Samstag, 30. Juni 2012

Hòa An Beach

Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine
It is hot and the sky a murky grey. Its like during the last few days in Vietnam. 

South of Qui Nhơn is a section of the national highway number one that slopes on top of cliffs that dive steep into the ocean. Almost inaccessible white and wild beaches are followed by fishing villages on long and calm beaches or big and dirty industrial zones. I pass trough the habituated and industrialized stretches but stop every now and then when I seem to be the only living person under the sky. I walk over the hot sand, cool in the salty water and play with the high waves.

After i travel some kilometers in this fashion, I take a turn and leave the national road behind. Without any idea where I am going I reach Hòa An. The villages' roads are so narrow that turning the scooter is a proper piece of work. Especially compared to the shabby houses the view of the local fishing fleet is rather impressive. 

Everyone I pass looked puzzled and surprised to see me. Many point in the same direction. So I decide to follow. I park and walk through sand, a field of cacti and piles of trash. On the hill to my left are small colorful tombs. I climb a dune and see the ocean. A perfect bay, perfect sand, a perfect beach, even the clouds vanish for a second. When I finally take the camera out, the sky is grey again and even some raindrops fall. 

When I stop to buy a water everyone at the kiosk wants me to take a picture. And when i have the typical Vietnamese iced coffee with milk at the village's café, everyone again wants me to take pictures. 

So I take photos.

Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine
Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine
Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine
Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine
Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine
Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine
Hòa An Beach
© Eike-Christian Heine

Freitag, 8. Juni 2012

The empty highway

Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine

North of Qui Nhơn is a 15 kilometer long peninsula. Coming from the city you'll have to drive over a new bridge that passes almost a kilometer of ocean. 

The sandy stretch of land has pristine and kilometer long white beaches. Although only a few hundred people life on this beautiful strip of earth, a massive highway has just been finished. Under the murky sky that still led enough sun trough to roast you, between the white sand and the green trees I rode the scooter.

Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine
Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine
Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine
Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine
 
Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine
Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine
Qui Nhơn's deserted highway
© Eike-Christian Heine

Montag, 4. Juni 2012

Scenic views from a moped

Scenic views from a moped – Danang
© Eike-Christian Heine

Hoian's beaches are white, beautiful and quiet – at least during the week. After I had spend a day under the shadows of palm trees I took the moped to Danang the next morning. The 25 kilometer long ride along the coast passes a continuous succession of construction sides of huge luxury resorts. As I steered I wondered who will sleep in all these tens thousands of beds that obscure the view on the ocean.

Danang is in the middle of Vietnam's 3.400 kilometer long coastline, its third biggest city and a boomtown. Several huge bridges and skyscrapers are under construction. I came here to visit the Cham museum. The building and big parts of the collection of delicate rock statues and carvings from all over the old Champa kingdom are a product of French Colonialism. But when the French came in the 19th century, Champa had already been swallowed by a southwards expanding Tonkin, that finally drove the Khmer out of the Mekong Delta and that calls itself Vietnam today. But when Champa was still standing and the Khmer ruled in the south, Danang constituted the empire's northern perimeter.

The former border follows a major natural border. The mountains north of Danang rise steep and high, form a spectacular scenery as well as a formidable obstacle. I took my bike up the Hải Vân Pass that nowadays is only a touristic route as it slopes are bypassed by a nearly seven kilometer long tunnel. On the way up I drove into a heavy rain and reached the top of the pass wet to the bones. 

Up on the peak of the pass I fled into a small eatery, ordered coffee and cookies and waited out the rain. One of the women running the hut joined me. Mango was her name, she could speak some English and we chatted an hour away as I was the only customer. She talked about her two kids – two boys and two girls – the cost of education, her economic prospects.

I left, not without buying a package of Tigerbalm and greeted the sun that had changed Danang Bay into an ocean of blue and dried my clothes fast as nothing. Back in Danang I took my motorbike up the Monkey Mountain. On its peak tower big radio telescopes that the Americans had installed during the war and that are still run by the Vietnamese military today. In a pavilion with a stunning view a group of men and women in their twenties invited me to a picnic of fresh springrolls and beer. 

It was nightfall when I made it back to my hotel.

Cham museum, Danang
© Eike-Christian Heine
Cham museum, Danang
© Eike-Christian Heine
Cham museum, Danang
© Eike-Christian Heine
At the peak of the Hải Vân Pass
© Eike-Christian Heine
Mango runs a small eatery on the Hải Vân Pass
© Eike-Christian Heine
Scenic views from a moped
© Eike-Christian Heine
Scenic views from a moped
© Eike-Christian Heine
The Hải Vân Pass seen from Monkey Mountain
© Eike-Christian Heine
Thanks for the picnic!
© Eike-Christian Heine
Scenic views from a Moped, Danang
© Eike-Christian Heine
Scenic views from a moped
© Eike-Christian Heine

Island of tombs

Kids sreaming "Photo mister!"
© Eike-Christian Heine

Thuận An is 20 minutes north of Huế`s centre. I arrived there early in the morning, parked my scooter, ran over the hot sand and jumped into the ocean.

