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Published: April 30th 2008
After leaving Hoi An and laying horizontal in a sleeper bus for seven hours we arrive in the town of Huế. The English pronounce it 'Hugh' the Americans pronounce it 'Huuuuuu' as if half way through an awkward sneeze, the Vietnamese pronounce it 'Hoooaaaay' like they are clearing their throat.
The menu was varied, the choice limited. Pig, Cow, Turtle, Frogs Legs, Snake, various unidentified species of fish caught below 1000 feet, in the end it was a tough choice between the Tortoise in Chinese Medicine Sauce or nothing at all
If I were to walk completely naked through perfumed air I would still be wearing too much, it is hot here and getting hotter. Our first evening we tried to find something edible to eat, our hotel only served breakfast not dinner and was a little out of walk able distance from the town centre where all the foreigners eat safe, non scary, foreign food. We looked at a few promising menus attached to restaurants lit up with fairy lights but they all seemed to have only three items on the them. Dog, Turtle, Snake that came with noodle and Pac Choy. Then we looked at other menus under harsh strip lighting and plastic kiddie table and chairs outside with big grown men squatting upon them, these menus had more of Snake, Dog & Turtle served with noodle and Pac Choy! We wondered around and around and got hungrier and
hungrier, the clock struck 21.00 and the thought of just noodle and Pac Choy in a clear broth this delirious thought started to sound like a delicious idea. We found a 'tourist restaurant' hidden behind a casino that had no one in it. French run, Vietnamese managed, a shambles if ever I had seen one.
The menu was varied, the choice limited. Pig, Cow, Turtle, Frogs Legs, Snake, various unidentified species of fish caught below 1000 feet, in the end it was a tough choice between the Tortoise in Chinese Medicine Sauce or nothing at all. Then there was one item of chicken listed between fresh grouper & curb? We never found out what that was. The chicken promised to come with a flagrant knotweed, I was too hungry, must have been a typo error instead of 'fragrant'. After much discussion via a game of foodie charades with the non English speaking manager and three waitresses, I understood that it was ample breast of chicken, as he pointed to my boobs and pretended to rigorously hold his own pecks. The flagrant knotweed was translated to be a sautéed vegetable medley including a swan cut display of carrot, on a
bed of tomato and cucumber, this sounded great especially as the price was not so great at $10. Stu decided to try the Mutant Ninja Turtle Vermicelli in a Sargassum sauce that cost $3. My food arrived at 22.13 just as I was munching right through my beer mat. I starred at my plate in English horror, flagrant it certainly was a two day old Bowel of Poultry Giblets
that was all bunched up in the middle of the plain plate like human intestines. The dimpled plucked raw chicken skin that had a kind of rubbery buoyancy, decorated with the thinnest halved tomato and cucumber displayed around the edge of the plate, there was no evidence of sautéed vegetable medley or breast of anything.
I never send food back, but I had too. They could not believe I didn't want it, they passed the plate around like it was evidence in a murder trial. I asked for Mutant Ninja Vermicelli as It looked edible, when it arrived at 22. 42.
Huế is ancient and it has an impressive citadel which had me entertained for minutes. Inside, I noticed a colourful commotion as a party of 20 Koreans played
dress up. For a fee you can dress up as Mr. or Mrs. Old Emperor and sit on a throne and be fanned by other not real concubines. It was hilarious watching these retired kids cry with laughter at each other as one half of the group composed themselves behind Sony and Panasonic gadgets while the other 'Game For A Laugher's' emerged from behind the changing booth curtains. Out the front there were parties of 20, 32, 44 all posing for photos in their nominated coloured peak caps.
I learned about the Kings and Emperors of Vietnam. The one that was loved the most was King Minh Mang who was crowned in 1820. He was Confucian by religion which caused confusion else where, he liked to piss off the Catholics especially the missionaries who he didn't like and banned from entering into Vietnam. When any problems surfaced he just loved to blame the Christians. He didn't like the French much and his people were said to like him more because of this, he is known not to like European culture, yet he was secretly fascinated by it. Education was his strong point, he changed the education system in Vietnam
during his reign. He was all man but was very in touch with his feminine side as he loved reading his poetry to his many wives and even more concubines, many many concubines, over 500 of them who adored his every move and bowed down to his every whim and had many many of his children, in fact I am sure that most people here today will have royal DNA in them as a result. He had one dozen concubines in his bed at one time, all on a rotation system, the guide listed their duties, as fanning him with ostrich feathers, tending to his feet and toe nails, ran him bathes with oils and herbs, reading his poetry back to him, taking notes for him probably in short hand to then get to business a bit quicker, feeding him fruits and nuts, giving him a potent drink called Tonic Wine which he devised, was made from 28 sacred herbs, this kept him going all night long as this was the ancient form of modern day Viagra, this made him known to his people as 'sexy King' but he died In 1840, after 20 years of reign, he was knackered.
