|Near Chan May along the central Vietnam coast|
I was certainly right about that! I was the only one there at 5:45 am!
|Gym at 5:45 am|
I naturally had my choice of any machine and used the treadmill I like in the middle. The TV still did not pick up the satellite channels so I mostly looked out the window as we approached the port of Chan May.
About 15 minutes later there were some other people in the gym. After my workout I walked along the deck enjoying the views. The topography is quite stunning and tropical.
The mountains in the distance along the South China Sea are very pretty in the early morning sun.
I went back to the room and showered and got ready for our big day on tour. The weather is great with partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 86 F. We walked down the outside stairs on deck 11 to reach the Oceanview. For breakfast I managed to find some more "normal" items than on previous days including a big blueberry croissant. We enjoyed sitting outside and taking in the view.
|My "normal" breakfast|
There was an announcement that the ship had been cleared at 7:25 am. We went to the theater around 7:30 am for our 8:00 am meeting time for Celebrity Tour HZ07A "Hoi An On Your Own". The cost was around $40 per person and Celebrity provides transportation to Hoi An but we get to tour at our own pace. I went to present our tickets in order to get our stickers. They were now up to calling sticker #11. We were given sticker #23.
|Getting stickers in the theater for ship tours|
They did a sticker check a little later and numbers #23 - #29 were all for HZ207A, our Hoi An tour. There was a separate guided tour to Hoi An and some people got confused between the two.
Our sticker number was called about 8:15 am. We left the theater and walked down two flights of stairs to deck 2. We found the bus but when we arrived we were not allowed to board as it was already full. After a few minutes we were told to go to bus #29 which was on the other side of the parking lot. There were very few people on this bus - a total of 11. So we had lots of space.
We departed the port at 8:45 am. I have been looking forward to the scenic drive south through Bach Ma National Park and eventually along the shore in Danang. Our guide is named Thiem, and said that it would be a 2 hour drive to Hoi An.
The guide did a little "housekeeping" and instructed us that our departure time from Hoi An would be at 1:15 pm to return to the ship. Everyone on the bus was immediately in an uproar as that would have only allowed 1 hour and 45 minutes in Hoi An. So much for "on your own!". In addition, our guide also said he was taking us on 30 minute orientation tour around the town. That would cut into more time. Everyone kept saying "no" about the requested departure time until finally the guide relented and agreed to let us come back to the ship at 2:00 pm instead.
Our guide Thiem then sang a song about his country and after that provided some history and logistical info on Hoi An.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An was an international trading center. Merchant ships from Japan, China, Holland and India visited for between 4 - 6 months per year. They also set up their own quarters for permanent habitation.
Hoi An is the only intact traditional trading post in Vietnam. It is a remarkably well preserved ancient area known for its outstanding wooden architecture. Located on the Thu Bon river its mostly wooden buildings includes 19th century pagodas, private homes and communal houses.
More recently Hoi An is well known for its abundance of tailors. At last count there were over 600 of them! I was thinking of having some clothes made but we will decide depending on what we see when we get there.
On December 4, 1999, Hoi An was dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The lush foliage and low clouds toward Danang was a nice change from Saigon.
The ride in the countryside was relaxing and we hardly had any traffic.
|River along the shores on the way to Danang|
|Near the Hai Van Tunnel|
There are many beach resorts located along Non Nuoc beach and Khe Beach. Marriott and Crown Plaza both have large properties here. We also saw a sign for a new Greg Norman beach resort as well. This is the area known as China Beach to the Americans.
We soon reached the outskirts of Danang. Danang is a city of one million people and was a major U.S. military base during the Vietnam War.
China Beach which was an R&R area for the Americans during the war is known as My Khe locally. The beach is beautiful and has views of Marble mountain.
Danang is divided into 7 main districts and one island district. It is a commercial and educational center of Central Vietnam. Danang is the 4th largest city in Vietnam.
|One of the districts in Danang|
The resorts are a big draw but they also do a huge business in weddings. The Queen Palace and King Palace are both wedding function buildings.
We were not told what the space ship building is for below. The guide just kind of laughed and said "yes, space ship". I think it is a government building.
These are homes with shops on the ground floor. They are narrow and similar to the ones we saw in Saigon.
