After Hue, we headed towards Da Nang, the third city in importance in Vietnam, dubbed the “City of bridges” because of its 9 bridges. We stopped in Lang Co along the way, a small fishing village. We found out the fishermen reuse old tires. After cutting them in thin rings, they throw them in the water and mussels attach themselves to them. They only have to take the tires out of the water and harvest the molluscs. We were told that here in Vietnam, 80% of the population is either farmers or fishermen.
We missed the famous Hải Vân pass , favouring the much faster recent tunnel under the mountain given the rain and fog of the day that prevented us from enjoying the scenery. Scooters are forbidden in the tunnel but a bus commutes back and forth for those who want to cross it. Do they have another scooter waiting for them on the other side?
Arriving in Da Nang, we visited the Cham Sculpture Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of Cham sculptures (The Cham were indigenous to Vietnam and Cambodia, with an independent kingdom from the 2nd to 17th century AD and their culture was strongly influenced by that of India).
Da Nang is a modern city. Here, electrical wires are underground and WiFi is free for everyone. It is forbidden to sell lottery tickets or newspapers on the streets and there are places for homeless people. Everywhere we go in Vietnam, we see orange bonsais. With the New Year coming, everyone wants to have one in front of their door to bring Good luck and happiness in the New Year. We see people everywhere transporting these kumquat trees on their scooter. They are expensive by Vietnamese standard, so they have the option of renting one for the holidays and give it back to the grower after the holidays.
The museum is located near the dragon bridge that pans the Hàn river. The bridge was built in the shape of a dragon and breathes fire and water each Saturday and Sunday nights at 9PM.
We stopped in a warehouse of huge marble sculptures, and we were stunned by the quality, quantity and variety of sculptures. There are several of these warehouses along the road. Here it is marble, more to the north, it is lacquered or silk paintings and clothing. The government hires disabled people and victims of Agent Orange to labour by hand on these works of art.
We then drove to Marble Mountains. As the name suggests, these rock formations are made of marble and there are several caves housing a series of shrines dedicated to Buddha and Confucius. Again, absolutely beautiful, but some areas are quite wet and slippery due to water dripping from the ceilings. You have to be careful when you go down or climb up towards some of the less accessible areas to see the statues because the stairs carved from the marble are slippery.
We finally arrived in Hoi An! After a brief stop at the hotel to leave the luggage, and a quick lunch, we had a walking tour of the old city: The famous Japanese covered bridge, national symbol of Vietnam and illustrated on the 20,000 Dôngs bills, with its pair of carved monkeys at one end and dogs at the other end, to represent the years of construction, the tailor Yaly, the silkworm farm and the many works of art patiently woven by hand by the artisans with the harvested silk that is then dyed, visiting many houses, pagodas and temples. At one point I felt completely saturated and we stopped for the day.
Tomorrow, we’ll have lots of time to explore Hoi An!
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