In this post we’re featuring Matt and Sylvie’s trip. They had hired a private car to take them to Hội An, a coastal city recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Below are their pictures and narrations! (Pardon Sylvie’s overzealous tone!)
Matt: After enjoying a few days in Sài Gòn with the wedding party, we parted ways with Misou and Brandon. While they headed to the beach town of Nha Trang, Sylvie and I headed north to the ancient city of Hội An. We boarded a plane from Saigon and landed at Đà Nẵng Airport. We met our driver and started our hour-long drive to the coast, but not before enjoying a great noodle soup for breakfast called mỳ quảng!
About 30 minutes into the drive, our driver asked if we were interested in seeing a few Buddha temples carved into a mountain range at a nearby village. We decided it was worth a stop, and shortly, we pulled into small village. We were told that the site was called Marble Mountains (Misou translates: Ngũ Hành Sơn in Vietnamese), and got its name from the stones that the villagers mined and used for stonework, sculptures, and jewelry.
We hiked up the hill and saw a bunch of temples and Buddha statues of various sizes. We were harassed by some guy who resembled Gollum. He was really creepy, but this made for an exceptionally funny and unique experience. Sylvie thinks he has a mental disorder, some sort of autism or schizophrenia because he kept talking to himself in weird tongues. The only word he used to communicate to us was “Bhudda, Bhudda.”
Sylvie: We got to stay at an incredible(!) hotel where we were super duper catered to. As soon as we walked in, we were given wet towels to cool our hot, dusty, travel-stained faces. And they gave us iced tea too! They apologized about not having our rooms ready, but Matt and I didn’t really care too much; we were both mesmerized by the view from the lobby.
After much excitement and squeals (from me), we decided we were hungry and wanted a drink of the alcoholic variety. We walked (a full 17 steps) over to the bar/restaurant area. Matt ordered a gin fizz, and I ordered a pineapple Malibu. He got the gin fizz, and I got a cup of pureed pineapple and a cup of rum. Uh… close enough, I guess?
And we ordered food! I am ashamed to admit it, but I AM AN AMURICAN. We ordered fries and a ham and cheese sandwich. It was so damned delicious. The palate-singeing, hot, oily fries dipped in ketchup that seems to have a slight Vietnamese kick (though I’m probably telling myself that to make my Vietnamese side feel okay) was chicken soup to my soul (sorry you have to read this, Brandon). Sitting there, we heard an American/Canadian singer yodel on the radio. Here’s the conversation that ensued between me and Matt:
Sylvie: I think she said “Can you hear the raindrops by the moon”
Matt: No, she said “Can you see the rainbows driven by the wolves”
Sylvie: That makes slightly less sense than what I said.
Matt: What? You’ve never seen a rainbow driven by wolves? You need to get out more. America: Rainbow driven by wolves.
And no, we weren’t drunk. That’s actually a pretty typical conversation between us… I guess you can say we’re special…
Then our rooms were ready! We were then ushered to our rooms. They took my bags for me, and if it’s one thing I learned, though Vietnamese men are small, they are pretty strong and can shoulder a lot of bags at once. I thought he was going to tip over, but he didn’t. Then we finally got to our rooms. And it was GLORIOUS!!! I LOVED our rooms. It was more like a little bungalow as it was separate from the other rooms.
We quickly inspected our room, unpacked a little, and went outside to the beach. Which was incredible, we frolicked in the beach for a while. Then we went to the pool. It was an infinity pool and it was so AWESOME! I got a little bit cold and I spotted a Jacuzzi. I thought “scorreeee” this is where I will be spending the rest of my time. So I walk over and sit in it. Turns out, it wasn’t a hot tub; it was more like a lukewarm tub. A little disappointing.
Matt and I went back to our room to shower and get dressed. We were deciding where to go or dinner, our choices being in-room service or to go to the old city. I was suddenly hit with a wave of fatigue so I said I’d take a quick little nap. The quick little nap turned out to be an all night thing. (Misou interrupts: it’s actually very common for Sylvie to sleep in on vacations). Matt woke me up several times but I was like a mummy, unable to rouse myself from the grips of death-like sleep. I woke up once or twice to see Matt order the food, the people coming to deliver the food, and Matt shoving an eggroll or something in my gaping mouth.
