Thursday, September 2, 2010

Off the beaten path: Central Vietnam

Boyfriend Blazer hehehe... just need a girl to get this for me.. well, a nicer one of course...

Everyone who goes to Central Vietnam visits two cities/sites: Hue, the imperial capital and sometimes Da Nang (Đà Nẵng) and Hoi An, Hoi An is a lovely quaint town that serves as a great resting spot when making your way up or down Vietnam. Đà Nẵng, is a large city, with a huge airport, this airport was one of the busiest airports in the region in the late 1960s and early 70s due to a large US Air Force Base located at the airport.

My base was the city of Hoi An, I was reading Wikitravel and found two cool sites that were near the city and that I planned to visit... My Son and Marble Mountain... My Son was easy to reach with a bus/boat tour, they drove you to the ruins, located near the city but not really accessible with public transportation, left you there and picked you up after a few hours... sounded like the perfect plan for me, transportation but no huge groups...

My Son is an interesting temple complex, compared to Bagan in Burma, Angor Wat in Cambodia and several other places, it's actually a Hindu temple complex, and survived until the Vietnam war, when the VietCong used it as a weapons/ammunition depot and it bombed into oblivion.

Some more infor from Wikipedia... From the 4th to the 14th century A.D., the valley at Mỹ Sơn was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. The Mỹ Sơn temple complex is regarded one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and is the foremost heritage site of this nature in Vietnam.

Propaganda fans (me included) will have a field day in Vietnam, the country is nominally Communist, but with the free markets ala China. Websites are locked and facebook is off limits, but the mobile version of facebook works... go figure... = bad! but = OK!

let's see... Soldier... check, happy agricultural worker... check... factory worker... check... student... check... Hammer and Sickle... check... can't get more Propaganda elements even if you tried...

Damn... you can't escape it even at restaurants! Work is Glory?
After a few more days it was off to visit Marble Mountain. According to Wikipedia this site is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills located in Ngu Hanh Son ward, south of Da Nang city in Vietnam. The five 'mountains' are named after the five elements; Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth).
 I asked at several travel agencies but was quoted crazy prices for tours, $20 dollars or more, I knew I could do it sub $10 and went for it... I booked a bus transfer to the site, now this was an inter-city bus and it was really nice, it was traveling in a sleeper bus. 

Once I got to the site, after skipping the usual hacks who try to sell you crap , most of it made of "marble", you could even have a huge fountain made and they would ship it back to your country... I ignored them and proceeded to explore the different temples...

I bought a bottle of water for 15,000 dongs and the seller offered to be my guide and show me up several rocks formations, over 15 minutes of guiding and photo taking for less than a dollar!

yeah, I climbed those rocks/path
climbing up some slippery rocks!
Cool temple inside of the mountain!

Finally it was time to head back to Hoi An, after a few minutes walking around, I found a Moto-taxi that would allow me to get back... I paid some $4 or $5 dollars, a total rip-off, I could have gotten it for $3, but I was tired and not in the mood to bargain... any way, it was a 40 Km ride back to the hotel...
Moto-Taxi! Moto-Taxi!

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