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November 13th 2012
Published: November 17th 2012
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As Chairman Mao says, work is strugglingAs Chairman Mao says, work is strugglingAs Chairman Mao says, work is struggling

On our deck of cards there are some great Mao moments.
Day 1
We arrived at the train station for the sleeper to Hue with plenty of time to spare. This enabled us to meet a few fellow passengers and settle into our very simple berth. Or as a travel brochure would describe it: Unspoilt, untouched and a magnificent historical reminder of Vietnam's glorious past. Although it wasn't as bad as some people have described it, it certainly made me feel itchy just thinking about the comments. The journey solidified my love for train travel, although I'm still not a fan of the bathroom situation.
Arriving in Hue at 8 am, it was quite humid. Weather forecasts for this area have predicted rain for the next week, so I'm feeling cranky just thinking about how hot and sticky it will be. Luckily this hotel has a pool, and as Dean said, for a couple of dollars extra a night - it's worth it. I remember how Eleanor and I nearly melted last time in Hanoi, so as we're not backpackers anymore (we are 'flashpackers' apparently!) I say, let's splash out every now and then for a little comfort.

Freshening up with a quick shower and change of clothes, we stepped forth
We lost him!We lost him!We lost him!

The cyclo driver, that is.
into the fray. Within minutes I was sweating profusely, cursing under my breath at the cyclo drivers who were stalking us and hoping that we were not too far from lunch. Unfortunately we were heading towards the market, where (surprisingly) there didn't appear to be a lot of options. Our meals, so far, have usually been delicious and often far in excess of the calories required for a healthy diet. Not this one. Well, Eleanor liked it because it involved fries, but this Korean fast food chain wasn't really one of our better choices.
After consuming our recommended daily allowance of saturated fats, we moved on to the oven, aka the market. One lady attached herself so quickly, a leech couldn't have done it any better. My usual grumpiness didn't deter her, Dean moved ahead quickly and then I was caught like a kangaroo in the spotlight. Thank goodness Dean created a diversion at a hat stall, and we were able to shake her off. I think we were in the market for a total of about six minutes.
Walking to the citadel, cyclo drivers were very persistent and I curse every Australian who has ever visited and taught them all our cultural and linguistic highlights. Phrases such as 'G'day mate', 'how's it hanging' and then just random words thrown at us like 'kangaroo', 'Sydney', 'Melbourne' etc are obviously meant to entice us into choosing their transport machine. One guy hung in there for about 1km before we walked off-road and he couldn't follow. We only had a quick look around the outside of the Citadel and the Nine Holy Cannons before succumbing to the heat and catching a taxi back to the hotel for a swim.
It was really lovely to spend the afternoon relaxing, swimming and sleeping. When we were ready to tackle the streets again, Eleanor expressed an interest in purchasing a pair of long pants, like the ones she had seen in a shop on the corner. That particular store was closed, but as in most places, there is not one far away. We found a pair she liked close by and she was quickly measured up. Two pairs would be ready the next day, so we paid a deposit and then went in search of food. We tried some Hue specialties, probably didn't need the lotus flower soup, and left the restaurant full as googs.

Day 2
Having signed up for a day-long tour which included the Citadel, some Royal Tombs, a couple of pagodas and temples, we were up early to catch the bus. Driving around Hue picking up and dropping off passengers for the first half hour made me wonder what kind of tour it actually was. Did we sign up for the 'simulated public bus experience without the public' tour? Oh no, it eventually turned into the temples and tombs tour. As the day progressed we lost and gained people, which was an interesting experience in itself. At each stop the leader would count us on and off but the numbers varied so much that I don't know what system he was using. At the Citadel, we lost one lady because she was late back to the bus. We picked her up again after the third stop when the leader spotted her walking along the road. The sights themselves were great and we really enjoyed the day. It was nice being taken to places for a change. I could get used to this!
Each tomb was architecturally different, and I have to say, worth visiting. Some people on the bus chose not to go in all of them due to the small admittance charge at each, but I found them all quite interesting and located in beautiful settings. It definitely isn't a case of 'seen one, seen them all'. At one pagoda, Eleanor was once again elevated to celebrity status and she spent quite a bit of time posing with Chinese tourists. It strikes me as quite unusual to have a random stranger posing with your family/friends in their photos. How do they explain this strange person to the people back home? It would be like us bailing up a Chinese tourist in Bourke Street and taking photos with them. I guess it was much weirder in Malaysia when the Burqa-clad women lined up to have a photo taken with her in Melaka...
A swim before dinner put a spring in our step and before we knew it, we were feasting on a wonderful vegetarian hotpot extravaganza. Before bed, Dean and Eleanor jumped on the old computer in the room to book some accommodation in Hoi An for tomorrow. Hopefully it would be as nice as this hotel.

Additional photos below
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Prune or restore?Prune or restore?
Prune or restore?

Something should be done soon - or it will be gone!

18th November 2012

Number 1, number 1...
Oh, the joys of a hotel where you can't be asked to buy something and nobody expects you to follow them to a shop, where there are no touts and there is a pool. Reminds me of being in Vietnam where as soon as we stepped out the gates of our hotel in Hoi An (which we loved), we would be beseiged by laundry ladies, all with luminous and sparkly business cards. Once past them, then the cyclo drivers would appear - we particularly liked 007 and he would consistently drop us off at a friend's restaurant rather than the one we had asked for. Nothing like a bit of nepotism. By the way, your progeny has your body language - hysterical. x

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