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Published: November 22nd 2011
On our favoured form of transport. The tuc tuc drivers still ask if we want one!!
Confident that we would not be sleeping in a real bed for two days we decided on some luxury for the second leg of the journey from Hanoi to Hue. We booked a train that consisted of a soft bed sleeper train with 4 births per room as opposed to the 6 birth hard sleeper we previously had. We arrived back in Hanoi after our first leg at 05:00 on a sleeper bus from Sapa, we headed straight for the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel (where we had booked the Jolly Roger Boat Trip from). Playing it cool we took advantage of their generosity, helping ourselves to some free breakfast, tea (trying to convince everyone we were residents) and stashed our bags then off we went into Hanoi to see some sights! Our train wasn’t until 7pm that night.
We arrived in Hue at 08:00 the following morning after a restless night on the train. A crazy Viet-Cong woman kept awaking with a start in the night, forgetting where she was she would try to open the door in a panic! It was too stiff for her to open so muggings here would get up and open it. Once she remembered she
was in fact on a train, I would close the door only to repeat the action 2 more times that night. Oh, I must not forget the man who joined us late in the night at one of the stops. He decided to have an heated exchange(or so it seemed at 2am) on his phone and then the same again with the crazy women below!
Hue, it’s a weird place, on one side of a river is the new village with all the amenities expected in any tourist/backpacker region. On the other side is a 2.5KM2 walled citadel which was home to the Kings of the Nguyen Dynasty from the 17th century until the Yanks decided to bomb it in the 1960’s. They really went to town on this place and flattened most of the buildings.
We were staying in our first hostel of the trip, Hue Backpackers. This was the sister place to the one where we stayed in Hanoi so this time we were ‘entitled’ to free breakfast, tea and bag storage! We were in a dorm of 10 people, all males and were both on the top bunk of different beds. Later that night, it
The Old Dog
Note the bikers tash fitting right in
must have been past 02:00 Nat woke and was shouting at the top of her voice “Where am I, Where am I”. I turned the bedside lights on to try and calm her down but it was too late, some of the other residents were awake to see what the commotion was about. I thought the Vietnamese woman on the train was crazy!!
After 2 days in Hue we had seen enough and opted to hire a motor bike one way to get to Hoi An which was about 180Km away. We got speaking to a Vietnamese guy called Tam from Hue Riders and he hired us a bike for $35 to drive alone. Normally with a guide it was $75 but after I bought him a beer he said we could follow him and a tour he was taking already, free of charge. This included one of his lads taking one of our big bags on the bus to meet us at the hotel. Then he realised I had never rode a ‘real’ bike before, he was looking a little nervous but I assured him I’d be ok given 10 minutes to get use to the clutch. I
took the bike up the street that night only managing 3rd gear and returned to find Tam satisfied that I would manage the trip.
The trip was to include the infamous Hai Van pass where the Top Gear clan (Hammond, Clarkson and May) rode earlier this year in their Vietnam Special episode - let’s just say it’s like a ribbon of tarmac over a mountain range rather than a normal motorway road, ideal for a first time rider!!
The next morning Tam arrived at our hotel; it looked like rain but was still dry. His mate wrapped our bags and took the bigger one with him as promised; we then went to meet the rest of the gang. After filling the bike we waited to depart and the rain came, it didn’t let up all the way to Hoi An, nearly 6 hours. Aside from the relentless rain the ride was excellent, which I must emphasise this was PROPER continuous rain that didn’t let up once! We arrived in Hoi An at 3pm and I did not want to give the bike back. We were reunited with our bags and found a guest house at the second attempt. When
Flood on The Way to Hoi An
Forced on to the path as the road was flooded
the rain eventually stopped the next day, we went for a walk around town which is protected by UNSCO as it is a designated World Heritage site. Shop after shop is a tailor or a shoe maker even in the old town, the only thing that breaks them up is the restaurants/bars. Think what rock is to Blackpool, the tailors are to Hoi An, when you’re here it’s rude not to get involved!!!
We soon got to grips with the local sales tactic, the helpful random women on the street are genuinely very helpful until, “you buy clothes from my shop, me very good tailor, me make anything”. After reading reviews and speaking to people on our travels (and watching Top Gear) we decided that A Dong tailors was the best in town so off we went in search of a deal and before long we were both being strangled by tape measures. The options were endless; find anything you like on the internet; suit, trousers, coat or shirt and then choose your material. Abracadabra......within 3 days and as many fittings, the 120 staff that work 07:30 – 22:30 will ensure that every last detail is as required!
It had rained everyday at some point during of our stay in Hoi An. After lunch on the last afternoon we needed to check on a handbag Nat was having made, it was not quite to specification so we were to pick it up the following morning. Getting to the tailors that evening for the final fitting proved to be quite challenging as the road from our hotel was over ankle deep for most of the way there. Trying on the garments, a few things were not quite right with the fit, too tight here, too baggy there. Once the tailor had decided on the appropriate course of action we were informed that we had to wait in the shop as the flood was coming fast and they needed to get things finished before the power went out. We saw that the mannequins and clothes in the shops were being hoarded upstairs, but at this point we were blissfully unaware of the carnage that awaited us......!
Eventually, after 2-3hours in the shop we arranged the shipping and made off into the rain for the hotel. It soon became clear that we were going to find it difficult to reach
the hotel as the water was thigh deep but with no other viable route; we were left with no choice but to wade down the middle of the road. En route we occasionally felt warm water around our feet that could only have been sewage and saw mass patches of grass (looking like mini islands) floating passed us! We eventually got back to the hotel wet through but unscathed, there we settled in with a brew and showered. Then came a knock at the door which we were kind of expecting, “could you please collect your belongings, we have made a room available for you upstairs as the flood will be here soon” (translated from “flood coming quick, room upstairs now”).
The power went off soon after we were bedded down in the new room which was clearly a step up from our $10 room straight off the reception lobby. The next morning the power was still off but the sun was shining which was a surprise. Unfortunately the water level on the ground floor was not a surprise. The bottom 4 steps of the main staircase were submerged; this was now the designated point for access and egress
from the hotel.... by boat!!
Not long after the complimentary breakfast we set sail out of the hotel and back up the road, past our tailors to dry land. As only half the town was flooded we still managed to book on to a night bus heading for Nah Trang. Unfortunately the half of the town that was dry did not include the shop where Nat’s bag was being made so we lost the deposit (3/4 of the cost!!) but escaped with our lives..... (Maybe a bit dramatic!). The power was off all over town, but we managed to find ourselves a little pizzeria that had a generator, wi fi, but most importantly good pizza so we got perched in there until bus time!
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