This is near one of several universities. We saw more bicycles here than in Saigon but they still had a lot of motorcycles.
|Riding by one of the universities|
The Lotte market is part of a Korean investment. It is huge and looks very new.
|Korean investment Lotte Market|
We passed some of the resorts like the one below for Crown Plaza.
|Crown International Resort|
|Former U.S. base in Danang|
Marble mountain is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills south of Danang. The five mountains are named after the five earth elements: Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth). All the mountains have cave entrances and numerous tunnels.
Direct rock extraction from the mountains was recently banned. Materials are now supplied from quarries in a nearby province.
The quartz and stone is displayed in two or three shops that we drove by.
Not far away a man was tending to his field. In Danang, fishing has replaced agriculture in importance. The main exports from Danang are textiles, fish, handicrafts and coffee.
|Man working the fields|
We arrived in Hoi An earlier than expected at 10:15 am. Yeah! We disembarked the bus and were allowed a 30 minute "happy stop" and shopping in a large shop. The toilet brake was nice but was unnecessarily long for just 11 people. The shop was very nice and had a/c. They sold clothing and other Vietnamese souvenirs. I didn't really take much of a look in the shop as I was more interested in seeing the stores in Hoi An Old Town.
|Nice shop in new part of Hoi An|
|Very cute kids enjoying their lunch|
This area of Hoi An is the new section. There are cars and many shops. However the most interesting part of Hoi An is the old or "ancient" town.
I thought this embroidered picture was very pretty and was hoping to find something like it but smaller in town.
Once everyone was ready the guide told us to come back to this same spot by 2:00 pm. He then lead our rag tag small gang of 11 down the street and through an alley toward the pedestrian area of Hoi An. It was about a 2 minute walk.
|Theim telling us where to meet at 2:00 pm while standing in front of some ladies cooking on the street|
|Moss covered alley to get to Hoi An Old Town|
We approached the famous Japanese Bridge. The Japanese wooden bridge dates to the early 1700's.
|Japanese Covered Bridge|
Japanese Covered Bridge
The Japanese bridge is thought to have been constructed in the early years of the Edo Shogunate (early 17th century). The bridge was built by Japanese craftsman who were part of a larger community of Japanese merchants in Hoi An. Many Japanese settled in Hoi An following a treaty signed by the local lords in the 1600's. The Japanese envisioned transforming Hoi An into a great trading center. The lords allowed them to construct streets, pagodas and other infrastructure along with housing for their merchants.
The bridge also contains shrines to several deities. The Japanese Bridge is considered the architectural hallmark of Hoi An.
|Looking out from the Japanese Bridge|
The guide pointed out some of the sights and explained there are three main streets that are parallel. From the map he provided there were many streets but he said to focus on the three he mentioned. I asked the guide where we can purchase the tickets for the traditional homes and assembly halls. He said he would show me later. We kept walking and at one point he admonished our group to keep up and walk faster! I guess he was hungry for lunch?
|Quiet street in Hoi An|
We passed by two of the most popular restaurants in town, Morning Glory (Vietnamese) and Cargo Club (western) which are across the street from one another. He said they are the "best" in Hoi An. I had already planned to eat at Morning Glory so pointing it out was very helpful.
I asked the guide again where I could purchase the tickets for entry to the historic homes, clan houses and Assembly halls. He again said he would show me but he seemed very preoccupied with our walk and getting us to our final destination which turned out to be...the Chinese market!
Before leaving us to our own devices, the guide changed his mind and said we should meet at the Japanese Bridge instead which was a much better choice. He then said "okay, you are on your own!". Thank goodness, however he forgot to show or tell me where to purchase the tickets. I asked again (third time) and he grimaced and said it was just around the corner. Later I found out there were several places to buy the tickets, some much closer to the Japanese bridge. There was really no need to walk all the way down to the Chinese Market. I think he was hoping we would all go make some purchases and he would get a cut.
Our group parted and we went our separate ways.
|Part of the group leaving|
We went to the little wooden building where they sold the tickets. They accepted Dong and also US dollars. The ticket was $6 per person and had 5 tickets for the 21 different sites. You could buy more tickets if you wanted to see more sites.
|One of our tickets|
|The back of the ticket|
We started with the Old House of Quan Thang because it was closest to where we were. This is an old merchant home at 77 Tran Phu Street. They claim that the house was built over 300 years ago. However there is some dispute as the houses next door were built much later. The home is said to be an excellent example of typical Hoi An style merchant architecture. However we did not find it that interesting and moved on to the next place.
