Worth a stop, whichever 'Hue' you go

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Asia » Vietnam » North Central Coast » Thua Thien - Huế » Hué
November 25th 2012
Published: December 2nd 2012
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We didn't expect to stay long in Hue (pronounced H-way, hence the title) and didn't really have anything planned while we were there, but as soon as we arrived we liked the feel of the city and knew we would be staying an extra day or two. The sleeper bus from Ninh Binh wasn't too bad, apart from the Vietnamese dance music blasting out loudly which woke us all up - this would have been great in a club but not on a bus at 6am! We had met another couple on the bus, who actually live in Enfield (small world) so along with Hannah & Leigh the 6 of us set off to find some accomodation.

For once we had been dropped off near the centre of town and so found a nice hotel for $10 a night inc brekkie within a few minutes of everything, surrounded by bars & restaurants - yes it was a bit touristy, but just what we wanted after Ninh Binh! We checked into our room on the top floor and were sorting out some bits from our bags when something flew out of the curtain and started flying around the room. Scott jumped up and ran outside, brave man that he is, and I was quick to follow, especially when we saw that it was not a bird as we had first thought but actually a BAT! We had a flipping bat in our room! There were some cleaning staff nearby and we asked them to help get it out, but when they saw it they jumped on the beds in the room and starting trying to whack it with towels and pillows but we didn't want them to kill it, just get it out, which they did eventually. It's funny thinking about it now but it wasn't at the time! Bat-gate dealt with, we went downstairs to meet the others and all had breakfast at a nearby cafe before doing our own thing for the day.

As we didn't have any real 'must do's' in Hue and didn't fancy doing an expensive tour of the tombs, we walked along the river to a market which wasn't amazing but nice to see locals, then to the ancient Citadel, in which most of the main sights are located. We declined the many cyclo drivers offering to take us around it as we wanted to walk, but we underestimated how big it was and after walking for a while in the stifling heat I had a blister and didn't want to walk anymore, so we tried to hire a bike to get around it instead. Finding nowhere which hired bikes, a guy on a bike who heard us asking in a shop said he had a bike we could hire so Scott went with him to get it, only to discover the guy meant we could hire his actual bike! After agreeing to hire it for an hour, and dropping him at his home round the corner, Scott was back on the bike and unbelieveably the guy didn't even ask for a deposit let alone our names - talk about trusting. We spent the next hour riding round the walls of the Citadel spotting some crumbling but beautiful buildings and pretty lakes and bridges, before retuning the bike to the man and giving him the 50,000 VND (£1.50) we had said we would - definately a case of 'good for me, good for you' and we were all happy! We had intending to visit some of the pagoda's and temples within the Citadel but we didn't really have the motivation for that, so headed back across the river where we found some real authentic Vietnamese food, probably for the first time since we arrived in Nam. We had Hue pancakes which were rice paper which you add chicken, prawns, salad and peanut sauce to and roll - delicious and cheap at just 25,000 VND (less than £1)!

Back at the hotel we relaxed until meeting up with the others for dinner that evening, when we went to a great little restaurant nearby offering free spring rolls and 2 for 1 on cocktails. We had a nice meal in there, again Vietnamese food (Scott had caramel pork while I had chicken with cashew nuts and veg) plus lots of cocktails and by the time we finished the place was closing and we were the only ones left in there. We were all up for a few more drinks so headed round the corner to a late night bar called Brown Eyes where again it was 2 for 1 on drinks - after a few hours in there, many shots and a lot of crazy dancing later, we ended the night by singing along to a girl on a guitar in the garden outside before getting to bed at 3am - a great night!

