Hoi An and My Son

Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
Trip End Aug 2005

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day. Yes, they celebrate it here. Mellisa and I found it quite funny that we were spending Valentine's Day together. It has remained an ongoing joke that I have spent more uninterrupted time with her than any person ever before in my life. More than any friends, boyfriends, and even my own parents. We eat every meal together, we sleep in the same room every night, we sit next to each other for hours at a time during bus/train/car/plane/tuk-tuk rides. We separate only to go to the bathroom. Pretty frightening, I know.

Hoi An is a charming place to spend a couple of days. Any more than that and you'll either get really tired of the constant deluge of children trying to guilt you into buying their postcards, or you'll be flat broke. The city is famous for its handmade cotton cloth and seamstresses who can whip up clothes measured to fit your body within a matter of hours. This is any shopaholic's dream (or worst nightmare). Did I mention that before we left China I mailed 2 boxes of things back to Liuyang? Yeah.

I had some pants and shirts made, more out of curiosity than anything else. The main drag in town is lined with dozens of little shops where you can get clothes made. Interspersed with these are little shops that sell luggage, so that the tourists who come here and buy whole new wardrobes conveniently have something in which to lug the clothes home.

The streets of Hoi An are crawling with people looking to lure you into their shops. Some of them are quite persuasive. Mellisa got her eyebrows plucked (brave girl) and I, for some reason, threw caution to the wind and got my hair cut in a back alley in a shop the size of a walk-in closet. I figured my chances of finding someone who could do a decent job were actually better here in a touristy place than back in Hunan. As you well know I am deathly afraid of getting a Chinese girl haircut (spiky bangs are not my look). It turned out all right. It'll grow out.

To atone for our day of gross consumerism, we figured we should do something culturally enriching the next day. We took a taxi ride at 5am over to another World Heritage site, the ancient Cham ruins at My Son. Although much smaller, the ruins were more along the lines of what I had expected from Angkor Wat...quiet, serene, surrounded by lush jungle. We were some of the only people there at that hour, so the ruins felt deserted and almost eerie, rising out of the undergrowth in the early morning light.

The collection of structures seemed surprisingly small, and we wondered if there were any more sites to visit. I had forgotten the Lonely Planet, so we went up to some other tourists to inspect their book. The one guy, a Brit, politely informed us that there was in fact no more to see since "your country bombed the s**t out of it during the 1960s." It's unfortunate but true. The VC used My Son as a base, so the Americans retaliated by dropping bombs on the monuments. Thousands of years of history blown to pieces by the US armed forces...

We returned to Hoi An just in time to catch a 2pm bus to Hanoi. Another 18 hour overnight (un-airconditioned) bus ride, only this one wasn't even a sleeper bus with bunks. There's nothing quite like waking up at 3am, stiff-necked and sore from sitting bolt upright for the past 13 hours, sticky from sweat and bug spray, crammed into an un-air conditioned bus with 40 total strangers.
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