July 6, 2007
We stayed at a nice place near China Beach. The communal eating arrangement made for story swapping with people who have come from the north. We met one hardcase American called Sparticus.
He told us about the situation in Hanoi and talked at length about Halong Bay. He insisted that we spend a little more money as there are many rip offs from bad tour operators. We also shared some experiences with two English girls who had just completed the Easy Rider tour too.
Although we paid for air conditioning, the arrangement in Da Nang is that the city has power for the day, and at 6pm the power is directed to the suburbs, including our beach guesthouse. So there was no escape from the heat indoors.
The next morning, we headed for the Marble Mountains, which are, indeed, marble. There are many shops trying to flog off marble sculptures as we approached the entrance.
One of them, Thuy Son, is honey combed with caves in which there are Cham, Buddhist, and Confucian relics, pagodas, and temples. The climb is quite steep and at the top it offers a panoramic view of what was Da Nang Airbase, and China Beach. The interesting thing is that this mountain was occupied by the Viet Cong throughout the war.
They had their own hospital in these caves. There is a carving on the wall commemorating the destruction of 19 American planes on the ground below by a VC woman’s unit.
I was surprised how far south the Viet Cong managed to get, under the Allied noses. The mountain and its monastery walls and monuments are marked by many bullets. There are actually 5 summits which make up the Marble Mountains. They are named for the 5 elements, Earth, Water, Metal, Fire, and Wood. This was a fascinating place.
To cool off after a sweaty morning we swam at the beach for the rest of the afternoon and then made plans to get to Dong Ha: The Demilitarised Zone.