A group of boys came screaming: "Hello mister! Photo! Photo!"

It was still morning when I took the bike southeastwards along the main road of a 25 kilometer long island. Left and right were temples, churches and an uncountable number of graves. The cross, the swastika and different other religious labels next to one another under the burning sun.

The heat, the white sand, the endless successions of tombs. I ended my trip on the same beach where I started. Jumped into the ocean again and remembered a thing a young man told me in Hanoi. He had asked me what my religion was, pointing at my Buddhist' wristbands. I said "Agnostic". He then told me that he was Buddhist and Catholic. "Both? At the same time?" I wondered. Floating on my back on he Chinese sea I contemplated his answer. "Yes!" he had said.

Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine 
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine
Island of tombs
© Eike-Christian Heine

Samstag, 2. Juni 2012

Wasted on Cát Bà

Cát Bà
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay is situated between the Vietnamese mainland in the north and the Cat Ba Island in its south. The bay is a collection of limestone karsts that tower up to 100 meter above the green water. But who needs to be told of this or the fact that translated the name means "Descending Dragon Bay"? The place is world famous, many details are widely know and the pictures are iconic.

Staying in Hanoi it was an obvious step to pay this place a visit, as it is just a short bus ride away. I arrived in Cat Ba around noon. The heavy rain had just stopped as I walked down the line of harbor front hotels that were either above my budget or full. Walking away from the places with sea view a woman on a motorbike stopped me. Her sister had called her from one of the hotels. She had a room for ten dollar to offer. The place was great. Big, clean and with aircon. She and her family were friendly and busy cleaning the house after a five day long rain that had driven my predecessor off the island.

Sitting on the moped, the sun in my back soon disappeared. Dark clouds and showers of heavy rain swept over me. I followed the advise of one of the national park employees to skip the walk through the hills as the paths were in a horrible condition. "Too slippery!" Even on the island's decent roads the rain had conjured 30 centimeter deep pools of water. But when I crossed Cat Ba and reached its northern shore it was dry for some minutes and I could get a glimpse of the legendary Halong Bay, even though it was still a clouded one. The ride back could have been spectacular, but my view was again obscured by the continuous pouring. Last time I was so soaked was Songkran in Bangkok, and if I recall it correctly, that was the last time I had been freezing, too.

It was a saturday and at night the streets were crowded by Vietnamese tourists. Small children cruised around in blinking electric cars and crashed into one another. Parents followed them laughingly, and in case of the very young ones they steered the blinking vehicle with a remote control. Other kids fished plastic fish out of plastic water basins. The roads were blocked for cars and scooter. Instead the town was populated by hundreds of tandem-bicycles with two to four laughing riders.

The next morning started with rain. But our randomly assembled crew was lucky. The sun soon came out and lightened the scenery. There we were, on the deck of our slow wooden cruiser under the shade of a flopping white sheet and the bay all around us. But it was the company, that was truly remarkable. There were two Korean girls that spoke excellent English. An young English-Australian couple that had cycled all through India and other vast parts of the world. A South-African-Newzealand couple that runs a berry farm on the north island. 

He had done some remarkable trips all over the world. 30 years ago he backpacked all the way from Bangladesh to Turkey. I recall him talking about being in Pakistan, where the men were separated from the women in public busses. Raising his Newzealandish accented voice he said: "And there came this guys pressing them hard ons on us. I shouted at them 'beggar off!" Oh, they are so separated from women. They really fuck everything else! Themselves, animals, but no women. Me and me mate were happy when we reached Turkey. Now that was a decent country again! Where people drink beer and girls and boys hold hands!"

When we arrived back in town it was raining again. I went for dinner and drinks with three French that had been on the cruise too. We got horribly wasted. Later me and one of them walked over to the last open street vendor. Pierre hat the marvelous idea that everyone should sing a song. He started with a French one, I sang a German one and after some of Pierre's insisting, the shy girls sang one as well. We did this several rounds. Then Pierre taught us all a dance which he had learned in summer camp. We laughed a lot and when the bar, the giggling girls ands the chairs were finally gone, he insisted to have a last beer with me on the pier. I agreed only to let him sit there by himself soon and stumbled home.

It was some effort to catch the one o'clock bus to Hué the next morning.

Cát Bà
© Eike-Christian Heine
In Halong Bay there are hundreds of floating fishfarms
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Halong Bay
© Eike-Christian Heine
Back to Cát Bà
© Eike-Christian Heine


Dienstag, 29. Mai 2012

Tạm biệt, Hà Nội!


Mopeds and people sitting by the road
© Eike-Christian Heine

Night and the monsoon swept all traffic from Hanoi's roads. And I will leave this town early the next morning. I will miss you, Hanoi. The people, the traffic, the rain and the heat. But I can always come back and see you again. I know you won't grow old. You'll constantly change. 

Tạm biệt, Hà Nội!


Kitsch! But the rose was in front of my hotel!
© Eike-Christian Heine 
View from my balcony
© Eike-Christian Heine