Saturday, 7 June 2014

Motorbiking to Da Nang and My Son

While we were staying in Hoi An, Angela and I rented a motorbike and spent two days exploring outside town. On the first day, we went north to the coastal city of Da Nang, which was like a quieter, prettier version of Nha Trang (we'll see if it's still so quiet ten or twenty years from now though). On the second day we headed inland to the ancient ruins of My Son, which have been compared to ancient sites like Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya, though they weren't anywhere near as impressive in our opinion. Still, both days provided a pleasant day of exploring by motorbike, something I've yet to grow tired of on this trip.

Our route north out of Hoi An followed a quiet, dusty road.
Later it turned into a near-empty highway, which would become much busier on the journey back during rush hour.
Along the way, we stopped off at the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills just south of Da Nang. We knew we were in the right place because there were dozens of stores selling marble statues and souvenirs on the street.
Climbing the steps up one of the mountains.

There was a fantastic view of the other mountains from the top.

The view north towards Da Nang.

Exploring a cave inside the mountain.

Definitely felt some Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom vibes in here.

Soon we were back on the road and bound for Da Nang. If Nha Trang had reminded us of Miami, then this area seemed a little like LA.
Parking by the beach. Don't worry, we wore helmets when were actually on the road.
The beach was perfectly white and there was barely another soul to be seen. Definitely a beautiful place to stop and relax, but if it goes the way of Nha Trang or Phuket, the place will be packed with Russians before too long.
We found this humungous jellyfish washed up on the shore. Can you imagine encountering one of these things in the sea?
We saw this lady Buddha statue in the distance and decided we'd make that our target, following the coastal road along the peninsula to the north.

Getting closer to the lady Buddha, now surrounded by fishing boats.

Soon we were on the peninsula, and could see the city skyline across the bay.
The lady Buddha was closed so we couldn't get any closer than this. Instead, we continued following the road toward the end of the peninsula.
There was some stunning coastal scenery as we went further along.

It was getting late and we didn't have a whole lot of petrol, so we turned around and headed back toward Hoi An.

Passing the Marble Mountains again.
After some very hectic riding through rush hour traffic, we made it back to Hoi An in time for dinner.
Our reward after a day on the road: a delicious chicken-bacon-and-french-fries salad!
The next morning we were back on the road again, this time riding west for the ruins of My Son.
These roads were even quieter than the ones we'd travelled the day before, though once again they'd become much busier on the return journey during rush hour.

The road took us deeper and deeper into quiet, Vietnamese countryside.

The entrance to the ruins.
My Son is a cluster of ancient Hindu temples built by the Kingdom of Champa between the 4th and 14th Century. Now listed as a World Heritage site, they are often compared with other great temple complexes like Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Bagan in Myanmar, but to be honest we found them pretty underwhelming. Most of the complex was destroyed by US carpet-bombing during the Vietnam War, and what little that remains appears as archeological rubble and debris. The one redeeming factor was the mountainous, jungle scenery that provided a cool backdrop to the ruins.

Exiting the ruins and returning to our motorbike.
After returning to Hoi An, we stayed for one last night before moving on to our next destination: the Imperial Capital of Hue.

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