Riding Vietnam Day 168: The Marble Mountains

Today I began the day with a slow rise out my bed to the dreaded non-A/C world outside my door with a stop for some Cau Lau, which a famous dish of Hoi An composed of thick rice noodles, thinly sliced pork, bean sprouts, mint and cilantro leaves, lettuce, and crisped wonton croutons brought together by a dark soy based gravy. Then, I ventured out to the Marble Mountains, which is worthwhile easy, half-day trip from Hoi An out to DaNang while trying to avoid the random track of scattered tack-like loose pebbles littered upon the long coastline route heading out of the UNESCO city of Hoi An. The Marble Mountains are so named for their, you guessed, marble that can be easily seen before finally arrived to the mountains thanks to the many sculpted at times gigantic, larger than life figures waiting roadside. The Marble Mountains house a variety of caves, one of which goes quite deep through a sculpted terrain of demonic figures (apparently are used as guardians of the temples since a there Buddhist theme can be found within the marbled walls) and neon fluorescence. It was a visual treat especially considering you could never have previously pictured a cave coexisting with such an odd yet alluring sight to the eyes while sound of bats hovered in the high ceiling space above. Onto another series of caves, I was quite disappointed initially when compared to the previous one but a loosely termed crawl space cut above into the craggily rock leading me upwards to a grand view of all. I could see DaNang with its skyscraper and cement metropolis to my left, the long beach coastline and ever-extending Pacific Ocean with distant islands growing hazy right before me, and the other low lying marble mountains sprouting a thick green jungle beard and toupee to my right. On top of the world with a view to not ignore, I spoke with an English speaking Vietnamese girl who tried to once again correct my attempts at the incredibly challenging tonal language of Vietnamese. Even with a broken English structure I still struggle with hitting the right notes. The Vietnamese King’s Speech was on full display. Once I descended to ground level, I tried to venture into a uniquely Vietnamese founded religious church of Cao Dai but the damn gates were locked. Back in Hoi An, I returned to the same restaurant as earlier today which apparently brought me extra hospitality since the woman/cook loved me evermore and her daughter/waiter increasingly showed signs of having a crush on me. The woman looked helplessly at my bandaged wounds as if wishing to conjure some healing magic upon me before cooking up another Vietnamese classic that I had to sample: fish baked into a clay pot. I spotted David passing by and waved him in to join me for some of the local freshly brewed beer (when I say freshly brewed I am talking literally that day, or at least as legend has fooled me) at a price of 3000 dong per glass ($0.1375 for my Americans back home), which considering the price hit the mark with enough boldness from a slight bitter to make a crisp refreshing drink when one was demanded and needed on such a hot day as today. I walked with David through the Old Town until we could link up with the rest of the group. David made his creepiness unabashedly clear after I took a picture for a group of cute English girls. Spoiling any attempts at success that I may have had, he played the creepy old man to a tee when fumbling through and enacting his request to get a picture with these mid-twenties girls frighteningly lassoed within his arms. His original prowess and reputation as the knowledgable American lawyer has seen been days. The Old Town is beautiful especially at night when fully lit with Japanese/Chinese-like lanterns glowing up above stringed from one side of the street to the other over these somewhat narrow corridors that almost felt European in a sense. With a river running along the popular footpath, it brought me back to Venice in one short memorable spurt until I had been awakes by the chants of villagers eagerly encouraging me into their boat for a ride. I love Hoi An so far because of all the winding corridors that make for an excellent venture into getting lost through various side streets lined with restaurants, tailored suit shops, and the necessary street food dynamic that makes Asia different from anywhere else in the world. But, but, the overwhelming density of other tourists on their package tours lessens the magic. As my personal favorite stop on my trip through Vietnam, Dalat had the necessary intrigue as a place worth seeing along the Vietnam trail but lacked the throngs of tourists that can sometimes piss on a foreign place stripping it of what it once was. In saying all this, I enjoyed the walking streets and looking back in time at the Japanese architecture including the famous centuries old bridge near the river. After some further wandering, the two of us met the other four where they are and I got to sample some of the disappointing Dalat red wine. I guess I miss my Nonni’s (grandfather’s) rocket fuel wine that will kick up a notch any occasion. While they went out I had to be lame and get some rest to heal my aches and pains. Hopefully I will be back in high gear soon enough!

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