Each morning in Vietnam seems to start the same, some sort of breakfast and an iced coffee, it’s like a staple part of our diet now. Even when I worked at Nespresso I don’t think I ever drank this much coffee, we just can’t get enough of it, maybe that’s why my stomach is so bad? So after our usual and an omelette we took a taxi to Da Nang station, which they should rename Da Nang sauna…it was actually as hot as hell, I got flashbacks to Rith’s house in Cambodia. 30 sweaty minutes later our train pulled in and it was the usual crazy dash across the train lines to board. This train, the se4, was a fancy new one with one level and comfy leather seats positioned in an upright position, some idiot actually thought he was in first class. Little did he know it was actually two carriages in front and not that much better. It was my turn to get the refreshments this time so I made my way to the food cart (for an iced coffee, obviously) and was greeted by 8 men, all smoking and all with their shirts unbuttoned. My favourite part was when one of them blew on my arse to get his fag ash off, no spacial awareness then? No?
The journey to Hue took us back along the Hoi Van pass, only this time we went slowly round the mountain edge and through huge tunnels. The sights were just as spectacular, with the ocean on one side and huge mountains on the other. The train was slow, creaking along the tracks with an occasional clatter as we bumped along one of Vietnams most beautiful, but dangerous sections of railway. As we got further from the mountains we passed through more farmlands, with huge rice fields, fat water buffalos and many workers busy picking fruit and veg. This soon disappeared and turned into busy roads and peoples back gardens as we got closer to Hue, I’d be right pissed off if they built a train line behind my house.
Pulling into Hue we were greeted by a fleet of taxi drivers, so I let Kyle pick which one looked least likely to rip us off. The drive to our new hotel took us along side the Perfume river and city park, which was filled with weird fluffy monkey statues, buildings and people playing games. The driver dropped us at the end of an alley filled with hotels and pointed us to the bottom, here we found the Sunny A hotel. We were greeted by 3 friendly women who made us an iced coffee (good luck sleeping after 3) whilst checking us in. The hotel is lovely and homely with a library in the reception (though mainly filled with Japanese books), and a bath in the room! A bloody bath! We’ve only had showers for the last 16 weeks.
We arrived late in Hue so after we dropped off our bags we went our for our first meal. We decided upon a restaurant set inside someones front room, no joke this place came complete with a nana watching TV full blast, just like at home. The menu was overwhelming, turns out Hue has many local dishes, so we let the nice lady chose for us. We had pork cooked on a lemongrass stick with peanut sauce, a Hue rice pancake and shrimp with chilli and lemongrass. It was all delicious even rivalling the food which we had in Hoi An, the lady even made sure that we knew how to eat it like the locals so that we could enjoy it properly.
The next morning we woke to crazy heat, it felt as if the air con was broken. Turns out it was actually working fine, just the temperature in Hue was close to 50 degrees with 89% humidity, hello Tina Turner hair! Our little Northern arses just couldn’t cope, so we took the opportunity to have a lazy day, reading, watching TV, making further plans and eating. When tea time approached we braved the heat and headed half a kilometre down the road to a local restaurant. Anyone who saw us must have thought we’d been caught in a rain storm when we arrived, no sorry about us guys it’s just sweat. The ‘local” restaurant was actually filled with Westerners when we arrived, it looked like every guesthouse must recommend it. However, we took our seats and enjoyed another great meal of local dishes.
As we had an early start and busy day ahead of us we settled in for an early night, after we’d braved the long sweaty walk back to the hotel of course. All was going well until 3 am when I was awoken by the sound of scurrying. I’m not shitting you, I turned on the light and there was a cockroach the size of a chihuahua! I quickly jumped up and shouted for Kyle, who sprung into action chasing the steroid roach around the room. In the midst of all the chaos I decided to go for a wee and almost wet myself when I saw another Arnold Schwarzenegger in the bathroom. Facing two of the crunchy wankers Kyle was in a bit of a pickle as I was sat screaming like a little girl! He managed to flush one down the plug hole and trap another under a glass, which he left for the cleaners to deal with. My hero dived back into bed and went straight back to sleep, as for me I sat up all night long, with my torch on, shitting myself! Fucking cockroaches!
