Another magical day in Vietnam exploring villages and temples on a motorbike! I am officially hooked on this amazing country!
Today I went on another motorbike tour with Vinh and Bin from Onetrip. I absolutely love doing tours with these guys. Onetrip differs vastly from other tour companies in several regards. First of all, the guides are primarily young students with a passion for their country and it’s history and culture. You get to experience things one on one with these laid back and fun people. Secondly Onetrip tours take you to villages and homes which would not be accessible in a big tour group. Best of all they support the local community by taking you to visit small family-owned businesses and local families, letting them showcase their handicraft and their daily lives. I have felt more like a guest, visiting these wonderful people, than a tourist.
The clay village
Our adventure today started as always, with a delicious bowl of steaming hot noodle soup at a street food stall in Hoi An and soon we were on the road heading to the village of Thanh Ha. This small village specializes in clay ware, made from clay from the river by which the village sits. We took a walk around the village, admiring everything from whistles to lanterns and bowls, all handmade in clay. Finally ending up at a small workshop, where I would get the chance to make my own clay pot or bowl. To the unending amusement of the lady of the house I tried and failed several times in producing anything remotely resembling anything useful! But with a little help I made a cute little bowl and Vinh made an ashtray.
Making music from war
After many laughs and smiles we bid the village farewell and continued on our way to Phuoc Kieu bronze village. Here we visited a family that melts down old bomb fragments and bullets from the war and transforms them into instruments such as gongs and drums. The father of the family, Uncle Thuan, greeted us with enthusiasm and not only showed us how they produce these instruments, but also engaged us in a little jam-session to the amusement of the rest of the family, all working side by side in the workshop. The beautiful symbolism of transforming products of war and destruction into instruments that bring people together is so telling of the people of Vietnam and their capacity for healing and forgiveness.
I could happily have stayed all day with Uncle Thuan and his family but we had much more to see, so on we went! Driving along small country roads we crossed a VERY narrow railway bridge and took a break to walk down the tracks and admire the view. These tracks are the only ones to connect North and South and are the same tracks I will be traveling on, when I leave Hoi An to continue towards Hanoi.
Around midday we were approaching the My Son temple complex, but before that we stopped to eat lunch in the home of a local family. This family doesn’t normally cook for other people but Onetrip approached them and asked if they would be interested in serving a home cooked meal to their guests when passing through. This meant that I got to taste the food that this family eats themselves and there was no doubt as to how much love was put into this tasty meal!
Full and rested we arrived at the My Son temple complex in the early afternoon. My Son is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is recognized as evidence of a now extinct Asian civilization. Built between the 4th and 14th century AD it is a Hindi temple complex erected by kings of the Champa kingdom. The ruins were extensively bombed during the war but are still remarkably well-preserved.
We wandered around the ruins with Vinh and Bin telling me all about the history of My Son. There weren’t many tourists and these beautiful temples nestled in a lush green valley surrounded by misty mountains left me in awe. There was a serene feel about the place and I felt so privileged to be able to explore it.
Once again it was time to hit the road, this time heading back towards Hoi An and my hotel where a hot shower was calling me! Stopping only for a quick banh mi, we zipped through interchanging sceneries of villages and farmland, dodging the occasional hen or water buffalo and arrived back in Hoi An just before nightfall. Writing these words after my hot shower, I can feel my eyelids are heavy and my heart is soaring. Beauty and friendliness abound in this place and it feels truly magical. Tomorrow I will cross the Hai Van Pass on the back of a motorcycle again, this time traveling on to Hué and new adventures.