At 10 AM we were picked up by our driver and started our trip to Hoi An. Our first stop was just outside the city of Hue, where we visited the impressive Khai Ding Tomb. There are 6 royal tombs in the area, but since we had seen quite a few tombs in China, we decided on visiting only one. Khai Ding Tomb was built from 1920 to 1931 and is a blend of Western and Eastern architecture. It is located on a steep hill, has several forecourts leading up to the tomb on the top and statues of guards, elephants and dragons. The tomb itself was quite a sight with mosaic, gold, statues and decorated walls and ceilings. As planned we arrived before the tourist busses, and had the place almost to our selves.
We continued for about an hour before we stopped for a 30 minute break at Lang Co Beach, a 10 km strech of white sand and a beautiful turquoise lagoon. In this area we could really see evidence of the resent typhoon, with quite a bit of damage to roofs and light structures (like lounge areas at the beach), lots of driftwood and sandbags on pretty much every roof along the road. Instead of driving through the Hai Van Tunnel (the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia at 6.28 km), we took the scenic route over Hai Van Pass. It was steep and curvy, but we passed several nice waterfalls and had great views. The pass forms a boundary between the climates of northern and southern Vietnam, sheltering the city of Da Nang from the “Chinese winds” that blow in from the northwest. At the top we could see the old gate from the border crossing and some French bunkers, later used by the Americans.
In Da Nang we visited the Marble Mountains, five marble and limestone mountains named after the five elements; Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth). We climbed the 156 steps to the top of the biggest mountain (Thuy Son, or Mount of water). We stopped at Da Loi Tower, Linh Ung Pagoda and three different caves. The most impressing one was Huyen Khong Cave, with several Buddha statues and alters, and light coming in through holes holes in the ceiling. The area around the mountains is famous for stone sculpture making and stone-cutting crafts, and there were thousands of statues in all sizes for sale.
At 3.30 PM we arrived in Hoi An, a city known for it’s hundreds of tailors. The old town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were told that the hotel we stayed in had over 1 meter of water in the lobby (flooding) just one week earlier, but everything looked perfect when we arrived. We went out for a small lunch, before checking out some of the many tailors. We quickly realized that we were not prepared at all and had no idea what we wanted, how much it should cost etc. And how do you choose which tailor to use? We decided to postpone the problem until the next morning, and spent the night walking around the old town, eating dumplings at a local restaurant and drinking beer while watching the life on and along the Thu Bon River. It looked like they had some sort of celebration, with lots of incense everywhere and hundreds of paper lanterns floating slowly down the river.