Today we struggled, with little sleep thanks to cockroach gate and more intense heat we were not prepared for our Hue City Tour. We were picked up at 9am this morning and made our way on an “air-conditioned” mini bus (biggest lie ever) to the Citadel and Imperial City. Not dissimilar to the Forbidden City in China, the Imperial City was home to the Emperors of Vietnam. Though a lot smaller than that in Beijing, Vietnam’s Imperial City is an impressive site, with many brightly decorated buildings, gold furniture, moats and many ornate gates. Our favourite part was the long tunnels, which acted like wind tunnels and were a perfect way to escape the heat.
Next we jumped back on the hot box to go to the Garden House Village. This village is filled with many houses which belonged to the princesses, the gardens are filled with fruit trees and plants, and the houses are small and delicate with pretty paintings and tea tables. This was only a quick stop on the way to the Thien Mu Pagoda, which was pretty impressive and one of my favourite stops of the day. Sat on top of a small hill overlooking the Perfume River, the pagoda is home to many monks, young monks in training, middle and elder monks. The grounds were so peaceful and well maintained, with a huge garden of bonsai trees in the middle. Like the temples of Nara, Japan, the temples are guarded by huge statues of warriors and have the same incense burning pits out front.
On the tour with us was a mixture of Koreans, Vietnamese and Westerners from many different countries, I’m not going to say which. We decided to befriend everyone but the Westerners as they were quite possible the rudest, smelliest most arrogant people I have ever come across, they really did piss me off…ALL DAY! But it worked out really well for us, we got chatting to a nice family from Korea and took it in turns to make sure that none of us missed the bus.
After a quick buffet lunch (bork), we got back into hot wheels and made our way to Minh Mang Tomb. Minh Mang was the second emperor of Vietnam, and obviously well liked as his tomb was enormous! Built just outside of Hue in a quiet country setting, the grounds of Minh Mang’s tomb are beautiful and peaceful, which is apparently why he chose to be buried here. There are many buildings which are all brightly coloured and speckled with gold, along with a moat filled with lillies and huge palm trees. This was my favourite tomb of the day.
Khai Dinh tomb was the next stop, and Kyle’s favourite. Khai Dinh was the 12th emperor of Vietnam who died in France, so his tomb and temple are slightly different to his predecessors. The buildings have a more Western theme, with huge curved archways and they are grey in colour, but they still have Asian themes with carvings of dragons, clouds and elephants. Once you have climbed the 127 steps to the palace at the top, you can overlook the surrounding mountains and tall white Buddha statue in the distance. I’d also like to point out that by this point that we’d lost about 2 stone in sweat and drank 800 litres of water, it was so fucking hot!!
We were buzzing when the guide announced that we were on our way to the last stop of the day. However, this happiness was quickly tarnished when we made a quick stop in the conical hat and incense making village. Whilst it was good to see the sticks being made, it was clear that the intention of this break was to make us spend money. Well it didn’t work, we bought sweet F.A.
When we finally made it to the Tu Duc tomb, we had, had enough. This feeling wasn’t changed when we walked around the grounds to see renovation work being carried out on every building. This isn’t to say that the 4th emperors tomb isn’t impressive, it probably just wasn’t the right time to visit.
Our day trip was scheduled to finish at 4.30pm, however at 5.30pm we were being bundled onto a Dragon Boat for a ride down the perfume river. An utterly pointless trip that saw us stuffed inside a greenhouse for half an hour. I really don’t understand why this boat needed windows.
Once we reached the shore and the tour finally ended I felt at least 3 stone lighter. Our newly thin selves set off walking towards the hotel but we were stopped by a group of children and young adults who asked if they could practice their English with us. As I got chatting to two young girls, I was overwhelmed by their ambition and language skills. Both could speak Vietnamese and English fluently and were currently practicing French. They are studying at university to become a doctor and a teacher, and would one day like to work in France and England. As we discussed travel, education, politics (which I struggled my way through), transport and families, it was clear to see that there was a massive difference between the education systems here and Cambodia. These children spoke like adults and hardly paused to think of the correct word to say and just wanted to learn as much as possible about England. Recommending where to go and what to eat, I think both Kyle and I, and the children learnt a little something new today.
After a good half hour chat and a ten minute walk we made it back to the hotel and took a long, cold shower, which was definitely needed, we were starting to smell as bad as the rest of the Westerners! Tea this evening took us back to nana’s house for some more Hue specialities. Again I’m wishing that we could stay here longer, to get to know the friendly people and taste as many of the delicious dishes as possible. But tomorrow see’s us on another train to Dong Hoi, thats if we survive the night! Please join me in hoping for a roach free evening, I know Kyle needs one!
Love Carrie xxx