The first stop of several on this Asia trip was a town to the south of Da Nang, Vietnam. Arriving in Da Nang airport almost 24 hours after leaving Heathrow (adding in the 6 hour time difference) it’s fair to say Steph and I were done in. Three flights, one being 12.5 hours, left me feeling like I was stuck in a state of delirium consisting of airports, baggage reclaim and customs.
It was hard to remain awake on the taxi trip through Da nang, but the erratic ways of driving in Vietnam made sure I remained awake ; albeit bleary eyed. I’d heard it was everyone for themselves on the road, I was not misinformed.
Da Nang airport to our first hotel was only a 40 minute journey, the last of many we had in the last 24 hours. It was a quiet hotel, thirty minutes away from the old centre of Hoi An on foot.
It was our first full day which gave us the chance to venture into Hoi An for the first time. We were perhaps naive thinking we could do the walk in 32 degree heat, is colder in the morning though right? Well this is the case of Vietnam, the 32 degrees at 10am rises to at least the mid thirties by early afternoon.
The Thu Bon river flows through the centre of Hoi An and both banks are lined with shops, cafes and hotels. The streets behind the river banks are small in most places. The old town especially is best suited to bikes and the majority of locals and some tourists get around on two wheels. The heat gets to you worst in these parts, with the string smells from the river and local food combining with the humidity. Hardly a place for a pasty ginger man, but I’d acclimatised..hopefully.
Day 2 in Hoi-An had us on a mini bus out to a more remote part of central Vietnam. 45 minutes out from Hoi-an lies a site dating back to the 2nd century. The Champe people, a small ethnic minority’s race which moved to the country from Malaysia and Indonesia and once thrived in this area, built a series of temples and worship buildings across the centuries to practice Hinduism.
Walking through the ruins, minus the short and sharp rain showers, was an experience. You feel as though you are surrounded by thick forest and high mountains, in a clearing made just for the religious buildings of an ancient civilisation long gone from this place.
Most of the buildings are still completely original, albeit some pieces have broken off over the last dozen centuries or so. However some of the temples were partially or completely damaged by American bombs during the Vietnam War. In fact, there are several significantly sized bomb craters left over from the war, most of them lying dangerously close to the temples. It will undoubtedly not be the last evidence of battle scars on the Vietnamese landscape which we would come across.
The exploration of the temples concluded with a boat trip down the Thu Bon. It was labelled as a sunset trip and this was delivered on the river. Passing locals in the water, the endless rows of trees and finally being dropped off at a small fishing port our day was at an end. It was a comfortable way to start our stay in Asia, wetting the appetite for so much more.