Hoi An to Quang Ngai
Cobblers, jewellers, dressmakers, temples and old houses are the eclectic mix that make up a banquet free day in Hoi An.
We started the day with a short tour of the old city of Hoi An which is mainly an old Chinese quarter with the usual amazingly decorated and sneezingly incensed temple and assembly hall. We also saw an ancient covered Japanese bridge temple, complete with guarding Monkey and Dog gods. Our final non-shopping related stop was an old Chinese house. According to the sign outside it is “the oldest and most visited. The only one with the magic cup of Confucius. The only one visited by world leaders.” Across the road was the “Good Morning Vietnam Pizza Restaurant.”
Then down to business and we headed to a silversmith where I found a lovely necklaces and asked for matching earrings to be made. Then to the silk factory owned by the tailors we visited the night before. They had a demonstration of how silk is made from the grubs to the spinning and weaving. They also had a lovely shop. Across to road to the best shoemakers in town where I ordered a pair of pink ballet flats and then on to lunch. This time we ate as a group but had our own choice so I finally got my bowl of noodles. I spent the afternoon shuffling between fittings at my jewellers, tailors and cobblers. Life is tough but the handmade shoes are perfect. I met up with two of the others for dinner and we went back to the old quarter to a fantastic restaurant recommended in Lonely Planet. Then back to the hotel to find room to pack an additional pair of shoes, one dress and errrhmmmm…. Six skirts.
The next day was a big cycling day. We did fifty five kilometres in the morning in around 35 degree heat. We started in Hoi An and headed down the river path to the ferry stop where we boarded a local ferry to cross the river, bikes and mopeds squashed together and all of us on narrow wooden benches. The trip was fun and as far from the Manly ferry as possible. The river is full of fishing boats and huge nets. Once across we watched the fisherfolk unloading their boats and drying fish in the sun. The fresh fish were stored in crushed ice – there were massive blocks of ice on the ground which they fed through an ice crushing machine.
We then travelled along village paths and roads and stumbled across a wedding to which we were enthusiastically invited – including joining the singing in which our guide Hilly was one star and one of the other group members whose just finished his A level music exam took to the piano and played and sung. The bride then posed for a photo on one of our bikes and then posed with a group of sweaty, smelly cyclists complete with helmets.
Back on track and the riding got harder and harder, it was getting hot and there was no shade. On either side of the track were white sandy fields interspersed with the occasional pine tree. We travelled this way for about an hour and then hit the highway which was even hotter. By 1.15 we stopped for lunch and icy cold drinks.
Then we had about an hour on the bus and stopped in the middle of a rice paddy to start riding again for a further 15kms. In this part of Vietnam they are harvesting rice so a complete contrast to the north were they were planting. We also had a quick look at a fishing village but were racing the clock to get to the My Lai memorial which closed at five. They had to reopen the museum for us and it held displays about the massacre and a memorial wall for those who died. The grounds around the memorial contained the ruins of each house that was destroyed – each containing a plaque explaining who had lived there and how many died in the family. It was very moving.
Our final stop for the day was a surf beach which was what we all needed, then to the hotel, dinner and bed.