Our second day in Da Nang started at 7:30 with Breakfast in the Hotel’s common breakfast room. Typical western breakfast foods were set up in a buffet line on one table, while a cook prepared eggs to order alongside a big pot of Pho soup. Their version of breakfast sausages were American style hot dogs cut into 2 inch long sections. The food was good and well prepared. The Pho soup was excellent and many were going back for seconds.
One benefit of spending the night in Hoi An was that we beat the rush to the old town section. We arrived around 8:10 am and had the place to ourselves until the tour busses from the ship arrived around 10AM. I was surprised to see that old town Hoi An had free WiFi right in the street. Really fast, but only in a relatively limited area and, I am sure it was probably much slower once the crowds arrived.
It pays to read up ahead of time to learn what is available here so you can focus your visit on what is of most interest to you as opposed to hoping you stumble on it by chance. I also have to put in another plug for the MAPS.ME app which was useful here to keep us oriented.
Our first stop was The Old House of Phung Hung, one of the many Ancient Houses in Hoi An. This is more of a cleverly disguised souvenir shop than simply a well preserved historical artifact. The house is over 100 years old and is interesting enough for a quick walk through and some of the current family members are there to show you around. We almost had the place to ourselves, so we can’t say what it was like when the crowds arrived. Before long they invited us to sit for some tea which is a sure sign a sales pitch is close behind. The tea was good and the sales pitch wasn’t too bad and we did find a few souvenir items worth buying.
On the west end of town is the Japanese Bridge, built in 1593 to connect the Japanese Quarter with a Chinese neighborhood, and is the most photographed spot in Hoi An. Fortunately since we got there before the rush, taking a snap was a little easier than it may have been otherwise.
We strolled thru the Chinese All Community Assembly Hall which was interesting because of the coiled incense that was hanging from the ceiling. Families will buy one of these coils, write their names on the hanging tag, light the incense and leave it to burn until it is gone. This temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, The Goddess of the Sea.
Our final stop was the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation. Built in the 17th century, it featured intricate carvings and an incredible mosaic dragon. The building acted as a flophouse for fisherman to rest and exchange goods. By 10 am we had finished seeing the inside of a few tourist attractions. There are many more and if you enjoy seeing this type of history and architecture, you should plan on way more than a couple of hours.
Hoi An has numerous tailor shops, art galleries and other specialty shops. If you know what you are looking for and understand how to judge quality you can find some tremendous values on these items as compared to buying them in the US. I would suggest you do a little shopping at shops in your home town selling similar items so you will be more informed when you get here.
Along the way we spotted may hardworking Vietnamese. Everything from women selling hot noodles from hanging baskets, wood carvers and embroiders. We even spotted a budding artist hard at work on his coloring book.
On our way to Marble Mountain, we stopped by a Marble Factory for a pit shop and to wander around this incredible store. Everything you could possibly imagine made out of marble was on display. I am confident that you could drop off a photograph of anything and they could produce it in marble in a week or so. We priced out a large round marble table, probably 6 feet across, with 6 marble chairs – opening price $5,000 which included shipping to the USA. This is before any bargaining, so the final price would be much less, but I yield to the marble experts as to whether or not this is a good deal – assuming you want a large marble table in the first place. Once again, study up on your marble prices before you leave if you have any interest is something like this or something similar.
A short drive away from the marble factory is the Linh Ong Pagoda which is a Buddhist shrine inside of a cave. At the entrance to the cave over a small pond is a bridge with the heads of animals representing the various years of the respective animals…year of the rat, year of the cat etc. Reaching up from the bottom of the pond are a series of stone arms reaching skyward, with one or two fingers extended. Our guide said these arms represented the “bad people” who were cast into the water and now trying to escape or pull passersby into the water. Once inside the cave, there are some very steep stars leading to an opening that lets in some light and allows people to peer outside. We took a pass on hiking up the 50 feet to see the view.
On our way to lunch at the Kim Do Restaurant, we drove over the Dragon Bridge. We had driven by it late the night before, but today we were able to get a few pictures. Every Saturday and Sunday at 9PM they close the bridge and huge crowds assemble to watch the dragon spout plumes of fire and water.
The Kim Do restaurant was host to many, many tour busses and we were right in the middle of it all, seated at a round table for 7. The menu was very similar to the previous days lunch and it must the standard western version of their Vietnamese lunch. All the food was wonderful and we enjoyed it very much.
After we left the restaurant we drove north on a wide road next to Da Nang beach and passed several 5 star resorts and golf courses with a few more under construction. Another advantage of smaller tours is the ability to make ad hoc stops. We spotted a couple dozen basket boats near the road and asked our driver stop so we could get out and spend fifteen minutes getting a closer look and taking some pictures.
Continuing north along the beach highway we passed a motorbike with a driver and passenger, plus a lot of stuff balanced on the back which is typical for this part of the world. Once they realized we were tourists they produced a wooden motorcycle and rode alongside gesturing and hoping we would pull over so they could make a sale. The Vietnamese people are always selling, selling, selling. I was tempted to ask our driver to pull over so I could learn more about how they came to have a motorcycle ready to sell to passing vans full of tourists.
Our final stop would be a visit to Linh Ung Pagoda featuring the Goddess of Mercy. This all white statue, over 200 feet tall, dominates the coastal skyline and can be from miles away. We wandered around, took some pictures of the Goddess of Mercy and the equally impressive view of Da Nang and the beaches.
All aboard was 4pm and our van arrived at the same spot we were picked up at 3pm. After saying goodbye to our wonderful guide and driver, we were back in our cabins by 3:15. We were surprised to learn that we had to participate in another life boat drill, which we learned is a monthly requirement. The drill was at 4:15 and after it was over, I saw one of the basket boats in actual use nearby.
Once we were clear of the pier I went to the Seaview pool to check out the Sail Away. Attendance was light and they were passing around shot glasses filled with pork spring rolls for appetizers – which were very good. After about 15 minutes I retreated to our cabin to get ready for dinner.
The Lido was all decked out in an Asian theme this evening to compliment the Asian food on the menu. It was fun to watch the servers wrestle with a large roasted pig as they sliced off hunks of meat for the hungry guests. The waiters were all decked out in Asian outfits and were wearing the traditional conical hats.
Dinner was joy once again as we continue to be impressed by the quality of the food and the service. We had a wonderful time sharing our tales of Da Nang with everyone at our table.
Juggler Tempei was on the main stage tonight in the Queens Lounge. He dazzled the audience when he juggled 7 balls at the same time before he showed his versatility with card tricks and balancing plates.
A welcome sea day awaits tomorrow before we arrive in Phu My the day after.
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