Tuesday, June 19, 2018

And So I Walk

walk (verb) move at a regular and fairly slow pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once

I have no idea why I feel compelled to walk everywhere.Don't get me wrong, I honestly love walking and hiking and the health benefits are well known. However it has its limits of good judgement. If I am going somewhere and it is under 5 KM the notion of taking a taxi or tuk tuk does not even enter my thought process. I see that something is 10 km away I instantly calculate the 4 hours round trip and justify the notion I will see interesting things along the way. Google maps and the direction finder are where I start and stop this freakish habit.

The last few days I have been wandering around Da Nang as if on a mission to dispel the notion that Da Nang was not walk-able. First, yes it is walk-able. Second, don't do it unless you are a hard headed lunatic proving it can be done. Don't get me wrong, walking is a fantastic way to explore a new place and you should always make that a part of your travel habits. If, for example a great market is 5 km away, take the damn tuk tuk to the market and then explore it.

I could see the Lady Buddha from the beach near my hotel. It looked closer than the 9 KM but I was looking directly across the bay. The trek was down the beach, around the bay and up a long hill. I loaded up my water and camera and off I went in my sandals down the beach. This was going to be a piece of cake. Thirty minutes and still on the beach. A little over 75 minutes later I had rounded the bay and came to where the beach met the pavement. Now it was a short walk, or so I thought, up to the Buddha. It was freakishly hot and muggy and water was disappearing in huge gulps. I replenished at various roadside stands with proprietors looking at me like I was out of my mind. This was not a short hill. Cars, taxis, motos and tuk tuks came by in a constant stream and curious bus passengers stared. I was 2 hours in and a moto came by and offered me a ride to which I gladly accepted. The ride on the moto took 15 minutes and I was figuring the walking time in my head. What an idiot.

I walked up the steps and sat looking back across the bay at the hotels from which I stared about 2 hours earlier. This better be the most amazing Lady Buddha on the planet. The site was actually impressive and worth the effort but there was no way I was walking back. This being a huge tourist spot taxis were everywhere. I negotiated a reasonable rate back into town which took about 20 minutes. I had a sense of accomplishment fighting with my sense of idiocy as a sipped a cold beer from the steps of a variety shop.

Da Nang is also famous for it's bridges with the Dragon Bridge the main attraction.The distance from my hotel was 5 KM. Easy enough if I did not spend the morning walking in Havaianas. Regardless the riverfront would be nice at night so off I went. I stumbled across a great pizza joint down an alley, ate a quick dinner and continued on.

I was not disappointed. The riverfront was clean, well maintained and a real showpiece for Da Nang. The bridges are colorfully lit with the dragon rotating colors every 5 minutes. Apparently it breathes simulated fire at random times so I hung out the a small gathering of others waiting in anticipation. That got boring fast so off I went. Oh look, a Ferris wheel. That looks close. As usual looks across water are deceiving.

I cross the river and though about jumping on a tour boat. The closer I got the more chaotic it was with bus tours of people loosing their shit as they followed their flag toting leaders. I just took a seat on a bench and watched the madness for a while. The scene was actually quite beautiful. However like so many other cities in the world that Ferris Wheel was calling out to me. The time to walk from the Dragon Bridge to the next bridge (red and blue in the picture) took about 30 minutes. There was a riverfront map at a kiosk along the way and I became painfully away that the magic Ferris Wheel was at the next bridge beyond. So naturally off I went.

It was located in an quirky amusement park but you could buy a ticket for just the ride. It did allow me to wander the park for a bit but I had not interest in that. The entire rotation took about 30 minutes and it allowed me an impressive and colorful view downstream. I had been out wandering for the better part of 2.5 hours now and it dawned on me as I was exiting the park, eyeballing the row of taxi's that I still had an hour or so to walk. So naturally off I went.

All roads lead to the beach and the Ferris Wheel bridge connected with the beach road about a half a block from Sticky Fingers. An excellent Expat pub that I had found. They had a decent guy on stage strumming a guitar and the vibe was excellent. I pulled up a stood and ended up hanging out and chatting with the bartenders, a few expat locals and some wide eyed travelers. All thoughts of my night walking disappeared, until the next morning.

Not to be undone and with bullheadedness that I am famous for I accepted one more personal challenge the next day. The one hour walk (5.5 KM) to Marble Mountains. It was straight down the coast with the beach on my left most of the way so why not?  Because you would get there in a 10 minute cab ride that's why not. Because you can not feel your feet from yesterdays little walkabout you idiot that,s why not. So naturally off I went.

The bartender at Dirty Fingers, Nicole, was working the day shift and I mentioned that I was walking to Marble Mountains. She promised me a free beer if I stopped in on my way back. I did, she did and as I was soaked in sweat it disappeared pretty darn fast. She gave me another.

It was hot and muggy and I left my sandals in my room. Today was all about shoes and socks. As expected it took about an hour and was a simple straight line down the beach, in the opposite direction of my dear friend Lady Buddha. There are 5 rocky outcrops that make up the mountains. They are important for religious and the main one, Thuy Son, had many caves, Buddhas and shrines. The steps going into many of the caves are cared into the marble and after years of being worn down they are slick and a bit dangerous.

During the War with the Americans the Vietcong kept a hospital here. Da Nang is only 5 KM away with an airfield next to the mountains and a huge contingent of soldiers at China beach. One General describes the enemy as having been so "certain of our ignorance [...] that he had hidden his hospital in plain sight".

After my soul crushing and sole busting Da Nang street hiking adventure I would like to think I have come to the reasonable conclusion that a cheap taxi once in a while is the way to go. Tuk tuks are always an adventure and you can rent a scooter anywhere in Asia for about $5 a day although my scooter phobia is another story all together.  It's not the worst way to explore a place when you find yourself on your own. I just need to be a bit more selective on how I go about it. Although I do sleep like a baby afterwards.

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