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Published: January 26th 2014
I woke up somewhere in the vicinity of 20 times throughout the night as the train stopped and started but actually managed to get a reasonable nights sleep. We were due into Hue around 0830 but finally rolled in at 1030 to overcast, humid and threatening conditions. Although we had no sleeping quarters booked, we picked a cafe out of the Lonely Planet and walked in that direction. Once through the gates of the train station we were hit with all the usual touts. No – we didn’t want a hotel, no – we didn’t want a cyclo, no – we didn’t want a tour, no – we didn’t want a taxi. Truth is we did want two of the above but one thing we’ve learned from previous trips is that the price for said requirements decreases exponentially with each metre walked away from the exit of a train station. I checked a few of the taxis in the car park and none had fare stickers so we walked the 30 minutes to Hung Vuang Inn. No – we didn’t want a bloody cyclo. With the exception of a tiny nut bar that our Vietnamese cabin mates had offered us, we hadn’t eaten since Kangaroo Cafe some 15 hours and 300 kilometres previously. Pho just wasn’t going to cut it. I constructed a mighty omelette sandwich and Jo had a baguette with cheese, chicken and ham. Our plan was to check out a hotel around the corner but as we were eating it absolutely hosed down… not hosed down in the Auckland sense – hosed down in the probably going to be a flash flood sense. Our waitress asked if we were looking for accommodation and we were surprised to be offered a room above the cafe when we replied in the affirmative. At D300,000 (NZ$20) a night it was probably a little on the high side but it was clean and had air-con. It’s major selling point was that we were already there and didn’t have our scuba gear to check anywhere else out. The breakfasts were only D30,000 (NZ$2) each so we also knew we had a cheap feed on the premises. We snapped it up. Our first attempt to get to the historic Citadel on the other side of the Perfume River (Song Huong) was thwarted by a second downpour but we were held up outside a barbers and I got a much needed hair cut for D40,000 (NZ$2.35). People who don’t like too much information please skip this paragraph. The girl cutting my hair shrieked when she saw the state of my ears and nearly insisted that I get an ear clean out while I was there. Great upselling. I agreed and was shocked to see the amount of gunk and wax our underpaid heroine removed from me. At D60,000 (NZ$4) I reckon it worked out at 50c a gram. I left a new man and paid a nice tip for her efforts. We had only made it a few doors from Hung Vuong so went back upstairs to get our laundry together. In the shop next to the barbers we dropped in 3.8 kilograms of washing to be collected the following day at D80,000 (NZ$5.35). The rain had lightened to a drizzle so we walked across the Trang Tien Bridge towards the Citadel, making it all the way to the gates before it bucketed down once again. We quickly found a small cafe and ordered ice tea and coke. A cyclo driver came up trying to tell us we’d stay dry if we went with him and his mate on a one hour tour for D150,000 – then D120,000 – then D100,000 each. With the weather the way it was we declined but kept chatting to him about the price of cigarettes, the closeness (or otherwise) of Melbourne to New Zealand and how much Manchester United suck. He was getting into my good books. We spent almost an hour in the cafe and had a few more drinks whilst playing with a cute puppy (dinner?) before agreeing to the D50,000 (NZ$3.35) each price to return us to our hotel a kilometre or so away. I couldn’t haggle with two blokes that were going to cyclo us through the torrential downpour for that sort of money. We headed into the streets and returned to the hotel just in time for the rain to clear up. Our second attempt to get out was about a half hour later and coincided with another rainstorm. We had decided not to go as far at the citadel but instead to walk a block or two on our side of the Perfume River… the newer part of town. We’d got about as far away as we could when the skies opened up. We had no option but to get soaked through. On the way back we managed to go into TheSinh Tourist office and fork out D331,000 (NZ$22) each for a full day trip to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) about 90kms north of Hue for the next day. The Lonely Planet suggested we could get the tour cheaper but the attraction of a roof over our heads for the ten minutes it took to book the tour was too enticing. Back at Hung Vuong Inn, we did a weather check on the Wifi and found that the best forecast we had for the next ten days was scattered showers and lightning storms – the worst, torrential rain and lightning storms. Jo found a pair of sandals in one of the seven or eight shoe stores opposite our hotel for D150,000 (NZ$10) and we headed to our room for some rest, relaxation and rain avoiding. At 1830 we went downstairs for dinner. A 450ml bottle of Huda Beer came in at D10 (about 65c) so I was pretty happy. We shared our meals with the starter being a local dish, Banh Khoai – a rice pancake with bean sprouts, shrimps and pork, a steal a D29,000 (NZ$2). The big ticket item was a shrimp and squid pizza at D159,000 (NZ$10). More than enough to fill two healthy eaters and both amongst the better meals we’d had to date. We headed upstairs to our room at 1930 to prepare for a long day ahead, both hoping for better weather but expecting a long wet week ahead.
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