Day 7: Halfway Home

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Woke up early, I’d be upset if we didn’t, and got down to breakfast. I feel like I’ve been fawning over this country for the most part so in order to give a balanced account I have the following criticisms.

1. There’s not a crispy strip of bacon to be found.

2. Their “sausages” are hot dogs.

This day’s breakfast music was provided by a flutist. I’m over taking pictures though. I’m over a lot of this country, the horns are starting to get to me. It’s probably because I’m starting to feel sick, which is complete bullshit and I’ll tell you why.

Remember those two jazz musicians we hung out with, Soul Candy? Well practically the first thing the singer said to the crowd when we walked in the bar was that her voice was in bad shape and she couldn’t hit those “high soprano notes we were used to.” Dubious claim. Not that she couldn’t hit the notes but that anyone in there had seen them perform enough times to be “used” to anything. As far as I could see, the place was filled with bored Vietnamese people on dates. Bored until they started huffing that giggle gas anyway.

Let me go even farther back. I was tired. I was tired after the hot pot. So after the set, when that jazz singer sat down next to us with a half full carafe of wine, I thought “fuck, we’re gonna be here until she finishes that goddamn thing.” Her plan, however, was to pour most of it into an empty plastic bottle which was good news for only me. Thing is, she doesn’t want the restaurant staff to see, and when she goes to pour the wine into the bottle, a waiter comes by to clear the empty glasses and she panics and pours the whole thing into her wineglass instead. So she’s got this HUGE glass of red wine and we’re sitting there, talking, some of us drinking wine and some of us monitoring it, and she’s coughing the entire time. She is sick. She knows this and is apologetic about it, people get sick, what are you gonna do, but she’s nursing that fucking glass so when Joe finishes whatever he was drinking and has an empty glass, I kind of egg him on to help her with the wine, not really thinking about the fact that she’s deathly ill and she goes,

“Do you want some?”

And Joe goes,  “Uhhh sure!”

In that way that he does when he’s trying to be polite and I honestly don’t think he was thinking about her cold either. And she says,

“Even though it has my germs?”

“Ehhhh.”

“Do you want to risk it? I wouldn’t, because this shit sucks.”

And Joe says, “Yeeeaaaah. I’m good.”

Like, “I’m good, I don’t want any” and it just got lost in translation and she pours half of her glass into Joe’s glass. And Joe, in for a penny in for a pound, DRINKS IT.

Listen I’m not saying anyone did anything wrong in this situation. Once she poured the wine, the die was cast, I probably would have drank it too. I even understand her misinterpretation of “I’m good.” All I’m saying is that it’s ridiculous that I’m the one with the cold.

I had to do my fantasy draft today, which Joe was not happy about. We were supposed to do our big ride to Hue today but the draft took too long so we’re going to do it tomorrow. Joe is entirely dismissive of fantasy football and I can’t say I blame him. I hate it too, but it’s not something you can just quit cold turkey. You have to prepare your friends months in advance, prep work that I neglected to do, so here we are, creating a fake football team from a hotel room in Da Nang.

Once that unpleasantness was over, we headed out to the giant buddha statue on the peninsula.

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Buddhas come in all shapes and sizes
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I know it looks like Joe is trying to take an extreme close up of this lion but there’s actually a gecko in its mouth.
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See
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Couldn’t help myself

This place was beautiful and very relaxing. It was also free. Parking was by suggested donation. The main buddha statue was the only crowded area.

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Foreign correspondent

We strolled around among the banzai trees and charismatic statues.

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We stopped short of actually going into any of the temples mostly because you had to take your shoes off to go in there. “I’m not about that life.” Joe said. And how. Also I sometimes feel like an intruder in places like this. I’m respectful and awed by places of worship, but I’m a spectator.

It was a peaceful place. We stopped and sat on a bench in silence. There was a stillness to the atmosphere. A gentle breeze through the trees was the only sound at times. I can see why the monks chose that spot. It’s serene. As we walked away, deep wind chimes began to play. Lovely.

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There were a bunch of dogs sleeping near one of the temple entrances. Joe tried to get close enough to get a picture but they noticed that he hadn’t taken his shoes off and started barking. It was pretty alarming given how quiet the place was, so we fled the scene.

