BootsnAll Travel Network

Monday June 11th, 2007; Hoi An, Vietnam

Today I wasn’t really feeling the beach.  I wanted to do something adventurous, plus the burns on my shoulders were telling me to keep them covered.  I agreed to do so, and decided that I would yet again rent a motorbike and drive around.  The traffic in Hoi An was really minimal compared to the other cities in Vietnam we had been too.  It was similar to Vientiane, which was the last place I rented a motorbike.  I figured it would not be too hard to ride around and since I was familiar this time with how to put the kickstand down and start the damn thing, that I would be fine.  My first plan was to find a place to rent one, luckily the hotel offered a service, well they told you to go to the lady standing outside to rent one, so I did.  She was friendly and her son helped her during the day with the operations.  She told me that it would be five USD for the day.  Seemed a little steep, but I agreed to do it for 5 and she even let me pay her after I brought the bike back.  That was perfect considering I did not have enough Dong on me to pay her right then and there.  So I gathered up all the stuff I could potentially need for my journey; Towel, Bathing suit, camera, water, extra batteries and I was off!

I really had no idea where I wanted to go but the sun was shining, it was hot, but instead of walking I was riding on a motorbike.  The wind kept me somewhat cooler, I was getting a nice tan and my shoulders were protected by my shirt.  Of course my luck the only shirt left that was clean was my Luang Prabang shirt from Lao, which was black.  The material wasn’t cotton, so it didn’t breathe as well as it could have, and yes the sun was pouring down on it.

I decided to first pick up all my clothing that I had ordered the previous day.  I had to go to two shops, one for the pj pants and the other for all the shirts, suit and tie.  When I got to the first shop the suit fit nice, like a glove, but the area around the thighs was a little too tight for my liking.  Why settle when they can’t fix anything and everything in a jiffy.  I told her everything was great and that I would be by later to pick them up.  The second store, a similar issue, except this time the pants were not long enough.  They crept up to my ankles which I didn’t like, so I told her to make them a little longer and again I would be by to pick them up later.

After going to the shops and coming back empty handed I could now start my journey around Hoi An and the surrounding areas of Vietnam.  I decided to head down to the beach to see how far along the coastline I could go.  I first went right when I got to the beach.  I was able to go down about 3-4 kilometers or more before the road ran out and there was nothing my gravel, trees and sand.  I turned back and then just went straight (which would have been a left if I was coming towards the beach).  This time the road went a lot longer.  Before I knew it I had done about 25+ kilometers and had ended up in a place called My Son.  Once I entered here there was no turning back.  My thought was to head to Denang and check out the beaches there.  They are supposed to be just as beautiful as the ones near Hoi An.  Fortunately that would not happen.  As I was driving along, mountains appeared in front of me.  As I got closer I began to pick up something on the radar.  I noticed a giant Pagoda and some stone statute in the distance.  I got more and more interested in what they could be, so when I got really close I pulled in to the neighboring town at the base of the mountain and stopped by.  The security officer told me this was Marble Mountain or Son Mountain.  Basically the entire mountain is made of marble and the structures or ruins remaining in the caves and outside along the rim were also made of marble.  Well I had come this far and even though it was so hot out, I could not keep the sweat from running from my brow I decided to check it out.  The guard also told me I had to park my motorbike across the street.  I was skeptical at first to leave my motorbike with people I didn’t know, who could clearly do whatever they wanted with it.  It seemed pretty legit, so I pulled in across the street, parked, paid the 2000 Dong and was off.

The entrance fee to the mountain was a mere 15000 Dong, not bad considering all I was about to encounter and see.  I climbed up the numerous amount of stairs in front of me which were rather steep and proceeded to check out some of the highlights of Marble Mountain.  I first came to a smaller pagoda which looked nice, it was colorful as most were, but the handwork was really remarkable considering it was made out of marble.  For the next hour or so I climbed around the mountain up and down steep rocks, did a little “off the beaten path” type stuff and just checked out all that was to be seen.  At one point I ended up in a little corner of the mountain surrounded by like five small pagodas which lead to a bigger one at the end.  Again all made of marble.  When I turned around to check out the view it was awesome.  Ocean on your right, mountains to your left and the city/town in front of you.  I took some great photos on this day.