We walked up to the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall which was much better!
Phuc Kien Assembly Hall
The Phuc Kien Assembly Hall was built in 1690 for the Fukinese community. It is the largest assembly hall in Hoi An and is the protector of sailors. There are three assembly Halls in Hoi An. There are also separate Clan Houses.
The five clan houses (hoi quan) in Hoi An owned their own schools, cemeteries, hospitals and temples. The major Chinese groups in Hoi An were comprised of Fukien, Cantonese, Hainan and Chazohou.
The entrance is quite grand and impressive. The hall is actually several separate buildings.
|Phuc Kien Assembly Hall|
|Fountain in front of the hall|
The windows and tiles were original and restored.
The temple is a separate building.
It was really quite amazing what is hidden inside.
Another view of the front.
The boat presents the protection of sailors. It was very ornate.
|Large Boat for Assembly Hall dedicated to Sailors|
The inside of the boat was fascinating. They had all the accoutrements of home.
The temple was a good size and had lots to look at.
There was also a beautiful pond with koi.
The coils were on display but not much incense was lit.
We very much enjoyed seeing the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall. We walked along one of the main streets by some of the clothing stores on our way to the Tran Family Chapel. We passed this guy on the way.
We also passed this Diving Center.
Tran Family Chapel
Tran family temple (or chapel) is located at the intersection of Le Loi and Phan Chu Trinh streets. It was built in 1802 and is owned by the Tran family for 15 generations. The family has lived in Vietnam for over 300 years but traces it heritage to China. The chapel fuses Chinese and Japanese styles.
|The Tran Family welcomes us|
The description of the Tran Ancestor Worship house outside.
One of the young ladies out front showed us around.
It was hard to tell if these items were for sale or just on display.
Half of the premises have been turned into a souvenirs shop selling old coins, jewelry and other handicrafts. It was a little surprising seeing so much merchandise.
|Very old coins|
The ancestor worship shrine below
|Tran Ancestor Worship Shrine|
I felt bad that we did not buy anything. I think they were really hoping as two women we probably would. I kind of wish I had asked the price of the coins.
We need a break from the historic buildings so we walked down Le Loi street to see a few shops. Thu Thuy, at 60 Le Loi claims to be first tailor shop to open in Hoi An. They sell a wide range of silks. The Queen of Spain is said to be a customer. Looking at the entrance that doesn't really seem possible but perhaps it was a long time ago.
|Thu Thuy Tailor to the Queen of Spain?|
We also went to Yaly Couture which has a couple different locations. This one was at 47 Nguyen Thai Hoc. This tailor is known for being classy and is one of the higher end shops. They sell both traditional and modern clothing.
It was very hot during our exploration of Hoi An but not intolerable. It was however too hot to even contemplate any clothing purchases. The stores were all open and had no a/c. I had sort of expected them to be a more modern. However, the town does have a rustic charm all its own.
Tan Ky House
The Tan Ky House is located on 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. It is the first merchant house to be given special recognition by the Ministry of Culture. It dates from the 18th century and was built from jack fruit timber by the Tan Ky family. The family arrived from China 200 years earlier. The building reflects prosperity of trading silk, rice, cinnamon and apples. The architecture is representative of their Japanese and Vietnamese neighbors. Reportedly seven generations have lived here.
Like most homes in Hoi An, the side walls are directly connected to the adjacent buildings.
The front of the house is simple and contrasts with the grand interior.
|Information on the house in different languages.|
A view to the rear of the house.
The mahogany furniture is encrusted with mother of pearl.
The ceiling is triple beamed which is a characteristic of Japanese homes but unusual for Hoi An.
A view of the courtyard and the second story.
This home was the nicest and quite extraordinary. I am glad we saved the best for last. It was now time to eat! It was great that Morning Glory was next door.
|Our libations: Margarita and Grapefruit Soda|
Our Tea Rose Dumplings arrived first.
|Tea Rose Dumplings|
They were very yummy and we were still savoring them when the pancake arrived. They explained that you roll it in the thin pancake on the right side with the veggies and then dip it. It was fantastic!
