Monday, October 31, 2005

Hoi An to Hue

Hoi An
A view of our hotel in Hoi An -- brick paths with gardens, and cloudy skies. Except one day when we actually had sun.

And breakfast on the beach, on our sunny morning.

We stopped in a little shop to buy some scarves for friends, and as we were paying, Lori felt something on her leg and swiped at it. It was a gray scorpion, which stung her little finger. When we got back to the hotel, we stopped at the front desk to ask if we should be concerned, and they reassured us that there are no scorpions in Hoi An. If you are one of the people who gets a scarf from us, you might want to check it carefully.

Tailor maids

The women at our tailor shop in Hoi An were flirtatious in the Vietnamese way, which involves much punching of the arm and making fun. There’s nothing puritanical about them. When we went for our first fitting, Marc was helping me and the woman who was helping me kept punching him in the arm and calling him a naughty boy. When another woman came into the fitting room, she looked at Marc and said “oh, good” and then took off her shirt. At that point, the fitter grabbed Marc and put him in a chair by the door. All the while, the tailors were talking among themselves and laughing – we were never sure if they were laughing at us. We think they were.

We literally got thousands of dollars of clothes for hundreds of dollars. All custom fit.

Could this be it?

Miss Ly’s Cafeteria II. For starters, we couldn’t find it. When we did find it, the restaurant was like their outdoor garage. And the place was empty, even though the recommendations we had heard about it said it was always packed. We ate there anyway, because by that point we were so hungry – it was the best food we’ve had so far. We ate there twice. Hoi An specialties, all so good.

Hawkers: Don’t know what to say about them, but they’re everywhere, from sweet kids to persistent old men and smiling old women. All in your face.

Massages – we got massages, they were nothing extraordinary. Marc had an 80-minute massage, unbelievable enough, but Lori's was 3.5 hours. We were both less than impressed by the massage (no shiatsu), although they did walk all over us. After her 80-minute massage, Lori got a foot massage and a facial.


On the way to Hue

The cost of the bus ride to Hue ranged from $114 at the hotel, to $4 at a little travel spot in Hoi An. We took the $4 ticket and learned a lot more on that bus than we would’ve on the fancy private hotel bus. As appears to be the norm, we stopped for a “rest break” along the way, where we saw fresh won tons being made. What’s not visible in this picture are the chickens that had just finished helping themselves to the wontons. What is visible, if you know what you’re looking at, is the raw sewage on the ground from the open toilet bathroom just to the right. We’ve been wary of wonton ever since.

We walked past the rest area to the lake behind, where we saw beautiful mountains and fishing boats.

Oncoming traffic

Being a passenger in Vietnam requires nerves of steel. The highway to Hue was 2-way traffic (one lane going each direction), with a shoulder on each side. More than once, our bus was passing a truck that was passing a moped, and oncoming traffic skirted into the edge of the shoulder. We weren’t at all surprised to see the wreck on the outer edge of a hairpin turn, between a bus and a truck. It took us nearly 4 hours to get to Hue, partly because of the slow speed of the bus and partly because of a somewhat long stop to repair the windshield wipers.

Most cellphones here have Vietnamese-sounding ring tones, but it wasn’t at all unusual to hear a ring tone like “You’re Just Too Good to be True” or some Motown song like “My Guy.” We also got the sense that people call someone they think is on the bus and ask if someone else is on the bus – phones would ring and then be passed around to other people.

This is the gate to the Citadel in Hue, which was the royal palace. It was very beautiful, and not too crowded with tourists.

Another view of one of the gates -- this was a gate into the pleasure palace. Only eunuchs allowed since they posed no threat to the royal concubines.

A mosaic of Uncle Ho, the always-present, over the door of the Art University at the Citadel.

When we were in Hue, we stopped to eat a late lunch and decided to try the menu of Hue specialties since we had enjoyed the Hoi An specialties so much.

Marc still won’t talk about one of the things he ate (Lori didn’t have the nerve to put it in her mouth) – Marc said he’d talk about it in a few weeks when it’s left his system. And then he says something about the food in The Good Earth. We still shudder when we think about it.

We decided to take a taxi from Hue back to Hoi An. When Marc first discussed price with the driver, the price was $60. Then $70. We walked away, and they decided our offer of $40 would do. We would’ve gotten back to Hoi An in half the time of the bus ride, since the driver was speeding, but he got so lost in DaNang he stopped people on the street several times to ask for directions.

Dong to Dollars

Paying for things here, when we use dong, is really confusing. 15,000 dong = $1. We can’t seem to keep the decimals and commas straight. Since we have to count dong in the millions (literally), what’s a decimal and what’s a comma becomes totally unclear to us. Hence we wind up paying the merchants by opening our wallets and letting them decide what we owe. Honest to God. We THINK they are honest since they grab money and give us back change; it may be less a question of trust than it is a function of prices being virtually insignificant in US dollars. Even if they took twice the number of dong they should, we’re still talking about pennies, practically.

Finally, this was the Victoria Hoi An elephant:

1 comment:

Louise said...

aren't you two old lefties getting a bit decadent: massages, silk clothes!

i am enjoying your blog. great photos and commetary.

please don't say it was cat!