Marble Mountains

 I woke up fairly early to turn the fan off as it was chilling me slightly and noticed something quite cool – the light switches in my room glow in the dark! No more scrambling around trying to find them! What a great idea.

Anyway, I nodded back off again only to be woken by Vietnam’s answer to Smashie And Nicie warming up for tonight’s disco across the road. At least it was only 7:30 – half an hour before my alarm. I snoozed for a bit then gave up and did my situps, donned a t-shirt and trunks and headed for the beach.

Running with no music is definitely not as easy. Maybe it’s just me, but I get an adrenaline rush from some songs and having them on random is like being at a gig when I get lost in my own world. Instead, I plodded along and let my mind forget about my legs and concentrate on the surroundings. It’s surprising how much you notice around you when you “tune out”.

The patterns of shells on the beach, for one. The way they follow the curve of the water that washes in. Also that some waves come in very low and deposit a thick black line, like a child drawing in crayon on the sand. The little footprints heading towards the holes in the sand that either belong to the crabs that live there, or the birds that are trying to have them for breakfast. The way the sand actually changes consistency over the handful of seconds after the water washes over it, then draws back; and the colour change from dark to light orange as this water drains away.

 I didn’t run as far as yesterday, again I think as I couldn’t really get into a rhythm. Damn you, Sanyo, and your cheap switches! I did have a nice splash in the sea to cool off before running back up the beach. As I got back to my “exit”, I spotted another loony on a moped. This one weighted down with three crates of beer bottles and a tray of Coke. I defy you to figure that one out – he was using no boards, supports, straps or anything. Just the moped.

After breakfast and playtime with the puppy, I decided to go to the Marble Mountains as it’s the nearest tourist attraction and therefore wouldn’t cost much. Armed with my Lonely Planet and the ability to say “no” and mean it to anyone who insisted on showing me around, I walked up to the end of the street, crossed over and picked up a one-girl convoy who insisted I look in her marble shop when I left the Mountains. I also bumped into a Finnish guy I’d met in Hanoi who was zooming off somewhere else with his friends. We arranged to meet later for a couple of beers, but he never showed up.

I chose to ignore the woman trying to sell me water outside with cries of “none inside – only water out here”. Lo and behold, I soon discovered she was fibbing.

Shaking off my escort, I walked to the second entrance (which, as it turns out is the one LP tells you not to use, but it’s directions aren’t great), forked out my 15,000d (not 10,000d as LP states) and walked up some very steep steps.

 And some more very steep steps.

Then a few more.

This was the point when I started to think that coming up at 6pm when the sun is down (and there is no entry fee) may have been a better idea. Ah well. Live and learn – I believe is something other people do.

Once I got my bearings and realised I was doing the LP route backwards. I started wandering around. There are really some stunning views to be had, both inland towards the river and over towards the South China Sea. I took plenty of photos, both of the outstanding scenery and the carvings within the caves. Some are simply gorgeous, with sunlight streaming in through natural holes in the “ceiling”. Smoke from incense burners adds to the atmosphere and you can’t help but feel a little “Indiana Jones” as you step foot into a naturally-hewn cavern with stalactites dripping from the roof.

I thoroughly enjoyed the wander, including finding some crannies that LP didn’t mention. And failing to find some that they did, including the “door [which] leads to two stalactites, dripping water which local legelds describes as coming from heaven” in the Huyen Khong Cave. And believe me, I looked for ages. No doorway.

Sometimes I wonder when they last checked the information in their books, as the Ong Chon gate is most definitely not “pockmarked with bullet holes”. In fact, it looked in very good and colourful nick.

 I spent an hour longer than I expected walking around and had a great time. Even the fauna was amazing. I think I spotted the largest butterfly I have ever seen and never have I encountered so many dragonflies in one place.

Back to Hoa’s to find that he’d already organised my ride to the airport tomorrow for me, and reminded me I needed to call Max and Mike in Hanoi about my ATM card. Top bloke. Sadly, said card still hadn’t arrived, so when I get to HCM City I need to find somewhere to Skype from and ring Nationwide to get them to send another one. Hopefully I have enough time for this one to reach my folks and get to Christchurch before I arrive there.

A quick change into trunks, and a wander to the beach. I had a quick swim then sat and watched some others from the hostel play volleyball. Two Vietnamese insisted I sit with them and then forced me to drink several glasses of rice wine. The savages. Despite me speaking no Vietnamese and they speaking no English, we managed a conversation of sorts. They discovered that I don’t like fish, and I discovered that they likes my tattoo and beard – which looks like Uncle Ho’s.

Dinner was much the same as last night (that is, delicious) and I spent a good while afterwards seeing if I could get Charlie the pup to dangle from my beard by his teeth. He’s taking a shine to my facial hair. If you can call attempting to savage it at every opportunity “a shine”.

Early to bed this evening as I’m physically drained.

I’m also working on an extra page for this blog, listing all the places I’ve stayed at on my travels. Speaking to some people, a lot of travellers check out blogs for this kind of info as you get a personal account of the accomodation. So, to make things easier, I’m rattling off a separate web page with contact details etc for the places I’ve crashed in and what I thought of them. Posted by Picasa

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