Of course we had to order Spring roll, my favorite! These had some shredded noodle and were a little different than what we had before but still excellent.
|Three Friends Spring Roll|
My mother also ordered the smoked eggplant with pork. The eggplant was certainly smokey! It was actually making me ill. I did not like the taste at all. It was very pretty though! I wished we had ordered the eggplant with garlic and chili instead but my mother does not like spicy food.
|Smoked Eggplant with Pork|
They had a cooking station right in the center of the restaurant. They prepared most of the food there and directly in front of us.
|Cooks preparing the food|
Morning Glory lived up to its reputation and was delicious (except for the eggplant but that was our mistake). We departed the restaurant and noticed this nice one nearby. It looked very pretty too.
We passed this interesting store when we arrived and our march down the street with the guide. I reminded my mother she wanted to take a look.
It turned out to be nicer on the outside than the items for sale inside. We arrived at the Japanese Bridge right on time and waited for the rest of the group to arrive.
|Other side of Japanese Bridge in the Old Town|
We still had 15 minutes so with the extra time I noticed the Quang Trieu Assembly Hall and decided to take a quick look. We still had two tickets left.
Because it is near the front of town perhaps it gets more foot traffic.
This hall honors the God of Fortune.
It was worth seeing and I am glad we had the extra time. It was not large and took less than 10 minutes.
Some of the art was very nice.
We went back to the Japanese Bridge. It was finally time to leave but we did not cross the Japanese bridge as you need a ticket or pay. We walked across another bridge spanning the river. Everyone showed up except two people so we finally left without them. Our guide lead us back to the large shop on the busy street.
We didn't use this bridge either.
There were lots of groups waiting for their buses to arrive including our original bus #23. Bus #28 came and then ours #29 was next. It was starting to sprinkle so I was glad we were not standing in the rain. We boarded the bus for the 2 hour ride back which ultimately only took 90 minutes.
|Starting to rain a little|
The rain did not last long and we made a brief stop at Marble Mountain to look at one of the stores. This was requested by some of the people in our group.
The best part of stopping was that I could get a very good photo of the Pagoda and temple on the mountain.
|Beautiful pagoda at Marble Mountain|
The statues outside were completely different than what was offered inside the store.
They do call everything marble but it is really carved onyx and limestone.
|Items getting ready to ship|
It seemed like each of us had our own sales person to follow us around. I came close but I did not buy anything. A little onyx animal about 3 inches long was $25. Perhaps if they were not so pushy I would have been more interested.
After our 30 minute stop we continued on our way.
|Man selling shoes on the side of the road|
High rise buildings of Danang
This photo was a little disturbing. I didn't notice what looks like a body until much later! I was only looking at the goats as they charged through the scrubs at the time the bus rolled by.
This is a statue of the Goddess of Mercy. It is very large and can be seen from quite far away.
|Goddess of Mercy|
We arrived at the other end of the Ham Van Tunnel. There are Vietnamese and Japanese flags at the entrance/exit.
The road below shows some of the twists and turns built into the mountain.
The sun was already starting to set.
We arrived back at the ship around 4:00 pm. The ship was due to depart at 6:00 pm. There had an outdoor shopping area set up right in front of the ship. The prices were very reasonable. I bought a little onyx foo dog and a small ceramic pill box. Each were only $10.00. She was a very good salesperson. Once I picked what I wanted she went on to other things I might want as well hoping that I would buy those too! She showed me a fan, chopsticks, figurines, etc.
I think we were kind of tired. We boarded the ship and went back to the room to recover. I took a shower and read. There was an announcement that there would be a 30 minute departure delay because the ship was loading provisions.
Unfortunately we ate at Blu again and the meal was awful. Sorry but there are really no words to describe it!
The salad had feta but the cheese had no taste.
However, the worst was yet to come! The orrchiette pasta with shrimp was one of the worst things I have ever eaten. It was so salty! The server warned against it but I guess I am a glutton for punishment as I ordered it anyway!
Needless to say I did not eat much of it.
For dessert mother had a flambe banana with ice cream.
I celebrated surviving the meal with a chocolate torte. It actually tasted like chocolate and was pretty good.
We passed on the evening entertainment and went straight to bed. We will be sailing in the Gulf of Tonkin tomorrow and then by the afternoon we will arrive in Halong Bay. We will have an overnight off the ship here on a private luxury Junk. We are very much looking forward to it!!