After I saw all the pagodas, it was on to the temples that were on the mountain.  They were similar to many other Buddha temples I had seen during my trip.  Colorful, quiet, clean and tranquil.  You get that same smell no matter where you go that just draws you in where you have to look around and admire.  I wasn’t sure how old these temples were, as I didn’t have a pamphlet or anything to go along with my entrance fee ticket.  After cruising around the temples it was time to see the caves.  This was the best part of Marble Mountain.  The first cave was really cool.  It had a huge Buddha carved in to the cave and the ceiling of the cave was at least 100 feet high.  There were some other structures, smaller Buddha’s and just random things carved in to the cave.  It was nice to be in the cave because it was cooler.  No sun, and you got a little reprieve from the heat each time you went in to one.  At this point I was sweating so much I really didn’t care, but had to be careful about being too dehydrated.  I did pick up a bottle of water which I had to bargain really hard for, so I had some fluids in me.

Eventually I got to a second cave where a lady who was cleaning with really nasty redish teeth took me around the cave.  I knew I would have to tip her as nobody in Vietnam does anything out of the goodness of their heart, actually make that most of Southeast Asia.  Everyone tries to nickel and dime you anyway they can!  She did show me some cool things in the cave that I’m sure others would not see.  This is because some of the structures could not be seen by light and were behind other structures that again were hard to see because of the lack of light.  The best thing she showed me was the lying buddha.  It was completely hidden and she even took a picture of me at the foot of it!

After her mini tour, she rubbed her fingers together asking for a tip.  I really wanted to say no, but was feeling good, and needed some good karma, being on the motorbike without a helmet and all.  I gave her a little money, she smiled exposing her nasty teeth.  I would have almost preferred her not to smile, just to avoid looking at that gross monstrosity of a mouth.

Before going to this cave down near the lower portion of the mountain, some guys and I followed this boy up and around rocks and go to the top of the mountain.  This was definitely a place where nobody had been.  It was literally at the very top of the mountain, no handrails, no paths nothing.  Of course after looking around, the little boy wanted us to give him a “little boy guide tip,” he kept asking us to stop and give him some money.  The guys and I just said let us get down first then we will see.  Clearly we were going to just keep walking and eventually they left.  We then had to maneuver ourselves back down the other side of this mountain till we got to flat ground.  I didn’t know I would be hiking today so I was wearing flip flops, and good thing the rocks were marble which are slippery as hell!  I eventually got down but not before running a little too fast and having to have my legs split by a tree on a slant, which actually saved me from snowballing down to the bottom.

Then I hit the lady with the teeth and after that was really hot, tired, and extremely sweaty.  I got myself down to the very bottom of the mountain, to the base, but was on a different side from where I had gone up.  I had to figure out where I had parked my bike and find the entrance to the mountain.  After walking a few blocks down the street I originally came too and found my motorbike place.

This is where the fun stuff comes in.  I got back and was really tired, hot and sweaty like I mentioned.  I could barely walk and the people around me were just bothering the shit out of me constantly hawking me to buy stuff from that I just exclaimed “I don’t want anything from anyone!”  I was about to pick up my bike and drive home when I got this feeling to do something crazy.  I turned back around from my bike out of the shop and starting hawking people in to this family’s shop myself.  I would try and wave down any car or bike I saw to come and park at this family’s shop and/or buy something.  Locals around the street and across the street noticed me doing so emphatically and starting laughing hysterically.  People could not believe I was doing this and quite frankly neither could I.  I think part of me just cracked from being hassled and hawked for the last seven weeks in Asia.  I was having a blast though.  After about ten minutes of intense hawking, waving and shouting a guy pulled in to the shop and bought a bottle of water!  Everyone starting yelling and laughing that I actually got someone to come in!  The dude paid his 5000 dong and was off.  I had made my first sale!  The longer I did it, and the more bikes came in to park and buy waters, the more the locals would laugh, cheer and shout.  At one point the security guard across the street tried to recruit me to come work for this other local shop.

After a while of being in the hot sun standing one of the people in my shop gave me a chair in the shade and some water.  I had earned a small gulp of water but that was it.  I was so drenched in sweat, wiping off excess sweat from my brow would just result in even more sweat on my face.  At one point the lady saw me sweating so much she gave me one of those funny green hard hats the Vietnamese wear during the day and out in the rice patty fields.  The crowd of locals around the shops went nuts again.  Pointing at me, talking to their friends, all in fun.  At one point I was rolling, bikes were coming in left and right, large and small bottles of water were being sold, I was making some good money for these people and it felt great to do so.

The only weird part of the whole experience of me working in this shop was this old lady who strolled over from the other side of the street and started yelling at me, clearly in frustration in Vietnamese.  I had no idea what she was saying and at one point just said “What the hell is your problem lady, go away,” now she either understood me or just turned and glared at me because I had said anything back to her.  She was old and crabby and I just wanted to throw her out of the shop like in the movies because she was hurting business and not allowing me to get up and wave people in.  People would drive by as I tried to wave them in, some would smile or laugh and others would give blank stares or glare.

