While I was on holidays, autumn came to Kathmandu. It is still warm enough at day time, 19-21C degrees, but every day the temperature gets just a little bit lower and lower. It is time to wear tights finally. And it is time to show you my new skirt that I brought from Vietnam. I was not after buying clothes there. What one can expect to find in such a touristy place are t-shirts with Vietnamese theme prints and beach wear, most probably of the Chinese origin. I was not interested in the first one and I had plenty of my own of the second one. But then one evening I stumpled across the Lucy's Dream boutique that offered something different: a selection of dresses, skirts and tops that really stood out.
I guess everybody likes a bit of souvenir shopping while on holidays in a new place. Cute handcrafted things are my weakness and knowing this I always try to restrain myself in order not to go overboard and usually look for figurines of cats for my collection and for some interesting bijouterie or silver jewelry pieces. Have to confess however that seldom my purchases come to nothing more than those only. Same happened to me in Hoi An, too. There is such a big choice of beautiful handmade things for sale and the prices are so attractive that it is really hard not to go nuts with souvenir shopping in this town. Ceramic vases, colourful lanterns, patchwork toys, wooden ships, lacquered boxes, embroidered paintings, coconut jewelry, paper cut cards, pure silk scarfs, marble Buddhas - anyone can find something to one's taste.
Many people while on holidays prefer to wear something comfy and that's understandable. But why do clothes necessarily need to be plain and boring as well? Why not combine comfort and prettiness? All my outfits that I wore in Vietnam were very comfy to wear and at the same time they quite stood out in the crowd of short-tshirts wearers. You have seen this pants/skirt thing (that the producer calls "gypsy palazzo pants") before on my blog, that time I paired it with a purple top but it looks no less impressive with a yellow one too.
Besides the Ancient Town of Hoi An, there is another UNESCO site just around 40 min drive away from the town, My Son. The place, once used to be the religious centre for the capital of the Champa Kingdom, had been abandoned and partially ruined until French archaeologists stumbled across them in 1898. Between 7th and 13th centuries My Son served as a site for religious ceremonies for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes. Champa culture was influenced by the Hindu religion so no wonder one can find images of Shiva and Parvati on the walls of the ruined temples as well as sculptures of Lingam and Yoni here and there.
The site is situated inside the jungle, and the air there is much hotter and stuffier than outside. I actually can't imagine visiting this place during dry season, when temperature is 35-38 C degrees. On the day of our visit it was "just" 30 C and still we came back from the tour literally wet with sweat from head to toes.
There is not much left of the temples to see, the damage comes from their age of course but also from heavy bombing by the Americans during the Vietnam War which is such a shame (one can still see a huge bomb crater near the entrance to the main cluster of temples). As a result, only a fraction of the structures are still standing but restoration efforts are underway.
After spending half a day among My Son ruins we later headed to another nearby place that sounded interesting - the Marble Mountains. The place really charmed me: great views across the coastline, bright and colourful temples, exotic pagodas, numerous sculptures and enchanting caves. I had not expected that I would like exploring caves so much. There are many of them there, from small and cute to huge and grand. Sometimes when you are inside a rather small cave you see a narrow opening in one of its walls, and you decide to go through it and then unexpectedly find yourself in another much bigger cave. I loved that. Several caves contained religious shrines as well as sculptures of different deities.
This is interesting that many elements of the temples are decorated with pieces of broken ceramics
The Marble Mountains are not only famous for their beauty and religious significance, but also their wartime history. During the American/Vietnam War, it is said that the Viet Cong soldiers hid out and established hospitals inside the caves of the mountains.
Dragon is a popular motif for decoration in Vietnam
Nature and culture co-exists peacefully at this site, making for an unforgettable experience.
From the hotel we were staying in there was a free everyday shuttle service to Hoi An. So, there was no problem with getting there at any time: in the morning, at the day time or in the evening. The ride takes just around 10 min. And definitely the town is worth visiting. The main attraction of course is the Ancient Town, UNESCO World Heritage site. In past Hoi An served as a major South East Asian trading port and the surviving buildings reflect the influences of different cultures, mostly Chinese and Japanese. No cars or motorbikes are allowed in the area so one can really enjoy wandering around the old streets.