Da Nang Me!

Da Nang is going to be the Miami Beach of Vietnam, maybe of SE Asia.  Everywhere you looked were cranes in the sky: companies building hotels.  And given the year-round warmth, the crystal clear bath-warm water, the sawdust-fine sands…it’s no wonder everybody wants to build a vacation wonderland here.  Apparently foreigners can own homes and condos but you can’t purchase land. Otherwise it’d be a no-brainer to get in now.  The infrastructure is growing and the streets are clean, relative to other developing countries we’ve visited.

In addition to the beach though there are other wonders here. Our first excursion was to the “Marble Mountains”, a religious site carved into and around caves created millennia ago by receding icebergs.  We were floored by the Big Cave temple and the labyrinth of passages one could follow through the rocks to discover hidden alters.  Courtney even braved a climb down through a hole only 4 feet wide into a cave with Buddhist relics. We agreed that this was one of the most impressive sites we’d seen in Asia so far, an unexpected surprise.

The entrance to the Marge Mountains. One look at that and we knew we were in for an incredible experience. 

Inside one of the caves. The Buddha behind us was carved out of stone inside the cave.  And it was at least 20 feet above us!

The Lady Buddha that overlooks Da Nang shouldn’t be missed either.  She’s only a decade old but she stands tall over stunning views of the city. It says something that the city erected a female god to protect it.  When speaking with some locals, they even said that in Vietnam, it’s the women who work more often than the men do.

Quite a majestic lady

Her gaze reaches to Hoi An, a decidedly touristy but simply lovely, quaint town a mere 25 minutes by cab from Da Nang.  This is where you go to have clothing tailor made for peanuts.  But we loved Hoi An for the romantically lit Old City with its ornate foot bridges and Venice-like gondolas. Of course there was the  myriad market vendors peddling anything and everything from ice cream to T shirts to worthless trinkets as well.  We spent two evenings in Hoi An, one with Courtney’s friend Kristyn who is also traveling Asia, and a second alone.

Everyone kept telling us Hoi An was the city of lanterns. We didn’t understand why until we got there. These beautiful lights are strung across the entire town!  

Date night 🙂

Originally we were only going to stay for a few days but we ended stayin for two extra days in DaNang so Courtney could recover a bit from getting a crappy cold.  Which meant Edward was forced to play two days of golf at the very nice resort courses in town.  Oh darn.  Both days he had a blast playing with locals who spoke great english – one playing companion even drove him back to the hotel and they chatted about the political mess in America.

Speaking of political messes, one unnerving moment was when our first hotel in Da Nang asked to surrender our passports while staying with them.  They said they had to take them to the local police station and register us.  Apparently the law is that anyone sleeping anywhere other than their own home must register.  We politely informed them we would not give up our passports and they’d have to use photocopies.  It was a little tense.   They looked genuinely worried about using photocopies, but we were firm.  In the end they relented.   And our second hotel made no such demand.   Huh.

We’re supposed to hit Hue and Hanoi next, but because we extended DaNang we decided we were done with Vietnam.  However that left us with almost an extra week of time before we needed to be anywhere.  Where could we jump to next before heading back to Thailand?  Why not China?  Why not, indeed!!


Beach Bribery

One of the dangers we’ve discovered traveling together is that when we have down time we tend to break out our phones and start researching potential unplanned destinations.  That’s how we ended up on a flight to Bali.  But there are worse impromptu decisions to have made.
Bali, of course, is an island.  But it’s bigger than we’d expected and the traffic rivals Los Angeles because the roads are narrow and completely uncontrolled.  In fact, it’s common to have to dodge one of the thousands of scooters using the sidewalk as an optional lane.  And they carry anything and everything on those scooters, from families of four to bags of cement to entire restaurants worth of food, Somehow even in the utter chaos, though, despite the many near misses, we never witnessed an accident.
Bali is a place of leisure and we took advantage of that, often lounging in the pool area of the Grand Balisani Suites drinking beer while overlooking the South China Sea.  The hotel itself was older, but the setting magnificent and the food excellent.  Edward had one of the best steaks he’d ever eaten.  Who knew!
It wasn’t all lounging, though, as we did venture out on a scuba diving trip.  Yes, Courtney strapped on a tank and swam with the sharks.  Well, puffer fish anyway, one of which nearly kissed Courtney on it’s way by.  We dove around the USS Liberty, a WWII ship sunk by the Japanese.  So lucky to enjoy one of the world’s top dive sites.  Once you get over the idea that you’re actually breathing underwater, the panic subsides and diving is an incredibly rich activity.  Courtney says she’s even game to get certified one day!
Before we went!
Edward was going through golf withdrawal as evidenced by the practice swings in the mirror so he rented a scooter and headed to the Bali National Golf Club.   Then he unintentionally got in the wrong lane on a toll road and got pulled over by the police.  He was threatened with a $1/2 million Rupiah fine, 30 days in jail and the confiscation of the scooter.  Admittedly he was a little rattled at first, but then quickly realized it was all bullshit.  But he wasn’t about to test that theory. So he bribed him with $40US and got the hell on his way.   Needless to say, he arrived at the course late and played crappy on a really pretty course.  Add to that getting lost on the way back to pick up Courtney at the pole studio she found and we’d had enough of Bali for the day.  Good thing our hotel had a pool and cold beer!
Man and his machine
Honestly other than that we didn’t do much.  Woke up every morning and walked down to our new favorite breakfast place that had the most incredible pancakes we’ve ever tasted, drank a lot of beer, swam and hung out.  It was nice to recharge for a few days in between all the running we’ve been doing.
Best. Pancakes. Ever….
We’re supposed to head to Vietnam, but the flights are bad so we’re headed to Kuala Lumpur first for a couple days.  Farewell, Bali!