Published: December 4th 2011December 3rd 2011
After an amazing trip to Halong Bay, myself and Vinny arrived back in Hanoi to have a bite to eat and get our bags from the hostel before boarding a 14 hour overnight train to Hue, in Central Vietnam. We met a polish guy and two girls at our hotel who we got talking to and it turns out we were all on the same carriage of the train to Hue together! They are living in London and their English was brilliant (and the guy is an Arsenal fan!) so once on the train, we sat with them for a couple of hours chatting away which was a bit of craic! With this train, just like in China, we were in a four berth sleeper, this time with two German/Russian men (vinny’s guess) with no English who went to sleep at like 9 pm! No complaints from us, we went looking for the drinks carriage! Unfortunately, after hiking the length of the train and seeing the hard sleepers, soft seats and then hard seats (thank god we went soft sleeper), we got to what is called the restaurant car but I use that term lightly! It was a teeny car with
three Vietnamese lads working there who were making themselves comfortable to go to sleep on the couches! They told us there was no hot water (for our pot noodles) so we left and just watched a movie on the netbook in the carriage!
I slept like a baby of course while Vinny struggled to get comfortable (that’s the problem being almost 6ft tall in an Asian country!) Also the alleged snoring from me and the Germans/Russians did not help matters! The next morning, we got up and watched the Vietnamese countryside go by until we arrived in Hue. We were met with hotel touts and went with one guy whose hotel I had read about online. The hotel was lovely and central and had a great breakfast included! After we checked in and got sorted, we headed out to check out the citadel (the old city of Hue). But first, breakfast!! Went to a nice spot for western breakfast where Vinny ordered white coffee. The waitress asked him if he wanted fresh milk. However, the Vietnamese tend to pronounce their F’s like B’s and their sh's sound harsh, like Ts. Poor Vinny was like "breast milk"?? You should’ve seen
his face! I couldn’t stop laughing! I know we have seen some weird stuff in Asia, but that would’ve been too weird!
Anyway, after that we headed across the Perfume River to the Imperial City of Hue. This is a complex from the Nguyen dynasty with ancient city walls around temples and shops, surrounded by a moat. We walked around it for a while, where we were hounded by people in cyclos, trying to cycle us around and by people trying to rent us motorbikes. Eventually, one guy approached us while we were sitting down, taking a break. He had really good English and was trying to sell us a motorbike tour of the sights of Hue, with him and his sister. As cool as it looked, we explained we were on a budget and couldn’t afford it. When he dropped his price to 160,000 each ($8), we couldn’t pass it up and arranged to do the tour the following morning! That evening, we bumped into the Danish couple who were on our Halong Bay tour! We ended up having a drink with them before dinner.
Vinny is getting good at the sign language! At dinner he was
trying to explain to the waiter that he wanted prawns with the shell off, cos they always seem to come with the shell on here. (Oh travelling is a tough life!) He was like "shell on, shell off" a few times and using his hands to explain!! Well, suffice it to say, the prawns came out with the shells on!!
The next morning, we were up early and were collected for our tour of Hue! Was really looking forward to this! Unfortunately, the guy who sold us the tour didn’t actually bring us around but got his friend to bring us, along with his sister. They spoke almost no English, which was a pity as we were hoping for some info on the various places we went to. It was bit scary on the back of the motorbikes, weaving through crazy city traffic and millions of bikes and the girl who drove me around was teeny (see photo) so holding onto her was no consolation, but we quickly got used to it!
First stop, the Thien Muy Pagoda, which was up on a cliff overlooking the river and a great place to take photos. It was beautiful and
there was a prayer service going on, so we could go in some of the way if we took off our shoes. Next up was the tomb of Khai Dinh, which was 10km from Hue out in the countryside. It is set on a hill with great views and there were hardly any tourists there. After spending some time looking around that complex, we then went to an old American bunker, which both myself and Vinny were really looking forward to, as we have both started to read up on the war. The bunker was up really high overlooking the river, the other side of which was a Viet Cong base (now a graveyard) that was bombed by the Americans. We had a walk around here and took some cool photos before getting back on the bikes and heading to another pagoda. This one was beautiful and really peaceful with ponds and footbridges and monks quietly walking around. There was an area where they practice Kung Fu every morning and a soccer pitch which Vinny spotted straight away, where they play football at 4pm every day. (It was only 12, doh!)
After a couple more stops, we went out
to the Thanh Toan Tile Bridge, an ancient and beautiful wooden bridge. The ride out to there was amazing. We went through little villages, past rice fields and down tiny little roads to get to it. It was so out of the way and quiet. There were a bunch of boys around 8 or 9 years old playing on the bridge and when they saw us they were all shouting “hello” at us. Then they gathered around Vinny and started rubbing his arm hair and laughing, and then took turns to touch his beard!! Was so funny!! After this, we headed back in to the city where they dropped us off at a market.
Overall, it was an absolutely brilliant day and well worth doing the tour. We were debating whether to go to Hoi An or to go to China Beach first, so we decided on China beach and organised our bus for the next morning. After a brilliant few days in Hue, it was time to move on to the next stop!
PS. There are more photos on the next page!
There are more photos below