Monday, 26 July 2010
Full Moon Festival and a wash out Monday
Still here in Hoi An. We have had a couple of days of exploration and the town is lovely- like being on a film set really. We took a boat trip down the river and got a look at the villagers fishing with huge nets strung up everywhere and a little guy in his boat gleefully flinging his net in a great dome across the river and then paddling over to us for some remuneration following that dramatic photo opp!
On Sunday night we headed out to see the Full Moon festival for which this town is famed. We first sat down to the ancient SE Asian delicacy of pizza and G&Ts at a little place on the lane leading to the river and the action and watched with wry smiles as a sweet little fella in his official party green army uniform, complete with hat and yellow star on red background, try to turn back all wheeled contraptions from rickshaw, bicycle to moped from driving down the lane which he was closing off for the night. Hilarious as a greet yuge yankie chap tried to cycle past and met with a severe telling off from the party official half his size.
Slowly the lights all went out along the lane and by the river and we wandered along watching people sitting on the road side lighting pretend money and burning it in little fires. This is the money for their dead relatives to spend in heaven or hell-I would have burnt some fake money for dad but he'd only go and blow it on booze so I kept it and spent it on booze for myself instead!
Little children with their faces glowing from the lights of candles in home made lanterns everywhere. The river was in darkness but occasionally a lantern would glow enough for you to determine the vague silhouette of a person leaning over the side of the boat to launch little floating lights. It was really pretty but mad busy with people. We had some fun trying to take photographs (in our complete photographic ignorance of anything beyond point and click and without tripods to hold absolutely steady during a slow shutter speed or long aperture setting) Anyway we got a few fairly effective looking shots.. if a little blurry.
Yesterday we awoke to Lancashire weather. Dark, torrential rain all day. We did venture out during one slight respite but ended up having to retreat to a cafe for a lunch of rice and grilled beef (sort of made with a lush sauce and sesame seeds) Funny how hot it is even though the rain is incessant- you end up drenched with both sweat and rain. The remainder of the day we spent being restless in our room reading.
Today is back to heat and blue sky and we're planning to rent bikes to explore a little further around the countryside.
I think we are both going through this strange internal dialogue about Vietnam and the holiday so far. Each of us suggested bailing either back to Cambodia or to Thailand yesterday.. but ultimately I think we're aware that we haven't really given V'Nam a proper chance yet. Saigon was cut short (the journey there having been hellish and then the journey away being hellish too) Hoi An is very touristy - lots of middle aged Aussies around in couples and foursomes and not much happening at night as Vietnamese around here basically shut down about 10ish. We fly back to BKK two weeks today and need to make decisions about how we spend that time. Probably we will head to Hue (3-4 hours away by bus) on Friday afternoon for maybe one or two days. I think then the plan is to head to Ninh Prihn (sp!) for a couple of nights for the chance to take a boat up the river there in amongst the lime stone karsts and sample some less touristy countryside. Then I guess it's Hanoi- which we've heard is favoured by most travellers though still a big busy city.
One issue we find is that of getting around. It is a really big country and that tends to mean big journeys from place to place and generally that means city to city. We'll see what we see today by getting out on bicycles but there isn't any other option unless you're prepared to hire a motorbike or take a trip on the back of a motorbike with a guide (which neither of us is keen on - given how extremely dangerous the roads are anyway and motorbikes per se don't appeal) There are no tuk tuk type vehicles around either. I think the great times we've had in the past tend to be in places like Chiang Mai where we could take an organised trip somewhere occasionally but generally we could hop a tuk tuk to places each day. Or in Siem Reap where we biked all over the place and got a real sense of life there. At the mo we feel as though anything we could do here means getting lead around by the nose and herded into places to buy things we don't want. Bike riding seems are best bet and if weather stays okay for the next few days we'll hopefully start feeling better about the place.
We are both struck by how very different Vientnam is from either Cambodia or Thailand. The whole communist thing is strange too - except for a variety of big posters and flags sporting hammer and sickle and yellow stars and Uncle Ho(Chi Min) there is nothing to make you feel we're in a Socialist Republic. In Siagon there were big designer shops, expensive cars etc. People don't seem too poor here and the country's economy is booming.
Anyway it is all interesting and extremely pretty here.
Hope all are well!!