i'm here in hoi an, not to be confused with hanoi (same letters, different configuration). i'm not quite sure how i got here. i was in the town of hue yesterday, just for one day. there's been a lot of traveling and sleeping in different guesthouses and minihotels, it's hard to keep them all straight. the bus ride from ninh binh to hue was crazy. it was an overnight trip, so we had to sleep on the bus. no bathroom on the vehicle, i purposely didn't drink any water so i wouldn't have to go pee. finally after 4 hours of driving we arrive at the vietnamese version of a rest stop, just a poorly lit pho/com (noodle/rice) shop. i've never been to prison, but this is what it must feel like. there were already travelers there, folks who knew what would be in store for the newbies, us. none of the vietnamese people there spoke english, and vice versa. bathrooms? in the back, pitch dark, at least for the guys there was a door cement cell with a hole in the ground and the words "bo boy" scratched in chalk. for the ladies, an open backyard where i saw the silhouettes of women squatting in the dark. some people were going to savannahket (laos), and they had to wait there another 4 hours before that bus would arrive. for the other folks, our bus left 40 minutes later. 8 hours later we finally arrived in hue.

hue, another former capital of vietnamese emperors, is famous for the ruins of the emperor's citadel, designed in the same layout as the forbidden city in beijing. the one in beijing is still intact; the one in hue has been destroyed by wars. they make it sound like americans did it during the vietnam war (we were responsible for some destruction), but a lot of it was already gone before we started bombing. it was raining the whole time i was in hue, kind of miserable, the weather has been overcasted ever since i arrived in vietnam. somebody also stole my umbrella, i think it was the ground of foul smelling vietnamese men sitting next to me. i'm just glad it was only the umbrella, which can be replaced (i bought this ugly purple thing for US$1.25 to replace my old one), but i have to be more careful about leaving my stuff around, especially now i'm getting closer and closer to the shadier parts of southeast asia (i won't mention any city names, you know who you are!).

i had some time left so i hired a motorcycle driver to take me to minh mang, a tomb of one of the emperors about 12km out of hue. there was some really intense negotiation, until i said i'd find somebody else and walked away. "i'm sorry, i'm sorry," said my driver, as he chased after me on his motorcycle, ready to take me to minh mang for 50,000 dong roundtrip (that's about US$3). i didn't realize it was so far, and it went up a mountain, and it was cold, and it started to rain a little bit. we saw elephants on the highway, i was too shocked to take photos. they were going home after a hard day of being ridden on by tourists. my driver took me underneath a bridge and i started to get really suspicious. did i piss him off and now he's going to murder me and rob my money? i prepared to jump off the bike. but after a few minutes we arrived at the tomb. it was nothing that interesting, more ancient architecture (i'm already on overload right now), and after a quick browse, i found my driver waiting outside, and he brought me back to the hotel. now i was already going to give him 70,000 for his hardwork, but he turned around and said something about my hotel being far, and i told him how much i was going to give him and he was all happy for the rest of the trip home.

i got some dinner from a cafe that i visited earlier during the day for lunch (pho with some fried squid appetizers), and went back to my hotel. i planned on going online for an hour or two, uploading photos, but i was too tired and fell asleep in bed, watching "daddy day care" on HBO asia.

this morning i caught the tourist bus into hoi an (5 hour trip, no rest stop horror stories to tell). for the first time the clouds broke away and i saw the blue sky and the sun. i got a hotel with a 3rd story balcony view, and got some lunch. hoi an is famous for its vestige of old style architecture. i'm here just in time because every full moon they have a festival where they turn off all the lights and illuminate the old town with lanterns. it's almost sunset, i have to go get my photo on.

salt lake


cao lau

old town electricity

internet cafe

old town tourists

twilight lanterns

lanterns full moon