Thursday, 6 May 2010


After walking the empty streets of Hanoi in the aftermath of Tet, we eventually moved south to the small town of Hue via an overnight tour bus, with an estimated journey time of 12 hours. We tried to make this seem less horrific, convincing ourselves that we would sleep through most of it and be there before we knew it. This was not the case. The night bus consisted of 3 rows of 'bunkbeds', which didn't even have enough leg-room for me - and I don't even have a problem with leg-room on EasyJet flights! This was combined with the fact that it is impossible for the bus drivers to avoid the numerous potholes in the dodgy roads, and I had an extra special uncomfy factor... When you initially get aboard the bus, you are given a plastic bag to put your shoes into. Fine. I had watched several other people use the tiny toilet on the bus, I don't recall them putting their shoes back on, or any horrified faces when they re-emerged, so I thought it was safe. My soaked socks when I came out of the toilet suggested otherwise - and it wasn't even my wee they were covered in. Oh, and there was still another ten hours of the fun-filled journey to go. This was definitely a low point!

Urine-soaked socks aside, we arrived in Hue at 7am, determined to battle through the day despite a total sleep fail. Avoiding the crowd of taxi and motorbike drivers that surrounded the bus as soon as it stopped, we wandered to a hotel mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide - a cute little place at $5 each per night, sold! Then it was time for some culture, so we walked to The Citadel, a place famous for it's history, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for being ravaged by bombs in the war. It was quite a walk from the backpacker area, but a really great place to wander around for the afternoon. As everywhere else in Vietnam, it was grand, spotless, and beautifully decorated, right down to the immaculate flower displays everywhere, apart from a few buildings which had been damaged beyond repair - one had pretty much been flattened by B52 bombs, which is a shame. When it was in use, the heavily guarded Citadel held the Forbidden City, home to the most important members of society; emperors and concubines, where any trespassers were sentenced to death.

Unfortunately, Hue's weather left a little to be desired - it was a little bit too much like England; chilly with a side of constant drizzly rain (the annoying fine stuff that isn't even proper rain), which unfortunately made us less than enthusiastic about renting bikes to go visit some pagodas a few kilometers from the town. So we were lazy and hung about in the backpacker area - it wasn't a total loss, we found some very cool places; Cafe On Thu Wheels, which was covered ceiling to floor in messages and doodles from former travellers that had passed through. And it did an amazing hot chocolate. Then there was Missy Roo cafe, where we went for breakfast (we were only there for three mornings, but that warranted a place becoming our 'usual'), which had an added entertainment factor of westerners having booked a cooking experience, and watching them attempt to cook with chopsticks was always fun! Lastly, we came across The DMZ Bar, we were only going to go in there for a beer on the way back to the hotel, but ended up staying for long enough that getting up for the bus the next morning was a real struggle! This was due to the reasoning "We'll just see what the next song is, and if it's rubbish then we'll go", but it just didn't happen - the place was full of amazing rock and hip hop tunes from my teens, and the cheap Hanoi beers just kept coming. Awesome.

Hue; it's not the most exciting place on the usual tourist travel-plan, but it is a real town where you can see how 'normal' people live, there are some great places to check out, and it is an important part of Vietnamese culture. If you're only there for a couple of days, it's definitely worth a look.

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