The next morning we went to the beach, but didn’t go in the water. It was a little bit cold and we didn’t want to have to shower again. So there was more frolicking and picture taking. We then wanted a little snack to figure out what we wanted to do. We did the tango and took some sky-diving lessons. That’s how we think. Okay no, we didn’t. Anyway while we were sitting at a little tiki bar, it started to rain, like HARD! Regardless, we said, we’re going to GO TO THE OLD CITY, eff that mother nature beeatch! We went back to our room, packed our camera and some monies and headed out to the free shuttle service the hotel provided. Unfortunately, we missed the bus!!!! It was terribly upsetting and I can tell that Matt was pissed. The people saw the dismayed look on our faces and GOT US A NEW SHUTTLE!!! So we headed into the city. While we were driving, I asked the shuttle, in Vietnamese, if it rained a lot here. He was utterly shocked to know that not only did I speak Vietnamese, I was Vietnamese. He told us about the weather and how it flooded pretty badly here. He says his house flooded 1 meter. I was sympathetic, but it wasn’t until later that I realized 1 meter = 3 feet. This guy’s house flooded 3 feet. What the hell. Should have tipped him!
So we got into the city and it’s still raining. We had an umbrella with us, but we quickly realized that it was either our hands and ability to take pictures, or the umbrella. So we bought ponchos and fit in with the locals!
Oh! Then I got ran over by a moped. Literally, my foot was rolled over by a tire of a moped and the body of the vehicle hit my knee. It wasn’t too bad, pain wise, more surprising and embarrassing more than anything… but it did hurt a little. I was very conscious of the fact that we were right in the middle of a bustling market and both tourists and locals alike are looking at me and thinking “Dumb tourist, getting ran over and whatnot.” Putting my chin up, and brushing the traumatic automotive accident off like a true action movie star, we continued into the “phố cổ” aka old quarter/historical town. One thing that struck us was the architecture, being a port town, in fact one of the major southeast Asia trading ports, Hội An has a lot of foreign influences. As a result, the town is unique with its blend of different cultures. The buildings, to me, can be described as French-quarter New Orleans meets classical Chinese.
We walked around and saw some stuffs. There was a bridge across some stuffs. We went into a temple, but it turns out you have to have some sort of ticket to go in, so we left. But not before snapping a couple of illicit pictures, though!
I WISH WE BOUGHT MORE STUFF. I don’t know if everyone says that or if people say the opposite, but we should have purchased more things from Hội An. The reason I didn’t was because I was afraid that we were going to get duped! I didn’t know how much things were supposed to be priced and no one gave us any indication of worth and the norm. But you know what I learned from this experience? You should pay what you think is a good steal. The things are so cheap there, if you think it is a good price, well then buy it! It makes no difference to us, but for them, it could mean a meal for their family.
So we walked around, got a lantern, then bought some food. Walked around some more, took pictures, then bought another lantern (I don’t know why, we don’t even like lanterns that much, I guess we thought they make good gifts). We walked around into a shop and got our measurements taken for custom made clothes (which is de rigueur in Hội An, and getting custom made shoes also, which we didn’t do). However, they were kind of expensive, and weren’t working with me on the haggling, so we walked out of the first shop. We went into another one and got better pricing! All together, we purchased $100 worth of stuffs. I got three dresses and Matt got three work shirts. They were of good quality and it was an awesome deal! The best part was the shop owner. I told her about the previous shop I went to, and a dress style that they had hanging up that I really liked. So she grabbed her bike and pretended to ride down the street to do some reconnaissance. Hahahah, it was really funny because she was “made” and apparently got into a screaming match with the other shop owner, which ended in the other shop owner hiding the dress. That alone was worth buying from her. After we ordered our clothes, Matt and I had dinner at this fantastic restaurant and wrapped up our night in Hội An. This was probably my favorite place that we visited on this epic trip (aside from Sài Gòn, where my family is).