We rode around the peninsula a little bit, taking in the gorgeous coastline, but we’d failed to get gas before we left so we decided it’d probably be best to turn around. We rode back to Da Nang, gassed up and wheeled over to our second destination of the day, the Marble Mountains.

The Marble Mountains, or the mountains of the five elements, are these five limestone hills, really, a little south of Da Nang. We rolled our scooters down near where we thought the entrance was and followed some tour busses up to a little parking lot. Usually we don’t have too much trouble parking our bikes but we were rebuffed by the lot attendant. Two ladies on a scooter waved at us and showed us the way to a couple of parking spaces which just so happened to be right in front of their souvenir shop. The one who spoke the best english told us that we could park our bikes there while we went to the mountain and maybe on the way back, we’d buy a little something from her shop. She even gave us a map of the park. See, this is the kind of grift I can get behind. You do me a solid, I do you a solid. Symbiosis.

We walked up the marble mountains, or as it turned out, one of the marble mountains. There’s one big one with a bunch of caves in it. The other four are smaller and have like one cave and one buddhist temple each. These buddhists will put a temple anywhere they can find a little room. This one was lousy with temples. It had maybe six or seven.

It was hot, there were a lot of stairs and we’d already come from a stair-heavy place so we weren’t SUUUUPER enthused about the marble mountains but we decided to check out one of the caves anyway. This was an actual cave. It didn’t get dark because there were holes in the ceiling, also bats, but there were two pretty narrow chimneys that you had to climb through to get out. And there were a lot of people so there was kind of a long line up in this cave. If there’s one place you don’t want to be in a long line, it’s in a cave, but we were patient and waited our turn. We took a good natured ribbing for being tall from some locals. They even took a picture with Joe when his back was turned.

When we finally got out of the cave and up on the mountain it was quite beautiful, but also, quite crowded. We found a little spot to take some pics.

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Not good ones
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but pics nonetheless

On our way down the narrow pathway we were behind a group of brits who were not having a great time.

“Never again, mate.”

Like this is ever going to come up again.

We got back to the main part of the mountain and decided we’d had enough. We walked back down to the street to collect our bikes and fulfill our side of the bargain. On our way there, we passed a bunch of identical souvenir shops and they all had scooters parked in front of them. These crafty bastards. Dong to donuts they all got together and convinced the park to ban scooter parking. We got to our shop and said hey to the nice ladies. They showed us around the store. Lots of little carvings of turtles and elephants and fish and the like. Some chess sets, some polished orbs. Buddhas. I had my lady open a case and show me some animals while Joe wandered off with the other one. I picked out a little blue elephants and a moonstone turtle.

“These are nice. I’ll take these.” I told her. “Say how much are these anyway?”

She pointed to the elephant. “35” “40” indicating the turtle.

“75 total? Not bad.” I said. “Dong?”

She shook her head. “US”

“Dollars?? Joe!”

You must be confusing Marble Mountain parking with Super Bowl parking. He was in the other room, no doubt seconds from his own wake up call. I put the turtle back on the shelf. Still miffed at having to pay $35 to park a scooter for 20 minutes.

“I come from a family of stone workers, and–“

“Yeah yeah I know. I come from a family of tourists. JOE!”

I paid the $35 for the elephant and went looking for Joe. I finally found him in the other room picking out a small jade buddha. I was actively swatting my saleswoman’s hand away as she kept trying to stuff the turtle in my pocket.

“We need to get out of here.”

He paid $30 for his buddha, the motherfucker, and we ran. Hopped on the NVX’s and hightailed it back to the hotel.

***

We had lunch at a place called Chicken and Beer which was pretty decent. They do good fried chicken here. We vowed not to fall for any more short cons although I think the word is out on us. By this time tomorrow the whole country is going to know that there are two rubes staying at the Royal Lotus who bought things in Hoi An AND the Marble Mountains.

We went to the beach and crashed onto beach chairs. This was the first time we went to the beach without a time limit and we were there for hours. We read and took naps. This was true vacationing. For reasons unknown, the city plays loud elevator music on the beach during certain hours of the day.

Later we got bahn mi’s from a street cart and weird cokes.

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Original taste, very original can

We ate them on the boulevard and called it. We have our big ride tomorrow and our plan is to be on the road by 7:15.

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See you tomorrow.

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