Day XXXI – April 18
We get up bright and early and take another good look at the map.
I tried to last night, but the computers and internet are so slow, and we’re not supposed to use them after 11pm anymore so I didn’t want to wake the nightwatcher on that strecher in the middle of the mediaroom.
We walk over to that lady we’d made a deal with yesterday; one automatic Yamaha for the day, 2 helmets and a map, that turned out to be more like a business card, for 50.000 dong.
She was already waiting for us; when we asked her yesterday at what time she opened she said 6am. We said we’d be a bit later, but she probably didn’t get that part. After all, local life generally starts at 6am on this side of the world anyway.
Jenna takes the first turn driving, flounders a bit on the way to a first gas station and can’t find the breaks in time so tips over the bike of an elderly man. He makes a big fuss about his dashboard that looks like it was already broken, but asks for 50.000d, so we won’t bother getting in to an argument.
We fill up and head out to the highway. Without any roadsigns in a language we can read, we have to stop a few times to ask for directions, and arrive at the My Son-gate an hour later.
At first we don’t see an official parking near the entrance. The lady running the catering facility waves us over and tells us she’ll watch our bike if we promise to have a drink with her after the temples, so we stumble to ride it up a little hillside.
When we get to the ticketoffice 100 meters further, it turns out the actual entrance is a 5 minute drive up ahead. With parking, we’re told, so we go back to get the bike and ride down another bumpy road through a somewhat magical forest.
We get to the temple complex right at the end of a traditional dance performance and end up in a pile of tourists, just shuffeling into the park. For me this crowd takes a lot of the magic out of it, and the manmade path make it feel fake, like an amusementpark.
It reminds me of the place I once visited with my artschool class in the north of the Netherlands, where some artist build stacks of brick, for nature to cover up again.
I’ve heard too many stories selling it off like the Angkor Wat of Vietnam, had too many people tell me I’d love it; that must have raised the bar too high.
It’s a cool place though, out there in the green hills. The bright brown ancient brick buildings set off against their surroundings, while at the same time they merge again where grass and moss cover it as nature has taken over centuries ago. And when I get a moment all to myself and consider the age of it all, and the people who build it and their reasons to, the miracle almost touches me.
Afterwards we debate trying to make it to Marble Mountain, about 50 km to the other side of Hoi An. We should be able to get there in 2 hours.
We decide against it, out of concern for not knowing the way, the time we have left with the bike and the amount of fuel needed. Instead we’ll go back to the beach.
My turn to drive.
First down that forest lane, then a sandpath through some fields, a turn and through a busy town and its’ traffic. Slowly I’m getting comfortable keeping up with the rest at 35 km/h
Then I turn onto the highway. Even in a car I don’t think I’ve ever driven faster than 60 km/h. I have to speed up to 70 sometimes not to be a danger. Such a thrill! For the bike aswell, it can hardly keep up and it’s almost hard to hold on to the steeringwheel.
We miss our exit, so I have to do a U-turn, right there on the highway. Luckily, they’re nothing like the highways we know; we’d probably say route national, and making U-turns probably isn’t a weird thing to be doing here at all.
We’ve not been at the beach for long, when the sky suddenly turns a mad green sort of grey. We have to make a run for it.
We figure we’ll have enough time to get back into town before the beast will be unleashed, and drive out of the parking lot with the first drops sipping down, and some stares like “they’re crazy” follow us.
A minute later we realize why… The rain is now beating down on us so hard, we have to stop. It feels like a million needles and I can’t even keep my eyes open. Not that it makes a difference; the haze is so thick you can’t see for more than 5 meters ahead. And both of us are already soaked to the bone.
So we find shelter in a roadside shop/diner with a local in poncho.
It takes half an hour till it’s calmed down to just a mild downpour. The roads are completely flooded and here and there our ankles are under water, but that makes the ride the more fun.
Everywhere people are out again. The kids coming out of school, splashing around; it’s like a waterfestival!
We quickly return the bike, drop our bags in the lobby of the hostel and run out for a walk with the water up to our knees, just because we can.
Apparently we’re the only ones seeing the fun in all that, and everybody looks at us again like we’re crazy. Doesn’t stop us kicking the water around, dancing and laughing it out.
Another great example of the Asian feel for business shows: no less than a minute after the downpour starts, those who just sold paper umbrellas against the sun, pull out another merch; ponchos, everywhere!
Good thing we chose against Marble Mountain too; we’d have been stuck up there now. Much less fun to be up a mountain in such a storm, that much closer to the lightning.
Just before dinner it finally clears up.
This time we go to the bright side of the river, and again find a heavenly meal at a very fair rate.
I have country pancakes; I am presented with a plate of fried shrimp cushions, salad, rice paper and a sesame sauce. The waiter shows me how to wrap the cushions with the salad in the paper and dip it. Yum!
We treat ourselves on dessert at that famous iceplace Green Cave and stuff our bellies to add to our already tired bodies.
We try a beer and a stroll over the nightmarket, but nothing can pull us out of it. We even suck at pool horribly, so turn in early.