Saturday, November 21, 2015

Central Vietnam

Vietnam is a skinny sliver of a country that runs north-south, so we took a short flight to Da Nang to explore the central part next. Our new tour guides took us on a short bus ride to a town called Hoi An which is by the ocean. We stayed at a beautiful little resort across from the ocean. The waves were huge and the undercurrent was very strong; apparently a tourist had died earlier that month when the waves smashed him against these giant sand/cement bags protecting the shore (they looked like sand bags but felt as hard as cement). So we were strongly encouraged to stick to the swimming pools, which was not a hardship.

the resort
After breakfast the next day, we went on a walking tour of Hoi An, which is a beautiful, historic little town. 

We started off at a silk factory complete with silk worms. The workers did amazing silk embroidery. Working from a photo, they can recreate it as a large embroidered picture. They also made custom clothing. A lot of people in our group had clothes made – pants, tops, and even complete suits. It was probably around 11 a.m. when they got measured for their items and by 6 p.m., the seamstresses were at our hotel with the finished product. In some cases, a few adjustments were needed so they were back for a final fitting a few hours later.  Them ladies can sew!

The measuring and deciding and paying took a long time, and then we walked around the town aimlessly for hours in the heat of the midday sun. The guide had promised me repeatedly that we would be back at the hotel by 1:00. The rest of the afternoon and evening was a very rare unscheduled block of time, which I was pretty eager to spend drinking a pina colada beside the infinity pool. When 1:00 approached and we hadn’t even gone for lunch yet, I started losing hope. “We’ll be back at 2:00,” was my guide’s revised promised. After more walking in the sweltering heat, we finally reached our restaurant. It was a beautiful spot but I could hardly enjoy it because I was pushing people to eat fast and get back on the bus. Finally we were on our way except for a brief stop to take pictures of water buffalos beside the road. It was almost 3:00 when we got back to the resort. I was near tears. In hindsight it seems silly but I was just so ready for some down time.

And it was awesome. There were several pools at the resort so Dale and I went to the furthest one so we could have a break from our responsibilities. The pool area was so beautiful and quiet and relaxing.

Backing up a little … we had a rep from the tour company travelling with us the entire time we were in Vietnam. He was from Hanoi but had flown down to Ho Chi Minh City to meet us and stayed with us right until we left for Cambodia. He wasn’t a guide and was never formally introduced, so for the first couple of days we didn’t really know who this guy was who was always lurking around in the background. But he turned out to be our new best friend. He was so sweet and awesome and made our trip way better by being there.

Anyway, the day before, he had asked Dale and I if we knew that one of the couples in our group was planning to renew their vows at the beach resort. We knew nothing about it and suspected that this was something the couple wanted to keep quiet. Tap felt otherwise and thought we should attend. We politely tried to tell him we didn’t think they wanted us there. So we were lazing around the pool that afternoon and enjoying every second of our free time when Tap came running up to us, all out of breath. “There you are!” he said.  “Hurry! The ceremony is about to begin!” So Dale and I reluctantly followed him to the beach (in our swimsuits/coverup) where the couple stood, about to renew their vows with a minister (where they found a Caucasian English-speaking female minister I’ll never know). They didn’t look pleased to see us, so Dale and I quickly presented them with a flower lei that Tap provided (again, no idea where that came from), gave them a hug, took a photo, and ran away. That was awkward.

Me and the nice lady whom I later found out I had greatly overpaid for souvenirs. She kept saying she needed to pay for her kids to go to school so I think they're set now.

The rest of the evening was so nice. We walked along the ocean and then watched from our balcony as hundreds of little lanterns floated along the lake. It was amazing. I wished we could have stayed another day or two. 

Early the next morning I got a text from my co-worker back home saying that one of our travelers needed to call home because his son had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. That’s a whole other story that I can tell you in person sometime, but it was sad and traumatic and we sent the man home a couple of days later.

That day was not my favourite. After breakfast we took a 3-hour bus ride to Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. We spent the whole long hot day touring tombs and monasteries and the Forbidden City and a few other places. Several people were feeling sick with stomach issues and there was a LOT of walking and did I mention it was insanely hot? I have never sweat so much in my life. Then we went for a boat ride and finally we had dinner. 

On the drive to Hue
One of the few pictures of me; taken at a stop on the way to Hue.

This one's for my mom with all the zinnias

Forbidden City in Hue

View from a monastery

Hotel in Hue

We saw really amazing places, but it was a bit of a blur and we were exhausted when we got to the hotel. After checking in on some of the sick people, Dale and I went for a massage at a nearby shop. Dale went for four massages in Vietnam. You can ask him about that. We finally fell into bed around midnight and checked out by 8:30 a.m., heading to the airport to fly to Hanoi. The hotel was beautiful so it really was too bad we couldn’t enjoy it more.

But such is the life of a busy traveler. On one of the first days I mentioned to someone, “Wow, this is a busy vacation!”

“Vacation?” they said. “This isn’t a vacation. It’s a learning adventure.”


Martha said...

Love reading all about your trip! Looks like a great adventure - thanks for sharing pictures and telling us all about it! Some very beautiful places ;)

Anonymous said...

A learning adventure. Nice. :)

Thank you for including more pictures. Your last hotel looked amazing. Wow.

Did you get anything made from silk?

Did Dale get his massages with only his hat on (reference to instagram)? :P


L said...

Thanks for your comment, Martha! Glad you're enjoying it.

You too, S-L. I did not get anything made from silk but I kind of regret it. Next time!

And ask Dale about the massages ...!

Anonymous said...

I really wanna ask Dale about the massages!

And what photo did you take for your mom who doesn't have zinnias? ;)

xo Sio