Friday, June 30, 2006

Spending a day in olde cultural capital of Vietnam!

June 30th. Arrived in Hue early evening! Got waylaid at the bus stop by a tiny girl about 4ft nothing pushing her way through all the touts to get people to stay at her hotel- which just happened to be right next door! So decided to stay here - cute room but def. couldn't swing a cat here! As I didn't have one, this wasn't a problem!

Knew i would only be in Hue for a short time so went out right away to organize my tour for tomorrow on the Perfume River. What's that - you want to hear all about Hue! OK then here goes! Traditionally, Hue was one of Vietnam's cultural, religious and educational centres. Today, its decaying opulent tombs of the Nguyen emperors and the grand crumbling Citadel showcase a bygone era, and are collectively, a Unesco World Heritage site. The Perfume River is the perfect way to amble along the waterway, stopping off at the key tombs on your way, on the northern side of the city.

July 1st. Another hot, sticky day in Vietnam! So much for the monsoon season here - its just hot, muggy, humid, sticky - you name it, but not very much rain i have to say!Had breakfast before my trip at a wee cafe across the street. The little ladies working there were so lovely and sweet. The coffee i had however, was not! This stuff would knock your socks off - talk about strrrrrong! But as we had been talking and smiling at each other, i didnt have the heart to leave it so of course politely drank it all! And felt quite sick afterwards; ahh the lengths us travelers go to not to be rude!

My tour started at 8:15am. Of course the usual pick up from the hotel on the motorbike (don't think twice about jumping on and off motorbikes now! So funny 'cos i remember at the beginning I was a nervous wreck..). My boat was pretty empty.. just a few couples - French, Canadian and Norwegians.. and me! And how to describe the boat - lets just say bare bones is pushing it.. but at least it wasn't taking in water, so everything was ok!

First stop was the tomb of Tu Doc - meant to be one of the most impressive of all the crumbling architectural wonders here, laced with frangipani and pine trees, nestled around a lovely lake. Hey, I'm not knocking it, but it didn't really do much for me I'm afraid! And of course where the boat stopped, you HAD to take a mototaxi, you couldn't walk! It wasn't that far but hey, we are on the tourist trail! After this, back on the boat and off to another ancient and majestic wonder...hmmn so majestic i can't remember its name .. Then lunch on the boat - so cute how they set it all up with bamboo mats ..really pretty! After lunch - it was scorching by this point, we headed to the other 'piece de resistance" the Tomb of Minh Mang. Minh Mang ruled from 1820 - 1840 and the architecture here really was quite impressive. After that we went to a beautiful pagoda called the Thien Mu Pagoda, famous as the home of Thich Quang Doc, a monk who publically burned himself to death in 1963 to protest the policies of then President Ngo Dinh Diem ('member i talked about him earlier.. not a good guy at all!). They still have his car at the back of the pagoda - felt it a tad disrespectful so didn't take a pic. On our way back we met these gorgeous wee girls at the ruins - who could speak a few words in 7 different languages - can you believe that! Quite amazing and so cute!

After this it was back to the mainland and of course, I took about 2 hours to find my hotel, completly lost but no rushing today, so not a problem. After a wee relax, I headed out to the internet then to this fab vegetarian restaurant for dinner. I was the only tourist here (yah.. cos dinner last night was gross and totally tacky touristy!). Anyway, I asked the owner what would he recommend and he said "oh if you like spicy, then definitely the fried deer ears with lemongrass and hot pepper". Hmmn... why do vegetarian restaurants here like to make all their tofu dishes into meat-like names and shapes.... so strange. Well, I have to say this ended up being one of the best meals i've had in Vietnam - and i've had tons of great ones! Funny thing happened, as i struggled with my chopsticks. I'm getting better folks but it takes time (well, for me anyway!), I noticed that a large family at the next table - about 20 of them in total, were all looking at me eating my dinner. Talk about pressure! But OK - I smiled and said "Sin Chow" - hello! Next thing this wee lady about 105 yrs old, came shuffling over to me, and gave me - a fork! What! I said, no, no, i have to practice with my chopsticks! After this they all laughed - WITH not AT me - hopefully!!! And came over to sit with me and chat! One of the sisters was now living in St.Louis and was over in Hue on holiday to visit family, so we had a good chat about America and how different it was from Vietnam.

Back home (well, to the hotel!) and watched some World Cup of course, then got engrossed in Vietnam's Pop Idol show. Couldn't understand a word but there were definitely some dodgy singers in the line up! Anyway, my visit to ancient Hue was over (and as you can tell, i wasnt overly impressed so if you don't have too much time here, my advice would be to give it a miss, but hey what do i know! Tomorrow I think ill just potter, do some blogging, then catch the 6pm overnight bus to Hanoi, capital of Vietnam - a mere 12 hour journey.

Post script - in my case it ended up taking a mere 14 1/2 hours! Yah!


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