Moped Madness and Marble Mountains

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 31, 2014

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, December 8, 2012

We awake feeling terrible. Our feet are completely black. There are matching black foot prints up the walls of our room. Our mouths taste rancid. We have unimaginable headaches and no memory of last night. The jam-jar vodkas we were drinking last night have certainly left their mark on us. We crawl from our bed, miss breakfast and rush to check out by 10:30am. Someone seems to have left the sun on all night and now it's too bright for our squinty red eyes. After some strong coffee and stodgy food we are feeling a bit better. So we rent a moped and head for the Marble Mountains 10 miles away. There's nothing like a good climb when you've got a hangover from hell... hmmm.

The moped costs us about 4 for the day, including two childsize helmets for our already pounding heads. We manage to drive off without crashing and before long we're heading north along the main road out of Hoi An. First stop is the petrol station as you are only ever given enough fuel to get you to the nearest station! It's pretty busy as we roll to a stop in front of a pump. Anna hops off the back and Ian asks the attendant for some fuel. He kicks the stand out and steps off it like seasoned biker. He turns around to Anna. Behind him the moped falls over with a loud crunching noise. Guess that kick-stand wasn't quite kicked out enough!  Embarassed and with the rest of the petrol station watching, he struggles to pick it up and put it back on its stand. The guy with the fuel nozzel looks at us blankly for a moment then sticks in 60p's worth for us. We stand there, red faced, sweating and stinking of last nights alcohol. Still highly embarassed, we exit the station without a backwards glance and hope we never see any of those people ever again. Luckily, the bike is already rather scratched and we haven't made it worse.... well not that we can see anyway.

The main road is huge. Eight lanes across (when everyone rides a bike!) at some points and the traffic isn't too bad. We cruise towards the Marble Mountains at a steady pace, weaving around scores of bicycles and mopeds and staying close to the edge of the road whenever a honking horn goes off, signalling something with four wheels is approaching from behind at speed. This occurs often. They do like honking their horns in Vietnam. Ian joins in. 25 mins later we see a sign for our destination and turn off the road. We are immediately accosted by the lady owner of local shop. She takes our helmets and says she will watch the bike for us if we look around her shop later. We agree as we don't fancy carrying our tiny helmets or leaving them resting on the bike.

The Marble Mountains are a cluster of five marble and limestone hills. They are named after the five ancient elements; Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth) and are striking in their appearence as the surrounding land is mostly flat and they rise from the ground like a giants fingers. We have chosen to climb the largest one (Thuy) and visit it's many caves and temples hidden within. After buying a cheap entrance ticket we tackle the billion steps to the first area. The ascent is steep and we stop often to pant and curse. We drink water and pepsi to aid our fatigue and hangover. It doesn't help. We reach the first look out point without passing out or having to have a lie down. The views are simply stunning. Even more stunning than the view looking out are the views looking in as the mountain is pocketed with vast caves. Inside these caves there are wonderful temples, pagodas, shrines and marble sculptures. Some of Buddha sculptures are huge and carved out of the very mountain itself, set high on ledges with sunlight sneaking into the vaulted caves from holes high above. We spend a long time exploring the caves and temples, finding hidden areas and surprises along the way. The whole place is a wonder and we wish we had the time to explore the other four mountains, but today is moving day and we have a bus to catch at 7pm. Its a sleeper bus and it'll take us further down the coast to the beach town of Nha Trang. Exhausted from exploring (and from our hangover) we stomp back down the steps to our waiting moped.

We manage to get the bike back home without dropping it again and head off for some food. We are worried. We have witnessed our fair share of insane bus drivers in Asia and now we are preparing to board a bus that drives for 11 hours through the night on questionable roads. Not an appealing proposition, but if we don't crash and die then tomorrow we'll be back on the beach for the first time since leaving the Philippines. Fingers crossed.
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