Thursday, August 30, 2012

02 August: Hue to Hoi An

We were up, showered, packed and ready for breakfast by 8am. At 08h30 our Hue Easy Riders guide arrived to collect us. Was very cool because he ended up riding with all our luggage so The Trucker and I could ride one one bike together.

Travel Planning Tip: We tried to contact a number of the online Hai Van Pass bike-trip sites, but only one actually eventually got in touch with us. I kinda got the feeling on the day that there was actually only one company, the Easy Riders, who offered the trip and everyone else was just on-selling it. Hard to say, really.

Aside from the obvious bonus of doing this trip with The Trucker, today was definitely a huge win because without him it is probably not something I would've considered and it turned out to be an awesome experience and one I'd highly recommend even if you don't know how to ride.

Let me tell you, while biking is a spectacular way to see and experience this country, it is not all that comfortable. But they seem to know that and we stopped often enough for it never to be too bad a problem.

The main stops included Elephant Springs (Suoi Voi - Voi means Elephant) which was a complete surprise and absolutely superb. You head off the main road up a little way into the mountains where there are these giant granite boulders with a stream running down between them. It makes for many beautiful pools of water.

It wasn't too busy but we were far from the only people there. Plenty of other tourist bikers and quite a few locals (apparently it is school holidays). We swam and cooled off there for a while.


Our next major stop was at the top of Hai Van Pass. Wow, riding over Hai Van Pass was great fun, lots of twists and turns, and we had spectacular views. Reminded me a bit of Chapman's Peak.

Down the other side of the pass is Da Nang where we stopped for lunch. Not a very impressive lunch, sadly. But I don't think Pho is my meal here. I'm much more taken with their Spring Rolls :)

After lunch we went up Marble Mountain. Which, of course, included the obligatory tourist shopping spot. Yawn. We took the elevator up the mountain and wandered a little. I am sure we missed most of it but, we did visit a few of their cave buddahs. Same problem I had in China, I can only see so many buddah statues before I lose interest completely. Luckily The Trucker is the same :)

From there it was on to Hoi An. Our bike guide took us straight to Kimmy's (apparently the best spot for tailored clothes, but who knows?). I wasn't too sure if I really wanted anything but I figured hey, why not? I doubt it is really worth shopping around and we're here for a limited time anyway. So I've ordered 3 dresses (!).

When I was done choosing fabrics and getting measured, I popped across the road to another tailor shop (they are everywhere!) where I'd seen a jacket I liked. And ended up ordering another style I preferred. I really am much more of a see-and-touch-and-try-on kinda girl. Seeing the dress style in real life is far more likely to work on me than picking from a photo in a pdf (although that didn't seem to stop me at Kimmy's - haha).

After that we headed to our Hotel, La Tonelle. It's more of a homestay. It is not as awesome as some of our previous hotels, but the location is *amazing* (for those who know, we're in the Japanese Bridge road). Sadly they had NO WATER when we arrived. Sigh, what can you do?

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodation thru Agoda and I would definitely use them again when planning my own overseas accommodation.

We had a quick rinse with some bottled water they provided and headed out. I had heard that Hoi An was especially worth seeing on the Full Moon, which is why I had organised our schedule around that (to a degree, it only worked for the beginning of August). Tonight was the Full Moon and Hoi An was alive and awesome! Although apparently they'd actually had their Full Moon Festival last night.

Our hotel is perfectly situated for wandering the fantastic Ancient Town. The place was beautifully lit with paper lanterns and people are all over selling little ones with candles that you make a wish on and float down the river. Stunning. Apparently this actually happens every night tho? It does, but on a much smaller scale. Nothing was like the craziness of our first night, the Full Moon.

We found this little shop and ordered some custom made leather shoes. I already knew I wanted these before we left South Africa. I wanted a pair of knee high red boots :) I also found some lanterns I want too. I think that will be my "item of the trip" and I've ordered them in 4 different colours to go with my Moroccan light at home. I think it'll look awesome :)

Then we headed over the bridge and had dinner at a fancy little spot called Mango Mango (rated 4.5 out of 5 on Trip Advisor). There are so many restaurant here. We stuck with ordering a variety of starters (4) to share. Best way to eat here, I think :) We also had a yummy cocktail called Asian Infusion, which was Vodka with ginger, lemongrass and lime, I think.

After dinner we went and wandered some market stalls and bumped into some people we'd gotten to know on our Halong Bay cruise. We ended the evening catching up with them, sipping R1.60 beers at a riverside restaurant.

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