Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cruising Asia: Da Nang and Hoi An

The Volendam pulled into the industrial port of Da Nang on Saturday, Febraury 6, 2014.  Bob and I found a driver and guide for the day, along with another couple that was interested in seeing Hoi An and the Marble Mountains with us.


Our Vietnamese guide was very proud to show us a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, which resembled most we have seen across Asia.  However, I did find the temple to be a joyful complex with it's jolly Buddha and children greeting us amid colorful statues, dragons and tile work.




We made a couple of stops along the way to Hoi An, including a marble shop where all kinds of statues, tables and other products are made.  We also went into an embroidery market where many very talented women were creating intricately detailed "paintings" from fine strands of silk floss.  They would design and stitch their artwork by looking at a photo of a scene or portrait they wanted to recreate.  Other artisans were also showcasing their skills.  I am still kicking myself for not purchasing a bunch of the lovely colorful lanterns for myself.


Hoi An is a well-preserved, 15th to 19th century trading port town near Da Nang that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was considered the best port and trading destination in all of Asia during the 18th century. The architecture fuses Chinese, Japanese and European styles.  It is now primarily a tourist town, with an abundance of souvenir shops, restaurants and museums.   Expecting to see more of a glimpse into the history of the area, I was a little disappointed to see it so overrun with tourists. There is no lack of tourism in Asia, and I suppose we have helped many desperate economies thrive.  I did love this picturesque little town which reminded me a bit of Colmar, France (in an Asian sort of way)!  The covered Japanese Bridge has become the iconic symbol of Hoi An. (See also the picture made of grains of rice below.)


 

 We stopped in to see the historical home of Quan Thang and another home now hosting the Museum of Trade Ceramics.
  

Here's a quick peak at a lovely little temple in Hoi An, where red coils of incense hang from the ceiling and ignite the soul to prayer.
  


This is a snapshot of modern-day life for the Vietnamese in a charming town where ancient history and the peaceful present coalesce. 

  
A beach-side tourist restaurant gobbled up our American dollars more quickly than we were able to enjoy our seafood selections. (Notice the giant spider-like tiger prawns crawling around the rock in the pool below.)  Evidence of threatening clouds and fierce winds could be seen in the waves along the beach.


After lunch, we took a drive into the countryside and walked among some enchanting homes and farms.  A family burial plot stood in the middle of the thriving crops; existing in perfect harmony with the doctrine of resurrection and newness of life.  The miracle of life is one of the wonders I find thrilling in the process of gardening.  What an alluring scene this was!

 

Marble Mountain is a cluster or five marble and limestone peaks located in Da Nang, Vietnam.  Marble was once obtained from these peaks from which thousands of sculptures were made.  The mountain is now covered with trails and caves featuring Buddhist temples, pagodas and statuaries.  An elevator rises partially up the mountain where a nice view of the surrounding city can be seen.  Bob and I spent about an hour exploring the mountain before heading back to the port.

 
 

Leaving Marble Mountain, we caught glimpses of wartime relics, such as the hangers once used by the American Air-force, and "China Beach", as it was referred to by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War.  The country has come a long way and we are glad that part of history is behind us.


You can see the violent waves crashing on to the beach.  It was a bit of a tumultuous night aboard our Holland America ship.  Thankfully, our room on Deck 1 was nicely located mid-ship and all we felt was the gentle sway of the ocean rocking us to sleep.  You can watch the 15-ft. swells splash up to the edge of our window the following day and contemplate the power of the ocean; while we appreciate the feats of engineering that steady the boat and make these cruise ships enjoyable!











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