Needless to say the next morning we were feeling pretty tired and as we hadn't booked any onward transport yet and got up late we decided to stay another day and night in Hue. Some of the others hired bikes and went for a big ride but we weren't up for that so instead sneaked into a posh hotel (we are quite good at this) and lazed by their pool all day! We went for a late lunch at DMZ bar where we had some yummy pasta dishes and as we were about to leave the Dutch guys (Hidde and Jasper who we had left in Cat Ba last week) walked past, so we had a quick catch up and arranged to meet up with them later that night. It was about 3pm byt this point and still so hot so we went to another hotel with a pool and stayed there relaxing until the sun went down - cheeky we know but why not. We wanted to leave the next day for Hoi An but wanted to get there the scenic way instead of by the bus which goes through a tunnel, as we heard the scenery was meant to be amazing, so decided to go by car which would stop along the way at various places and make a day of it - we spoke to the others and they all wanted to do it too so we booked a private van for the next day. That night we were tired so just had a bite to eat and a couple of drinks before calling it a night before 11.30. Even though we haven't done much the last 2 days we really enjoyed ourselves.

The next day after breakfast we all piled into the people carrier and began the journey to Hoi An. The first stop was about 45km outside of Hue at a beach called Lan Co - and it was stunning! Completely deserted with white sand and turquoise waters, we were the only ones on it and spent about an hour there sunbathing and swimming, giving us a lovely first taste of the Vietnamese beaches. Then we drove over the Hai Van pass which goes over the mountains and looks out at amazing scenery and Lan Co beach, rather than through the newer tunnel which although faster, doesn't offer the views and stopped for lunch just past China Beach outside of Danang, the 3rd largest city in Nam - we didn't actually stop in the city and after a mediocre lunch we carried on to the Marble Mountains. The mountains are actually five craggy tops each named for the natural element it is said to represent - water, fire, earth, metal and wood. At the base of the mountains there are loads of shops specialising in large scale marble statues and sculptures, but we bypassed these and climbed the mountain where we saw several impressive caves, Buddha carvings, pagoda's and great views over the city below. Then it was onto our last stop of the trip, Hoi An, where we arrived at about 5pm.

It was a really good day and well worth it for $12 each as we got to see things that we wouldn't have otherwise, plus we got to Hoi An in comfort which was a nice change from the crappy day buses! Hue was fun but now the serious stuff would begin, starting with visits to the tailor shops and spending too much on clothes...

S&V's Travel Info & Tips:

General Info: Approx 33,000 VND to £1 / 21,000 VND to $1. The sleeper bus was part of the open tour bus route so dropped us in a central location which was handy. If walking around the Citadel wear comfy shoes!

Transportation: From Ninh to Hue we took a sleeper bus which we thought to be pricey at $15 each, but it was a 12 hour journey. We walked around Hue or hired a bike - you can hire moto-bikes all day for around $5.

Food: So many choices! Most places offer a westernized menu and we saw a lot of pizza/pasta places, but our favourites were Golden Rice (for the Vietnamese food & cocktails) and DMZ bar for the pasta, although portions were on the small side there. Also the local place on the road leading to the Citadel was authentic and cheap.

Accomodation: We stayed at Sport's Hotel on D Pham Ngu Lao for $10 a night including breakfast - most bars and restaurants were also on this street but rooms were quiet as places seemed to shut by 12.

Other observations:

x) Definately worth considering going by car or bike to Hoi An/Danang so you get to see the spectacular views, as the bus goes through the tunnel so you don't see anything. The car for 6 of us cost $72 and we booked it through our hotel.

xx) Hue had a lovely feel to it and was an easy place to spend a few days, although the persistant street vendors and bike drivers can get annoying.

Additional photos below
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3rd December 2012

Nice to see Hue in the sunshine..
It rained the whole time were were there so we didn't really enjoy it that much! Looks like you are really enjoying Vietnam and will look forward to reading about Hoi-An.. I bet you meet up with some other Travelbloggers!!! :o)
5th December 2012

We have been so lucky with the weather in Nam, it's been sunny and hot every day really even now in Nha Trang where it should be monsoon season! Bet you guys can't wait to get away next month now, we will be in Thailand from Dec 17th for a month, would be great to catch up! We will be on the islands for Xmas and new year prob then work back up to Bkk and up north to Chiang Mai so let us know your plans when you know x

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