The one the people didn't like much was Emperor Khai Ding who reigned for only nine years. He was a child king and was said to be the French governments puppet. He had one official wife and one child by her, she died. Then he officially married wife number two but then decided to have many secondary wives and many more concubines, he was said not to be too bothered about sex and physically very weak, he became a drug addict and died of TB young. While he was alive he insisted his Mausoleum be the best work of art in the whole country, which it is. He had many men work for nine years building it. Inside it is impressive, the whole room is made from mosaic patterns of old plates and bowls, broken glass and real gold, including many statues of HIMSELF. It is beyond the campiest egotistical tomb I have ever seen. I want one!
We saw many tombs and pagodas, saw how conical hats and incense sticks are made but something weird happened while I was sight seeing, I had amassed an entourage all of my own. Viet women would quicken their petite pace
and escort me to the next point by linking arms and giggling, as they did this they Oh'd and Ar'd at my size, both up and across, patting bottom, hips, tummy, arms and boobs. I am getting a bit paranoid about all this now, as they are all grabbing my tummy, hold it and say “Baby?” I say...”NO BABY” and try walk away. They ask me "OLD?"...I say my age, then they say "AND No Baby?" I start to run. These few days here got worse. Tribes of women would surround me and ask permission to have their photo taken standing next to my impressive (to them) height. They had professional photographers who assisted them in this task, I was moved around to where the light was good and my clothes arranged and shoulder bag removed, which is JUST what I do to the likes of them. It didn't matter where I went, they followed with small amounts of English exchanged, such as ' Strong - Big - Solid - Baby' I was flattered yet really feeling very depressed. During the more slower moments here in Huế I noticed that my fingernails grow at a rate of 2 mm every
Some more facts about these sleeper buses. 1
I found out to my own cost that the lower bunks certainly do have more leg room and sitting up max head room than the upper bunks, we were unfortunate to be the last to board and had a very long painful time lying all bunched up in the upper back bunks. 2
According to other travellers who bought the sit down normal bus ticket for $27 for the same route, thinking they will save $10, ended up having many problems. There types of buses never arrived and they were told to pay a heap of cash extra to get on the sleeper bus instead. Or the sit down bus did show up later than expected but the seats didn't recline at all, so 12 hours in bolt up right position. Its worth paying that extra $10 to avoid such frustrations. 3
The bus broke down for 5 hours, the breaks went, then the doors would not open to let people off the bus, it was claustrophobic torture. But instead of calling for another bus, instead of asking all the other buses who stopped to have a look
Night Bus...Top Bunk Hell
Look at the big guy....he struggled all night too.
if we could try brake out of our bus by other means and then get on their bus, it took 5 hours to fix the problems with 2 men working with a hammer, spanner and duck tape on the brakes, wheel and doors with 4 men just watching until day light came. They had opened up the indoor toilets which stank like a cess pit after 5 hours of being stationary. Our 12 hour journey took 20 hours, where they dumped us all out side Hanoi, miles away from the Old Quarter, telling us they will provide a taxi for us all for the inconvenience, when the first taxi arrived and went with the organisers on it, that was the last we saw of them. 4
Vietnamese teens really love listening to Green Day over and over on their mobile phones. 5
There are many different ways to eat an Oreo biscuit. 6
In times of trouble all nationalities pull together, I shared my few drops of water with a Viet woman who had nothing. Someone had also stolen her DNA infested free pillow so I gave her mine as I carry my own. She in turn kept grabbing my arm
and prodding its mass as if she was testing a leg of lamb. When we were standing up in the isles trying to kick the door in to get out, she looked after my frustration by stroking my tummy from every angle and saying “Ok”!
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