'It was our last, best hope for peace: It failed'
Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
46Trip End Ongoing
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Next day i went on a tour to the demilitarised zone which separted North from South, the best thing about the trip was the countryside which was very pretty and i hadn't had much of a chance to take it in yet. We went to an old American army base which was subject to a famous siege, but i forget its name, it had a few old helicopters and planes, the photographs in the little museum were very good. So often with these tours, how good it is depends on how well the guide speaks English and this one was pretty good, she gave us a concise history of the war and comprehensive overview of the things we saw and places we went to. I had studied Vietnam when i was about 15 and was surprised at how much i remembered, think i probably appreciated the trip more as a result. We saw places where the 'Ho Chi Minh Trail' began (this was the network of tunnels that the Vietcong used to travel between the north and the south to take equiment and try and exert influence) and told how once it was discovered the US used Agent Orange to destroy the trees so it couldn't be used as an effective transport route. The after effects of Agent Orange are quite nasty, the vegetation was destroyed meaning large areas of no trees, subsequently in the wet season heavy flooding is experienced with no natural barrier for the water. We went down some tunnels which i was far too big for but it was interesting all the same, there were some beggars around who had some deformities which i assume were from the agent orange. As i said before Pretty nasty stuff.
Day after this i hired a motorbike to go and see some old emperors tomb in the country, Tu Doc was his name and his tomb was quite majestic, it was well worth a visit and far better than the citadel in the city which cost the same price to get in. Not sure what to say about it apart from the architecture was brilliant and it was set in loads of pine trees and had lots of flowing water about. I had to get used to riding the bike on the opposite side of the road, much more motorbikes than Chiang Mai but less cars and it was still fairly hectic, occasionally when i was riding along and concentrating on looking cool a Vietnamese woman would bike up beside me and start having a chat causing me to wobble and almost crash.
In the afternoon i went to the beach, the ride there was through lush rice paddies with all the workers and their conical hats. Rice paddies are absolutely everywhere and i have to confess a complete ignorance as to how it is grown. From what i can gather the land is separated into walled squares and then its flooded, while flooded i think they chuck loads of seeds in, then once the water levels go down, its ploughed and left to grow and picked with the actual rice taken from the stem of the long green stalk. I'm sure i have missed a stage out or something but that's the jist. Seeing the acres upon acres of them is quite impressive and all the people working with archaic farm equipment is a bit of an eye opener i guess, the ploughs are pulled by some kind of oxon and although my farming history is a little sketchy i think farmers in england probably stopped using similar equipment about 50 years ago. The beach itself was ok but i didn't spend long there. I then tried to find a bridge but somehow i ended up in completely the wrong part of the city and near the tomb where i was in the morning despite one attraction being in the north and the other in the south, so ended up going back to the hotel.
Hue in itself was quite a nice city, pretty standard in some parts but quite nice in the areas near the river its built on. I loved going into the post office, its like walking onto the set of Babylon 5 or something all the women who work there wear matching uniforms that look like they could be from the future. The first day i went in it was white trousers and these long blue kind of dress things, but the bottom half of the dress had slits right up the sides. The next day it was a different colour, and they were all spotless as well. I thought it was well good, don't know why just one of those little things that gets noticed.
I spent my nights in the hotel playing some truly epic games of chess with two Austrian brothers, i was the victor on many occasions and in their thick accents both commented that i was 'a strong player' which i liked because i could imagine it was Garry Kasparov saying it. Think that's it for Hue. Next stop Hoi An.