Monday, March 1st 2010: Danang/Hoi An

Danang is the largest city in Central Viet Nam. It was the base of operations for the US during the Viet Nam war (here they call it the American War). There are remnants of the presence, including some of the old revettes for storing the aircraft.
We had a fabulous day today. Got up bright and early and was off the ship by 7:45. Our first stop was a Marble carving factory at the base of the Marble Mountains. The carvings were amazing. If we ever hit the lottery we will be back for some of the dragons, foo dogs, and other incredible works of art, plus some of the large alabaster vases. Unfortunately, we have not yet won the lottery, so we can’t afford to ship these stunning items home (tho we were told shipping was $100 US per cubic meter…)
We then traveled onward to Hoi An. Hoi An was unscathed during the war. It was a major trading port during the 1500’s – 1800’s, until the river silted up and the ships could no longer get upriver. It has been designated a Unesco world heritage site, with ancient merchant homes and the famous “Japanese Bridge”.
The Japanese believed that if they build a bridge in Hoi An, it would stop the earthquakes on their islands. It didn’t work…
Our first stop in Hoi An was to pick up bicycles. We rode for about an hour through the countryside, past rice paddies, water buffalo, and small homes. Fortunately, it was a quiet road with only a few motorcycles to dodge (and no cars/trucks). We stopped at a traditional home (several hundred years old). They had a large altar inside to honor their ancestors (including some rather large speakers) and a small alter outside the home for the wandering souls. This outside altar was there to placate any lost/angry spirits and prevent them from going inside their home and giving them bad luck.
The ride was wonderful and we could have continued on for another hour, but it was time to move on. Our next stop was a building where they demonstrated spinning and weaving silk, and the fine embroidery. Of course they had a shop where you could buy clothing (and have it altered to fit and delivered back to the ship before our departure).
We saw a merchant’s house (more embroidery/ table cloths for sale), the Japanese Bridge, and a Cantonese meeting house. After wandering around town for a while and taking photos it was time for lunch at the Cargo Club restaurant. Now THIS was more like what we were hoping for in an authentic meal in Viet Nam. What an incredible meal.
Here’s the menu: Spicy Clam Soup. White Rose (dumplings). Grilled Chicken and Lime Leaf. Beef Salad and Aroma Herb. Stir Fried Prawn with Tamarin Sauce. Fish in Clay Pot. Stuffed Squid. Stir Fried Grean Bean and Onion. Steamed Rice. Dessert.
Each dish was flavorful, delicious, and different than anything we have tasted previously. The clam soup was incredible. Layers of flavors and the clams were tender and cooked to perfection.
Our last stop was at China Beach, the R&R spot for GI’s during the war. No souvenir shops here.
We just entered Halong Bay. I’ll finish up later…It’s rather foggy so I will finish up.
At China Beach a Vietnamese couple came up to us (he had a ship’s officer’s uniform on) with a camera. At first we thought he wanted us to take their picture but no… he wanted to take his girlfriend’s picture with the two white tourists! So, somewhere, a lot of Asian people are sitting and laughing at her photo with the two funny looking round-eyes! Nice to make someone else’s memories too…

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