Day 9 – Kham Duc to Hoi An – 130KM

22 04 2012

Kham Duc is a charming little place. Little being the operative word in that sentence. However it seemed to be alive, and again people were happy and smiling. They even came out of their way to come and say hello to me. Breakfast was a rather excellent steak and eggs skillet, with a healthy dollop of chilli sauce. I got talking to a guy from San Francisco who was working in the nearby gold mine. We had a good chat about bikes and working in Vietnam, then parted ways.

The ride up the mountains was very enjoyable. Enjoyable up to the point that I hit a pot hole the size of a bomb crater at 50KPH. It was a combination of riding too fast and having no brakes. As soon as I hit it, Rat Bike gave me a funny noise. The type of noise that you know isn’t good. I stopped, but couldn’t see any damage. Toan realised that I wasn’t behind. and came back. He spotted it immediately. A huge dent in the front wheel. How pissed off was I ? So, cue Toan whacking hell out of the wheel to try to straighten it out. At least it happened in a picturesque spot. Rat Bike…I am sorry for nearly killing you.

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Riding a bit slower this time, we rode up and down the East Ho Chi Minh mountain road coming across pineapple farmers gathering their crops. Toan persuaded me to try some local pineapple. Those who know me know all too well about my hatred of pineapple. It was chopped up and served with salt. Gingerly I raised it to my lips…my god it was amazing. The combination of sweet and salt was unbelievable…for the princely sum of 10000 VND. I devoured most of the pineapple, then seized the opportunity to take some pictures.

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We pushed on towards the former check point of Dana Mue. This area was extensively carpet bombed by American B52’s during the war, as it was an important supply line for the NVA from North Vietnam and Lao. It’s amazing to stand in a place that you know was so important during the war, yet was so heavily bombed. Taking a ca phe se dat, Toan told me that his Uncle was killed in the spot that we had just visited. He also told me that him and his friend would hunt for unexploded cluster bombs,  to get the ball bearings and to throw the TNT in the fire and run ! I just used to play ‘Postman’s Knock’ !

We had to take a ferry to cross the Thu Buon River. By ferry, it was a boat with a platform. By boat I mean thing that floats on water with an engine. The similarities ended there to anything I had ever experienced before. Dozens of impatient locals lined the path down to the pontoon, all gently pushing their way in front of me. To be honest I was happy to turn around and go the other way ! As the ferry moored alongside, we had to roll down the path, and ride up the ramp. It was a heart wrenching moment, especially as my back wheel spun going on. Plus it was packed ! It’s an eerie feeling standing still on a boat with no safety rails or equipment, sitting on a motorbike and feeling like it was going to fall. Toan smiled and asked me “Can you swim Dan” ? Didn’t do much for my stress levels. Anyways, I made it off alive.

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We slowly made our way towards the UNESCO world heritage site, My Son. As we rode along small roads, it was beautiful watching people go about their business. Drying rice and cassava root in the road in front of their houses on plastic sheets. This is the experience I wanted. My Son was probably top of my list in Vietnam, so I was really excited to be hitting it today. My Son is a site built by the Champa people between the 9th and 12th century. Some of the site was damaged by American bombs during he war. This is further evidenced by huge crates around the site. As I walked around the various groups of temples and buildings, a thought struck me. Perhaps it was sunstroke now I think about it ? Will another civilisation be walking around our buildings in a thousand years, wondering about our society and culture. Digging up what made us tick ? A strange thought perhaps.

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Leaving My Son after a rather enjoyable ice cream, we joined the busy road towards Hoi An. I was rather surprised when Toan literally took me down the side of  a hill off the main road. I was thinking that we were taking a short cut away from the traffic. How wrong I was, as we arrived at ‘Ceramic Village’. In Ceramic Village they make tiles and unsurprisingly ceramics. The villagers drag the clay out from the river, form and shape it, then allow to dry in the sun.

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A very short ride away was a pot maker. You could tell instantly that the family had been making pots and ceramics using the same method for generations. One woman would stand and spin the platter with her foot and turn around to alternate. It was fascinating watching them.

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However, Toan had arranged for me to have an attempt ! I was rather nervous at this prospect as I have never been near a potters wheel, or platter in this case. As I sat down, the lady started to spin the platter with her foot. I gently placed my hands on the clay. Obviously not hard enough, as the other lady just grabbed my hands and mashed them into the clay ! I can see how pottery making is therapeutic. My “bowl” was ready.

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Arriving in Hoi An it was immediately apparent how this is a tourist town. Signs everywhere in English, French, Danish…you name it. We booked into the Thien Trung hotel close to the Old Town. It seems your standard backpacker type place, probably to be avoided. I did fall into the two standard touristy things to do in Hoi An. I had a fine black suit handmade, a shirt and some linen trousers. I Also enjoyed a wonderful massage…minus ‘Happy Ending‘.

Only one entry for the “Things I Have Seen Carried On A Motorbike” today :

Trailer carrying approximately 1 tonne of hay !

Tomorrow – Hoi An to Hué

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