Tour on Two Wheels

Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
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Trip End May 10, 2005


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Sunday, January 30, 2005

We decided to fly from Hanoi to Hue (pronounced "Way") to try to hurry ourselves a long a bit. (Tet is drawing near and we don't have a lot of time left, plus we've heard the bus trip along this stretch of road is gruelling.) We caught a 6 am flight so had to be up at 4 am. ( I would never do these things to myself at home!) Many of the local people were up already and the streets were bustling. I don't know if people here sleep . . . .

Upon our arrival at the airport we purchased bus tickets to the centre of town. Our bus mates, two young women from New Zealand, a couple from "Seedney" (Sydney, Australia) and a Scottish-Canadian fellow from Vancouver (who had owned the 51st St. Fabric Warehouse in Saskatoon - it's a small world) walked in a herd to find accommodation. We meandered through the streets for about 20 minutes (taking several wrong turns - addresses can be difficult to find here as a street's name will change several times). It was the longest I've had to carry my big pack during the trip and I was glad that I had spent time getting into better shape!

At the Aussie's suggestion, the seven of us agreed to take a motorbike ("xe om") tour and went to the Cafe on Thu (Two) Wheels recommended in the Lonely Planet guidebook. The tour business is run by nine brothers and their lone sister looks after the cafe. All over the cafe walls and ceiling are written testamonies from travellers from all over the world. Of course, there's lots of puns related to the word "Thu" - in the bathroom was written, "We aim Thu please, you aim, Thu, please", etc., etc. For $6 US, we were toured around all over town from 10:30 am until 5 pm. Martin and the Aussie fellow drove their own bikes; the rest of us rode behind one of the brothers. Somehow the foreigners "toot-tooting" did not have the assertiveness of the horn honking of the locals. Martin said it was fun, but he probably didn't see as much as I did since he was so busy concentrating on the traffic!

Hue (population 300,000) is a Unesco World Heritage site located on the Song Huong (Perfume) River. The many attractions include temples, pagodas, emperors' tombs and dozens of Buddhas. Hue is also the location of the DMZ (the Demilitarised Zone), the demarkation line between South and North Vietnam. Much of what you can see are placed where historical events happened and unless you're really into war history, not really worth checking out (we didn't go).

We travelled in a motorcycle gang throughout town, criss-crossing rice paddies and passing through the local market. Our tour guide, Minh (one of the nine brothers) provided us with an education on monks and what the various coloured robes mean (gray - novice; orange - more experienced monk; yellow - highest level; brown - colour worn outside the temple). Many of the monks are young boys who are orphaned or are very poor. Becoming a monk ensures that they will get an education and be provided with food, clothing and shelter. It is important to dress appropriately to enter a temple (no shorts, no bare shoulders) and to always remove your shoes. Vietnamese (as well as Thais) are very particular about the feet and the head. You should be careful never to point your foot at anyone when sitting and never touch anyone on the head (including children). They also believe that pointing is rude (a hard thing for us westerners to get used to!).
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