Wednesday, November 29, 2006

To My Son and back

Hoi An - boat women, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

An excellent day today, out with Bon and Binh on their motorbikes, to the old Cham ruins in My Son, there and back through lovely countryside with lots of stops along the way, finishing off with a few hours on a lovely white sandy beach, with clear waters and splashy waves.

It was an early start for us,as we were met outside at 6, just in time for the lad in the hotel to make us a delicious coffee (one of the main and total surprises of Vietnam) before we set off West towards the mountains. We passed beautiful landscapes of the river estuary, rice paddies, with cows and water buffalo and farmers in peaked caps, through a number of ribbon development towns, across a couple of long bridges and then up into the hills to the My Son site.

This was set in a wooded valley, a little reminiscent of Angkor Wat, with beautiful views over to the green clad mountain tops, notably teh wonderfully names Cat's Tooth Mountain. The buildings were very much in the Angkor Hindu style and were built around from 400 to 1400 AD. A smallish site, which being still early in the morning was almost deserted, this was the religious and cultural centre of the Champa Kingdom, an Indian based civilisation, which covered parts oif what is now Cambodia, Thailand and, of course Vietnam.

On the way back we stopped off at a pig market, as we had shown such an interest in the pigs being transported in baskets onm the back of motorbikes. We had seen a number of these in Cambodia, but this morning there were lots of them. The baskets were of varying sizes and held a number of pigs or piglets, based on what could be crammed in. They looked verty sweet with their pink nostrils poking out through the holes and it was best not to think what was about to happen to them. While we were there a bus on its way down Highway 1 to Saigon stopped off and had to be virtually unloaded to fit a number of these baskets into the hold, under where the passengers sit and we saw them being loaded up. Apparently, the prices down south are better than around here so someone was onto a quick buck.

Earlier in the day,.we had stopped a couple of times to photograph a buffalo barbecue. A spit roasted buffalo slwoly revolving on a spit, its whitsih meat getting every more tender while its fatty layer on the outside burned. By the size of them, they were just young buffalo and it was good later in the day to take some characteristic photos of buffalos inthe fields, one even being ridden by an old lady who would later pose for photos.

The old ladies here are just so photogenic with their wrinkled faces and blood red lips, dripping with betelnut juice, topped with a peaked hat. Photogenic, or what?

The afternoon ended on the white sandy beach just outside Hoi An. It is supposed to be the wet season here in mid-Vietnam, but this year there has not been any rain. Upsetting for the farmers, but excellent for tourists ourselves. It was a very long sandy beach, hardly any tourists. The government had planted coconut trees along teh side of the beach, knowing very well how tourists like their beaches to be fringed. The beach hut concessions were small simple places, with grass roofs, colourful deck chairs, straw parasols, and a family restaurant. All very relaxed. Not even many sellers of beads or massages, although to shut the couple of them who did turn up, Richard had a footr massage and I am the owner of a lucky year of the buffalo (fittingly enough) onyx medallion, promising me a long and happy life.. longer than the poor buffalos we had seen earlier in the day!



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