Our second stop in Vietnam with Nanna and Wilson was Hoi An, a short 1hr flight from Ho Chi Minh to Danang, followed by a 30 minute drive to reach Hoi An.
Danang looks like an amazingly modern city with the Vietnamese government throwing money at housing and facilities. The sporting fields and stadiums being built were huge. Not exactly an exotic holiday destination but a nice place to live.
The drive from Danang to Hoi An is a little surreal – along the beach hundreds of luxury villas are being built with Greg Norman’s face plastered all over them. We felt like we were on the Gold Coast in Australia rather than in the middle of Vietnam.
Our hotel in Hoi An, Long Life Hotel has a lovely atmosphere, rooms and gardens. Our rooms are on the ground floor just next to the gardens and pool so its easy for the kids to play outside. The rooms have real character, although a lot of minor things are broken. Lights, fans, showerheads, wifi.. all broken and the staff don’t seem to care. It’s a shame as its easily the prettiest place we’ve stayed. The kids are loving having a pool again and making good use of their new swimmers sent over by Colin’s mother.
We visited My Son, an ancient ruin near Hoi An. The drive took around an hour through rice fields, rivers and small towns. The My Son area of Vietnam contains the ruins of a city and Hindu temples built between the 4th and 14th century A.D. by the Champa people. Rediscovered in the late 19thCentury, the ruins are in an amazing condition with much of the original city intact.
Unfortunately several major battles took place on the site during the Vietnam war and the Americans heavily bombed the area so much of the city was destroyed. There are still several areas where the temples and structures are almost completely intact, but many more areas are under reconstruction or were completely destroyed.
It was ridiculously hot at the ruins, even at 10am and we all really struggled in the heat but it was worth visiting. The kids had a lot of fun exploring the ruins (or perhaps dancing around the ruins is a better explanation)…
balancing on stone fences …
not letting us cross bridges until we solved their riddles of what animals they were pretending to be (looking at the picture below I still have no clue what Hayley was, Noah was a T-rex)….
looking and laughing at the animal sculptures…
and trying to catch the swarms of yellow and blue butterflies surrounding the ruins.
There are a lot more photos of the actual ruins on our flickr account if your interested in that kind of thing.
As part of the tour you can choose to watch a dance performance highlighting traditional dances and music of the Champ people. Hayley really got into the music and wouldn’t let Nanna leave until the song was finished. Meanwhile I took the opportunity to explore the ruins by myself while all the other tourists watched the performances. If you want to get great photos during the dance is the time to explore as you’ll have the ruins to yourself! Then you can always catch the next dance.
The walk back to the car was hot and we bribed the kids with ice-creams if they made the walk by themselves. Unfortunately when we got back to the car we found out the power had gone out for the 30KM radius and there were no ice creams to be had. Noah cried his heart out.
Black outs have been a real problem in the few days that we’ve been here. It’s the end of the dry season so the river is really low and doesn’t have enough water to supply power for the entire region. So rolling blackouts are common. All the hotels have generators to supply power but anyone without a generator are struggling out in the heat. Rolling blackouts like this must be a huge challenge for local business owners.
After visiting My Son we headed back towards Hoi An, stopping at a ridiculously overpriced restaurant inside a boat on the Hoi An river. Our tour guide had told us that the food was very cheap there as it was a long way outside Hoi An so we’d agreed to eat there. We were sceptical as surely a restaurant set inside a novelty boat had to be expensive but he assured us otherwise. Perhaps he was lying to get a good kickback from the staff from bringing us there or perhaps it is cheap if you compare it to the waterfront restaurants in the historical section of Hoi An but much more expensive than anywhere else we’ve eaten so far. Still it was a fun novelty to eat inside a boat over looking the Hoi An river and we had the place mostly to ourselves. The view as you can see was spectacular…
After lunch we visited a silk factory where the kids enjoyed watching the silk worms at all stages of their life cycle. The ladies at the factory were really welcoming towards the kids, teaching the kids about silk worms and letting them sit down with them while they worked sorting the silk worms by size and placing them on frames to make cocoons. It was one of the more interesting places to visit with kids that we’ve come across. I would have never thought to take them there but it was the highlight of Noah’s day and he’s enjoyed recounting everything he saw to us later in the day.
Following our visit to the silk worm factory we walked around the town looking at shoe stores, eating ice cream and visiting old Chinese buildings before the heat finally got the better of us and we retreated back to the hotel?s pool.
Today we’ve enjoyed a rest day, with no tour activities planned. We made sure as part of the 11 day tour while Nanna was here that we had a couple of free days as we didn’t think the kids would keep up the pace. We’re very glad that we did as Hayley and Noah are exhausted. So today is a day by the swimming pool, getting broken shoes repaired and a play in the sand at Hoi An beach later this afternoon.