Our alarm system began ringing us at 2.26 am. Soon after Charlotte sent a text saying the system was also ringing her. After some emailed instructions and a further text from Charlotte saying that it had been sorted by Suraj, I turned off my mobile and was about to return to sleep when Sarah Skyped me on my tablet. After a short conversation, I finally got back to bed.
The alarm was set for 6.45 am and duly woke us up. Showered and into breakfast for 7 am, we had eaten our fill and were speeding along the highway in our taxi towards Marble Mountain.
The journey took about 40 mins, our driver paid for the tickets up the lift to the first level and showed us where to meet when we had finished. It was already starting to warm up and would reach 37 degrees by the time we had finished. The mountain rises vertically from the surrounding plain and has 5 caves within it, all with the obligatory shrines inside. The are several viewpoints to climb to and savour the surrounding countryside as well as 4 Temples that churned out Buddhist Music or the sound of monks chanting. As the day wore on we came across more and more brave souls all braving the steep steps and withering heat. In one cave I was grabbed for my photograph to be taken with who I presume were Chinese tourists as this brought memories back of walking the Great Wall.
When we reached ground level some 3 hours later on the other side of the mountain we stopped at a small cafe for beer and lemonade before being persuaded to part with some Dongs at a sculpture retailer. We now possess a horse and a snake sculpture each made from green marble. Retracing our steps back up the mountain, we visited the one Pagoda we had missed before descending in the lift to meet our driver again and two very cold towels, lovely. With air-con on full blast, we drove back to the hotel.
Resting back in our room we had another conversation with Sarah on Skype, this time she was still in bed. Ha, ha!
We discussed whether to go for lunch, but decided that we couldn’t be bothered as it was so hot and we didn’t feel in the least peckish. A little later we did venture down to the beach and walked through the waves along the shore. The highlight of which was to see a sea snake slither across the sand and into the waves to struggle against the breaking surf before finally disappearing out to sea. Not seen that before.
Returning to the hotel we changed and have decided to eat in Hoi An that evening, we caught the shuttle bus into town.
The town was starting to take on a different character as we arrived, more like a carnival atmosphere. Though the same shops were open as were the street stalls, people in fancy/folk dress and musicians began appearing. The plan was to walk the length of the Old Town river bank and on the way back choose a restaurant to eat at. On the first part of our trek, I bought a towel. If tomorrow is as hot as today it shall be used to wipe the perspiration from anywhere that needs it, today I nearly melted at times. I gave Sue 200 000 Dong ($10) and she promptly spent it all. 15 000 Dong on a large bag of peanuts, which should have been 20 000 Dong, but the seller’s wife took pity on the poor European and goaded him into parting with the goods. We then witnessed an exchange of blows between the seller and another gentleman, who presumably said something derogatory about the transaction he had just made. She later negotiated with a shopkeeper to purchase a T-shirt, I ducked into the restaurant next door, well out-of-the-way of any collateral damage when Sue went into her bargaining mode. It was this restaurant that we chose to eat in. The food was lovely and the beer and cider were practically being given away at the price they were charging (and would have been if Sue had her way).
Afterwards, we walked into the centre of the Old Town to see what was happening. It was magical. The Pretty lanterns lit in the trees and the dancing lights suspended on the bridges was a scene from fairyland. There were even little paper lantern boats lit with candles floating downstream. We stopped to watch and listen to some Folk music and played another game of screeching Bingo to no avail. We laughed at a game where blindfold contestants had to smash a pot suspended from a tree with a stick to win a prize, with the crowd shouting instructions and the organisers banging drums to drown out the cries of the crowd. What fun. The Vietnamese stood no chance as they are far too small to reach the pot, but the first European that had a go smashed it easily. One up for Macdonalds.
There were so many delightful things going on all along the streets that we reluctantly made our way back to where our bus was hopefully going to pick us up. While we waited we had the same ice-creams as before and this time we did get onto what in the end was a full coach. We packed in a shed load of wonderful memories this evening and I am sure that in future hot summer’s evenings in the Uk my mind is going to drift back to tonight.
Climbing up the steps of the hotel I caught my toe and now I have a bloody and sore big toe nail. Ouch! Hopefully the plaster I stuck on it will do the job. Tomorrow will tell. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!