Sleep was fitful but mostly quiet except for some guy walking down the hallway whistleing in the middle of the night. What the fuck is up with that? It’s always cool to wake up with stuff going past the window. Toilet was one of those ones that drop straight on to the tracks which isn’t real greet for train spotters and the environment.
The good thing about tours is that there is none of that sorting transportation effort. As soon as we were off the train we were on to a waiting bus and then off to the hotel. 10 minutes later and we are in our rooms with 40 minutes to freshen up before we head off for the rest of the day.
Breakfast was at the Mandarin Cafe which is also a photography gallery for the owner photographer. We thumbed through albums of his work while eating banana pancakes and coffee. His work mainly focuses on portraits of Vietnamese people doing traditional things. He said he fought on the American side during the war but chose to stay in his homeland after they left even a the risk of losing his life.
After breakfast we walked to the boat pier to catch a dragon boat down the river. Basically it was a houseboat with dragons on the front and I think the family lives on the boat. It’s set up to be driven like a car which is really funny. The son drove us down the river while the family tried to sell us clothes and pictures and nicnacks. It became a little tiring as they are persistant. The hard sell is pretty common in Vietnam – I guess they aren’t tired of us yet.
The boat dropped us off at Thien Muen Pagoda which is on a bluff overlooking the city. It was again a monument to a woman who told the king to walk down the river with lit incense and everytime it stopped burning he was to build a fortress or something there to protect the kingdom. The pagoda has 7 levels which signify the seven steps to enlightenment. There was also a monk who lived there who drove a car to Saigon, got there, stopped the car, got out, sat down and burnt himself to death. It was to protest against the president of Vietnam and his wish to get rid of Buddhism. The car is in display in the complex.
Our group had bought rain coats before the boat ride but they only came in one colour – purple. Made it easy for Hui to find us all in the one colour since the drizzly rain was forcing us to wear it. We had mainly gotten them for the motorbike ride which we started at the pagoda. We chose our drivers by picking keys out of a hat and I got the younger leader type guy with a newish Honda. He was learning English and computers at university. It was funny seeing a bunch of purple covered white people on the backs of bikes riding around Hue. We were joking it was purple rain like the prince movie.
A few people were worried about the ride but the guys went slow so it wasn’t too bad. We went over a bridge though that was just big enough for a scooter and Hui (who was riding his own bike) sort of hurt his arm on it but just more like a bruise. We rode down back streets and then in to agricultural areas with rice fields. We stopped at the river bend where there was an American bunker from the war. It was all overgrown and ignored basically, but the position was really quite beautiful. Rob the Brit from the navy pointed out though that the vietnamese had the higher ground. They weren’t supposed to be fighting in this area though cause it was meant to be the DMZ.
Next stop was a village that made incense and conical hats but basically we just stopped there so that they could try and make is buy something. A few people bought fans and magnets and then we were off to the Kings Tomb.
The kings tomb was once his summer home but had been turned in to his tomb. There was a beautiful wood house on a lake where he wrote poetry in the morning and areas for mandarin admin staff and military to live. There are three gates for people to enter bit only the king goes through the middle. They always keep that closed so we all walk through the other bits. In one of the courtyards there were some really cool statues of horses, elephants and little mandarin men – 2 admin, 2 military.
After the tomb we drank in the coffee shop where the bikes dropped us off (I think lots of people get kickbacks in this country). I made the mistake of ordering a pineapple juice in a can which I think may have made me sick later. Should have stuck with the coke or something.
Next we took a long drive to the antique bridge which was made by some wealthy woman. On the way we drove down roads besides rivers where old style boats were docked, as well as through rice fields where that was the only thing we could see for miles. The bridge was very fancy and surrounded by people wanting you to buy food from them. We crossed the bridge and went in to a rice display where an 80 year old lady demoed how they get rice. She was a hunchback black tooth old woman who was a total character. She rushed around making rice and showing us how they pump water in to the fields using wooden baskets and how they catch fish (she used a sandal as the fish). She even got up on to this bicycle looking thing that turned water. But the funniest moment was when she had a baby doll in a wooden basket and she was making crying noises while she rocked it. Then she touched it on it’s stomach and the baby started singing “I’m a barbie girl, in a Barbie world”. Cacked myself.
Our final stop on the motorbike journey was to the Citadel. This was actually in Hue town and next to the river. The bike guys dropped us in front but i didn’t realise that was it for them so I didn’t really say goodbye. 🙁
The Citadel is this huge complex that has am area at the front where the soldiers or people would march while the king looked down on them. Inside the citadel were elephants giving rides which I frowned upon but at least they didn’t look too stressed. There are quite a few sections but some of them were bombed by the Americans in the war so now UNESCO are now rebuilding those bits. Lots of people were visiting – most of them Vietnamese, so it was hard to get a moment alone. We did find some beautiful walkways to the temple which gave us a breather.
After the citadel we walked back to our hotel and stumbled across a game being played on the riverbank. It looked like chess but the pieces were actually humans. Each time a move was called the piece/person would do jumps and kicks to their position. If someone was in that spot, the players would fight until the one that was there “died”. He would then be carried off. It made chess seem really exciting.
After resting for a while we headed out for dinner about 15 minutes walk away. La Carambole was it’s name and I had a really nice rice crepe as an entree and an ok beef crispy noodle. Then I went back to the hotel and felt ill for a while and went to bed. 🙁
Accommodation: Duy Tan Hotel, Hue
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