tend to be the main form of transportation for the locals. I went to the marble mountains with a German couple from the hostel and we explored the many caves and peaks. The very first cave we went into was called Am Phu cave and it was quite an interesting one. When you first walk in there are tons of shrines and things and there’s also a bit where you go up a bunch of stairs to a look out point. As you go deeper in the cave however, there a lots of statues of demons, Devils and people being tortured, basically a representation of hell. There was a map of the cave explaining what eat of the rooms were (see below), which can we of course didn’t see until after we’d already gone through the cave.
After the first cave we decided to check out the rest of the area, which is called the water mountain. Like I said this mountain had lots of other caves and lookout points, but it also had a few shrines, temples and pagodas which were really cool, especially the shrines that were in the caves.
Another thing I should mention is that the last two nights I spent in Hoi An were spent skyping with Thomas Jefferson University faculty and then students, which was pretty funny to have to do in the lobby of a hostel. I definitely ended up having pretty full days and evenings.
Today I left Hoi An for Phong Nha and decided to break up the bus ride by stopping in Hue. Now even though these bus travels are not overnight, they busses were sleeper buses, which was kind of a cool experience. Once I arrived in Hue I decided to grab food and check out the citadel, since I had heard that was the one main attraction Hue had to offer. I went to a local restaurant and ordered something that appeared to be a Hue specialty, Bun Bao Hue (look this up!), which was a beef noodle soup, and it ended up being the first meal in SE Asia that I didn’t like. Not only was it pretty boring flavor wise, but there was a chunk of something (meat maybe?) that I couldn’t identify but looked super unappetizing. After the disappointing lunch I decided to check out the citadel, the location of the Royal palace in Hue. The citadel was huge and nice to walk around, or it was until it started raining. There were a whole bunch of different parts to it like the queen’s quarters, some temples of course, a tennis court, etc.
After I walked around for about two hours I headed back to the travel office to catch the second bus to Phong Nha. As I said I’m on this bus at the moment and it’s been an interesting ride. First we left about an hour and fifteen minutes after they had told me the bus was scheduled to leave. Then after we’ve only been driving for around an hour and a half we stopped for dinner, which was kind of nice, but at the same time I think all of us would’ve preferred to just get to phong Nha. Luckily there are a bunch of cool people on the bus so the ride’s bearable. My next adventure is a two day caving expedition so keep an eye out for my next post about that!