Marble Mountains consists of five mountains named to represent the five elements - Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. There are several Buddhist sanctuaries on and inside these mountains. Until recently stone from the mountains were used in the plentiful stone workshops of the area, realising they would end up without any mountains to attract tourists and pilgrims if they continued, the government put a stop to the use of stone from the area.
The temples of My Son lie an hour and half by car west of Hoi An. They are historically very significant as they were the religious and political capital of the Cham Kingdom. Although dwarfed if compared to Angkor Wat, they are definitely worth a visit, the on-site museum gives some context and explanation of Hindu symbolism. Arrive early to avoid crowds, exploring the lush grounds by yourself as the sun rises is a nice and peaceful experience.
It's been hard to find time to update the blog, as we've had some very long days in the road - up to 14-15 hours. We're now at the top of Fansipan, the tallest mountain in Vietnam - just next to Sapa, having some tea while waiting for the fog to clear. Very modern and effective tourist machine the Japanese have set up here!
I will keep posting chronologically until I've covered the whole trip, there's so many more photos I want to share!
Coming from the intensity and grittiness of Saigon to beautiful Hoi An with its well polished Ancient Town filled to the brim with souvenir shops, tailors and tourists took some getting used to. At first I was a little put off by the very crowded streets of the old district and the amount of shops, but there is something very pleasant about the place and it looks stunning. One soon learns where to go outside the main drags as well, which really helps.
Hoi An was founded as a trading port around 1595, and remained important and wealthy well into the 18th century when it was a powerful trading conduct between Europe and all major parts of Asia. At the end of that century, nearby Da Nang took over when the French got exclusive trade rights there. Because it lost much of its business around this time, very little changed in Hoi An for the following 200 years, effectively it was preserved almost untouched.
Spent some very nice days in Hoi An, and travelled to Hue with a night in Da Nang on the way - as well as day trips to My Son and Marble Mountains from Hoi An. Have been too busy to get together a proper post from these places, but here are some teasers from Hoi An, the Marble Mountains of Da Nang and Hue. Hopefully a proper update will come soon.
Tomorrow morning it's off to Phong Nha and the caves, via the DMZ and Khe Sanh.