Day 54 / Day 13 of ATID – Hoi An
We got off the sleeper train (that we’d got on at Nha Trang) at Danang and then it was a forty minute drive to Hoi An, our next destination. Dave and I and four others had opted in to do some abseiling and so after checking into our hotel and a speedy breakfast, we were on our way in a minivan with a couple of members of the Phat Tires team to the famous Marble Mountain.
Interesting point – learnt from the American travellers that they call it rappelling, a term I’d never even heard of, and they had never heard of the term ‘abseiling’!
After parking up and a fifteen minute ascent on foot to the rappelling area (was of course out of breath by the time we got there…) we had a practice session.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t do great at this compared to everyone else – couldn’t get hang of the whole ‘trying to keep horizontal without bending the knees too much’ thing. However, I was still deemed okay to have a real go. Dave, of course, was deemed ‘amazing’ even on the practice session, which of course I’m not bitter about at all…okay, I lie, I was a bit until he pointed out he has done a lot of rock climbing, and descent after climbing on a rope essentially involves an element of abseiling. This made me feel better!
So the first rappel was down a cliff face, and I didn’t really enjoy it. More than feeling terrified, I felt useless, because I just didn’t seem to be able to understand all of the guide’s instructions and my technique was really off. I ended up slipping at one point near the beginning and smashing against the cliff face, suspended.
After that disaster, I was left shaking (maybe I was more terrified than I realised) and tearful and reluctant to try the other two rappel sessions. I must say that Dave and the rest of the group (who I’d obviously known for less than two weeks!) were incredibly supportive, and encouraged me to go first on the next one, saying it would be better to just bite the bullet and do it quickly instead of giving myself time to get more worked up. So I did, and the instructor was really nice about it too.
So the second abseil was a shorter drop into a beautiful cave that is used as a place of worship and has some impressive shrines as well as some lovely sunlight shafts beaming in from gaps in the rock high above. It went better than the first, but I still think I enjoyed it far less than I was supposed to be doing, judging from the exhilarated expressions of the others! It was really nice going around that cave, though.
The third abseil was a huge drop down into a dark, dark cave that you can’t see the bottom of when you start. By now I’d resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be an anxiety-ridden, tensed-muscle experience and just went for it – and I finally had a glimmer of the excitement everybody else had already experienced. On this drop we were encouraged to sort of push off the rock and descend in big jumps, which was quite fun.
This particular deep, dark cavern housed the interesting and creepy ‘Hell Cave’, which has very slippery (so be careful!) steps and has lots of gruesome statues and sculptures in it, of demonic beings torturing innocent victims. The faces on the demons would actually be quite comical if it weren’t for the torture bit.
In among all the abseiling, we had an included lunch which was a DIY sandwich spread with additional fruits and was very nice. A slightly dirty looking dog fed off our scraps as we ate and we had a long and interesting discussions on dreams…this is nothing to do with anything, I realise, but it was nice to get to know other people in the group more 🙂
After exploring Hell Cave, it was time to go back to the hotel. Overall, I am very glad I tried abseiling and even more so that we were with Phat Tires, because their staff were very good: extremely professional and never once making me feel unsafe.
In the afternoon, Dave and several others of the group went on a bike ride through Hoi An. Kind of exhausted by the tense morning, I decided to give it a miss and ‘stayed in’. Dave has agreed to actually talk about his experience on here, and once I’ve got him to write it down, I will insert an ‘edit’ and give a link back to here in whichever post I’m writing at the time.
In the evening we took a walk through Hoi An to its river waterfront. Hoi An is a very beautiful town, and the walk was really pleasant, as was the meal we had on our g adventures-recommended waterfront restaurant.
We tried lots of different Hoi An-specific dishes as part of a set meal, the names of which I can’t quite remember – but I’ve included a photo! All were really nice.
Then of course it was to bed for (a tired) Dave and I!
Day 55 / Day 14 of ATID – Hoi An
In the morning, we had a noodle making demonstration and noodle lunch included as part of the tour and so the group walked down to the Oodles of Noodles workshop to learn a bit about Vietnamese noodle making.
Oodles of Noodles is a really great Planeterra project associated with g adventures that offers opportunities to kids off the street by offering them English classes, getting them to run the workshops to help them practise, and training them in such avenues as hospitality.
After our excellent demonstration, we all had a go at making Bánh Đập, a smashed noodle dish, before being served a really yummy, fresh noodle meal for lunch. All in all, I thought it was an excellent morning!
For the afternoon, the group split to do different things. Dave and I plus four others stuck together and went to one of tourism offices to purchase a ticket to explore the Old City and pick up a street map – this included entry to five places around the City, which is walkable, which you can pick from several options. In the end, if I’m remembering correctly, we visited an assembly hall, an old-style house, the art and history museum, a Buddhist temple next to the museum, the shrine on the Hoi An ‘Japanese Bridge’ and a cultural performance, which was an interesting musical performance that we intentionally timed everything else to include.
The performance included a weird game of bingo as well, which involved a couple of audience members winning little lanterns…
Lantern making is a popular activity in Hoi An, and there are classes at the site of the cultural performance so we stayed on to have a drink and watch, whilst two of our group had a go at making some lanterns. We couldn’t, as there was no way we could lug them around for the rest of our trip!
Now, a word about the Old City – there’s a bit of a debate about whether or not you have to have a ticket to walk around it, and people will certainly stop and ask you for a ticket as you try to enter the area. The general consensus seems to be, though, that unless you actually intend to visit sites (as we did), you shouldn’t need one, though I’m not sure how easy it would be to argue the case.
It was a really hot day but with umbrellas up and caps on and taking it slow whilst drinking our own body weight in water as we wandered around, we did have a good time nonetheless. Hoi An is an extremely beautiful town with many gorgeous picture opportunities, and is a pleasure to simply amble around. Dave picked up some Ali Baba trousers on our wander as well and has since worn them what seems like every other day, so that was a success.
We went to another waterfront restaurant in the evening and this time I satisfied a bit of a Western craving with some pasta. The pasta dish was fine, though the portion was rather small compared to Vietnamese dishes of the same price, which I guess is understandable!
Dave and I retired back to the hotel after this, but it’s worth noting that there’s an 11pm curfew, at least at the time of writing, for bars and clubs. I understand some stay open later after a ‘lock in’, but from listening to our fellow travellers, it’s a massive pain to get back to accommodation after 11pm if you do stay out as once all the shutters come down over shop and restaurant fronts it’s a very difficult city to orientate yourself around. Sometimes you end up at the mercy of motorcycle drivers who will offer to take you back and then may well rip you off – so just a warning to be safe and careful if staying out late!
Also, though we didn’t visit any, there are tailor shops in abundance in Hoi An and you can get some amazing deals, not just on suits but on dresses, handbags and shoes as well to name but a few – and they’ll generally produce results within 24 hours at the max. If unlike us you have room in your suitcase and aren’t travelling for ages, I’d say definitely get something made in Hoi An! A few of our group did and did not regret it!
The next day, we travelled to Hue, which was quite possibly one of the hottest places we visited in Vietnam, which is saying something, as Hoi An was ridiculously hot. We still just about managed to sight see without passing out, and you can read about Hue in the next post 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!