Vietnam, Hoi An: Splendid City in the Rain
I was feeling like travelling in China when I was on my way to Hoi An – “there is going to be this yellow bus. It will take you there“.
However, not a Chinese woman sat in the bus. I would understand what he said at least. But there was a Vietnamese looking like she wants to borrow a fan. Later she would want to return it back. B go involved and settled our dispute. This was a moment when I stopped liking Vietnam. I felt much better once I bought a Vietnamese baguette. Well, a Vietnamese baguette is no official term. It is a fabulous, crispy baguette (especially those who haven’t eaten good bakery products for like a year) which comes with all possible tastes. I preferred with fried eggs and vegetables. B enjoyed a baguette with meat and spices. It cost only about 10 crowns which makes it even tastier.
Once we got settled in our accommodation we set off for exploring the sights in the city. Well, that was the plan at least. However, the weather changed. When we arrived it was boiling hot. But once we left our hostel classic Vietnamese downpour started. We bought some raincoats in a stand closest to us. In this awful appearance we went on. Before romantic city of Hoi An was not romantic any more.
Despite annoying rain Hoi An is a picturesque place. Once it was an important center of trade to southeast Asia Merchants from China, Japan or India traveled here, and merchants from European lands as well. The rise of Danang (Đà Nẵng) made Hoi An of less importance. I felt that there is nostalgia for good old times while I was walking down Hoi An’s old streets.
Hoi An’s central district is small so you just can walk through it. More than eight hundreds buildings are really well preserved according to UNESCO’s assessment. We paid for a part of the renovation because we had bought tickets when we had arrived at the entrance of the city center. However, it was evening already so many buildings had been already closed. Still there was much to see. Even constant rain didn’t repel vendors selling souvenirs or other stuff. To us the most beautiful stand were those along the river with lampions hanging on them.
It was raining all the time. So we decided to continue on the following day and hope for a better weather. We bought us chè, a desert with coconut milk (and many other unidentifiable yet delicious ingredients). Then we set off to our hostel.
Our patience paid off. The next day in the morning was hot and sunny. Hoi An and all its landmarks was waiting for us.
GPS: 15°52'41.9"N 108°20'14.0"E
Text and photos: Hana Bašová
Nha Trang is practically the most famous tourist resort in Vietnam, not so much for some landmarks, this coastal city of Khanh Hoa province is famous for its seven kilometers long sandy beach with adjacent islands. The city of approximately 392,000 inhabitants and this number is growing steadily.
As much as I hate to travel by bus, I would repeat the ride from Nha Trang and Da Lat. The former is the city of two hundred thousand. It is the most popular spot to spend honeymoon at in Vietnam. It is situated at 1500 meters in the Central Highlands. You can enjoy a number of great views while on the road. And it gets even better on bike …
When someone in Prague says “Sapa” everybody recalls the famous marketplace in Prague. However, once you dig into where the name originates you soon find the mysterious area of Sa Pa in Vietnam’s northwest (near the borderline with China).
In the region of Sa Pa, northwestern Vietnam, the best means of transport is a bike. You don’t have to worry about missing your bus, of taxi not coming, or that your taxi cab driver would be someone who drives illegally. Therefore, we rented us a bike in Sa Pa. It cost only a few crowns. Then we planned our trip.
I have always longed to see a large desert with sand dunes. However, neither in Europe nor in Southeast Asia (the places where I spend most of my time) is one. Once I first saw pictures of Mui Ne, Vietnam I knew for sure that I want to go there. Okay, it is not a desert per se but sand dunes there are huge.
The end of my stay in Vietnam was neigh. There was one more place to see, a must-see place. The Caodaistic temple. Caodaismus (Đạo Cao Đài) is a young, syncretic religion established by a bureaucrat from South Vietnam in the 1920s.
Da Nang (a city almost in the geographic center of Vietnam) is largely unknown. Which is unfortunate. An average tourist usually passes by there in a taxi on his way from the airport to his favorite Hoi An hotel…. I spent three weeks in Da Nang. And the city got on the list of my favorite places in Southeast Asia (right next to Chiang Mai). In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson called the old road to Hue as the “abandoned fragment of perfection.” I absolutely agree.
Omnipresent honking, grandmas pulling bikes with flowers, Vietnamese sitting on small chairs, food, bikes, wires, bikes, French cafes, bikes with food, bikes with chairs, bike transporting part of another bike… Welcome to Hanoi! It is a city crazy beyond believe. You either love it or you hate it eternally.
We imagined the visit to the lake as relaxing time after quite a busy day. The reality was seriously different from our expectations. I have remembered the first impression until today. With my daughter and son, we dodged through the local traffic and it was not really easy. The flood of motorcycles was not to stop. We naively thought that someone might slow down or even stop. Don't expect that. Just walk to the other end of the road. And be brave.
Upon we explore Hanoi a bit we planned to see other places which are must see in the capital. The first one was the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh).
Upon an hour of waiting for a visa I was free to explore the capital of the country I really looked forward to exploring. First of all, I somehow let a cab driver to make a 300 crown rip off. Sometimes things like this happen. But honestly – this happens in Prague as well. Aboard the airplane I could see streets where millions of bikes stream in all directions. And “down” here the traffic is even more crazy. If I compare Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok, a city of comparable size, in the former there are much less traffic jams. One must add that there is no subway, or rail that would go above the ground. It seems that high taxes on car is working.
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.
On the following day we set off to Hoi An (Hội An . It was during the daylight and also it didn’t rain. The sun was pleasantly shining and warm. We reached the historical center by foot and were ready for some great sightseeing (even the one in the night had its atmosphere).
Our journey continued to Hue (Huế), the former capital of Vietnamese emperors situated in the central Vietnam.
Even though the title suggest some offensive connotations we were did not intend to disgrace royal tombs as if we were in an action movie. A rented bike, however, solved our problems. The tombs around Hue are scattered along vast area. Before relying on public transportation it is better to pay couple of crowns to rent a bike.
The last day was before us in Hue, the picturesque imperial city. In the early morning we hit the streets and just roamed around in the city. Indeed, we saw one of the most distinctive sights in the city - the Trường Tiền bridge across the Perfume River.
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