All in all I probably ended up making the lady about 100000 Dong in about 1.5 – 2 hours.  Yes that is right I did this for a really long time in the hot sun.  Part of me wanted to see how hard it really was and how little you really made and the other part just thought it would be funny.  In the end I was basically dizzy and completely dehydrated.  I had sweat everything out of my body and had no fluids left.  I went to the guy standing there and said I wanted to buy some water and a 7up to replenish the fluids.  I took out money and after some discussion with the younger lady with her baby sitting in her lap, he turned and said to me “Souvenir,” and handed me the giant bottle of water and 7up.  I had earned that much by working for two hours in 90+ degree heat with high humidity for the family.  I said thank you a few times, made a warming gesture, got on my bike and rode off in to the distance, honking my horn and waving from the bike as I did so.

The time was about 330ish and I had to get back to Hoi An to pick up my clothing from the various shops.  It was a long ride back, but I was so charged up from the experience I had just had that it didn’t matter how hot or sweaty I was.  I think this experience was one of the best experiences I have ever had in my whole life, let alone while traveling.  To be able to work like that, have fun and actually make a little money for a family that clearly needed it, there is nothing better in the world than that.

I got back to town with enough time to get all my stuff.  Everything was ready for me, but when I got to the place where I had my suit and shirts made, I was once again conned by the girl, shop assistant number 3 to buy more clothing!  This time she offered me 6 shirts for the price of 5.  That would be less than 8 dollars a shirt, for good quality, hand made dress shirts!  I could not say no, they were so good at getting me to buy stuff.  They assured me that it would be ready by 9pm that night, because I was leaving the next day and did not want to mess with not having my stuff in time.  I picked out 6 more shirts bringing my grand total to 11 from that store alone and was on my way to the second store.

I picked up my satin pj bottoms and took everything back to the hotel.  At this point I was in my room just looking around at all my stuff thinking to myself “How the hell am I going to fit this all in?”  I didn’t really know at that point and decided to just forget about it.  I immediately changed in to my bathing suit and jumped right in to the pool.  My arms were red, but not burnt and after cooling down in the pool turned a nice shade of brown.  My face and body had been tanned nicely from this bike tour, and was looking good.  I swam for a while cooling down and then got up and went back to the room and crashed.  I put on a movie, fiddled around with the internet and hung out.  After a little while I had a bright idea to order room service and watch a movie.  Perfect ending to the day.  So I ordered a delicious salad with some fried rice with a chilled can of 7up lots of ice and was in heaven.  The air conditioning was on full blast; 17 degrees C and I was kicking back reflecting on the day I just had.  After a shower, movie and late lunch it was time to pay the lady for the motorbike and head back in to town to pick up the last of my clothing from my favorite ladies at the tailor shop.  I must have misunderstood the girl because when I got there at 8pm she said, “no, no niiiine pm,” I was like “I thought you said 8pm, but no problem I will come back.”  I headed off to the place where the gang had gone for dinner to see if they were still there, which they were.  They had done one of their banquet dinners probably at the request of Morrie and had ordered lots of seafood.  I told them I wasn’t interested and just ordered a few beers and fried vegetable spring rolls.  They asked me about my day so I told them the story of the hawking, and Marble Mountain etc.  They got a nice kick out of it but by the end only Meredith was listening.  They were too busy trying to screw the next person out of the dish of food that was in front of them.  That is the problem with these banquet dinners, everyone gets screwed, you order plenty of food, none of which you enjoy because they person before you took too much and you end up not eating enough.  I was plenty satisfied with my spring rolls and sweet chili sauce with my beers thank you very much.  I knew exactly how much I was going to eat that night.  I also ordered some dessert, which I hadn’t had in many weeks, probably going back to Japan.

After I was finished it was about 9pm I had to say goodbye so I could pick up my clothing and got back to the shop.  My remaining six shirts were all ready, felt great, fit great, I said my goodbyes, got a picture with my favorite sales assistant number 3 and was off.  Man if I had more money, a bigger bag and more time, I would have bought the world out of that shop.  It is so hard to resist when the quality is that good, the shirts are that nice and it is so damn cheap!

The rest of the night was a quiet one.  I walked back to the hotel, dropped my stuff down and basically plopped down on the bed.  I was so tired from the whole day I just wanted to sleep.  Tomorrow was our last day in Hoi An and from there we would be flying at 2pm to Ho Chi Minh City or also referred to as Saigon, in the southern part of Vietnam


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