Hue - Exploring the Imperial City and Tombs

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
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Trip End Apr 01, 2012


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Where I stayed
Jade Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, February 2, 2012

We get a pot noodle and a beer for dinner on the train and manage to get some sleep. Our train was due in at 6.12 and so by 6am about ten of the western tourists were up in the corridor ready for the train to arrive in Hue.  The train conductor who looks like he has just woken up stops and gives us what must be a well practised look of disgust and tells us that we should get back in to the cabins as its going to be another 30 minutes until we arrive in Hue.  We have noticed in Vietnam that the young males in particular are not quite as welcoming as the girls and are very good at these looks of disgust especially when you order something in their restaurant or do something ridiculous like ask for the bill. 

So we arrive at Jade Hotel at about 7am where we are given breakfast while they clean our room and so we're in our room by 8.30am which is pretty good going.  In an effort to keep moving and not lose the day to trying to catch up on our sleep we head for a walk down the river and across to local market.  Hue is a bit off the main tourist trail and so isn’t particularly pretty but it is nicely placed on the river which always brings life to the town.  The market is more for locals than tourists which makes it all the more interesting as we see how all their food is bought and sold, and play the game guess what that is.

Next we walk to the Imperial City complex which was once the main villages for the area and palace complex but has been badly hit by war and floods.  There are moats, ponds, large outer walls and the remains of buildings.  Some of it is still standing, some has been restored by Unesco and in some of it you can still see the bullet holes in the walls.  The architecture is impressive and you can imagine the complex in it’s full glory.  We also get our first glimpse of elephants as they are tied up in a field and available for rides for tourists.

Then we go to a restaurant nearby for lunch.  We tried to go to the restaurant Jonny had been to before as it was run by a deaf mute family but when we arrive there is now 3 restaurants with very similar names all side by side (typical in Asia!!)  We pick one and we doubt it was original as the food is average.  On the other hand we get to sit on balcony over a rather busy traffic junction and watch the various loads on mopeds and the near misses caused by their driving technique of beep the horn and keep driving.

In the afternoon we fade, and have to have a nap before heading out for a wander and dinner.  We find a little family restaurant down a quieter alley way.  It turns out that the restaurant area doubles as their lounge and so when customers come in they turn off the tv and get to work.  We had some of our best Vietnamese food yet – fresh spring rolls and a local dish consisting of caramelised fish and sauce cooked in a clay pot.  We also had free entertainment in this restaurant as a couple of French ladies were in at the same time and seemed unable to say no to the women and children who come round to sell things.  Once one girl had her first sale, a constant stream of sellers arrived at the restaurant and the French couple would buy something from each one.  When the sellers started arriving by moped we realised that they were texting each other to tell them that someone was buying.  This was confirmed by the seller that arrived just after the French couple had left, she marched over to the table to find it empty looked around in disappointment, never even bothered the other customers and left.  So there’s a lesson in buying from the street sellers, you may think you are doing a good deed but it means that you have just ruined your evening by constant calls of 'only $1’.  We’re trying to stand by the stance of not buying from children as they are meant to be in school but they know this and so the line is ‘please buy something so I can go to school’.  I may break soon.  On our walk home we find out that the moped drivers night time job is to sell marijuana and so there are constant offers as we walk down the street of ‘Moto? Marijuana?’

The next day we book on to a bus tour of the Imperial Tombs, we’re not enjoying that we have to do so many tours to get places due to the lack of public transport (if you don’t want to sit on the back of a motorbike) plus it’s raining so the idea of hiring bikes doesn’t look too appealing

We had been told about good Vietnamese sandwiches called ‘banh mi’ and so eager to try the local food, I ask a guy at our hotel how to order one and how much they cost.  He promptly disappears out to go and buy me one as he knows a good place.  Five minutes later he returns with two large French baguettes with a big smile on his face and says don’t worry they’re free.  Turns out banh mi just means bread and so I now have two plain baguettes to eat for lunch as I didn’t want to tell the hotel guys that it wasn’t what I meant.

So we get picked up for our tour (me with two baguettes) and head off to see the temples along the perfume river.  Our tour guide is a character and his favourite phrase seems to be ‘Now listen to me’.  The first temple we go to is Ming Mang which impressive as it’s symmetrical and quite a large complex.  Our guides tells us that this emperor had over 500 wives and 100 children so a lot of the complex is for all his wives and children.  The second temple is Khai Dinh which is very ornate and beautifully decorated with mosaic tiles.  Our guide goes into a little too much graphic detail about how this homosexual emperor fathered his one son.  During this story half the tour group looked a little awkward while the other half nodded politely (hopefully because they didn’t understand what he was saying).  At least the tour guides are consistent in their inappropriate jokes/stories.  The last temple was called Tu Duc and its story was that the emperor didn’t manage to have any children and so he had to write his own eulogy which is a little sad.

We survived our tour and headed back to the same restaurant for dinner that night.  Unfortunately that evening we learnt our lesson that we should never go to the same restaurant twice as Jonny was hit by some sort of food poisoning a couple hours after dinner – the first time in his life he has ever had it!  After a night with very little sleep, he finally got to sleep, I started to be sick about an hour later.  Not great when we had a bus booked for 8am.  We plead with the hotel to let us stay another night but they’re fully booked so we manage to change our bus to the afternoon and hope for the best. 

Having not eaten for the whole day we clamber on to the bus that had bunkbeds (bit strange as our journey is only 3 hours) but that means we manage to sleep through most the journey and arrive in Hoi An in the evening. 
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