A joint effort (typed by Megan):
Our plans to get an overnight sleeper train from Ninh Binh to Hue were foiled as the sleepers were fully booked, so we opted for a bus. We were told the bus would be air con and that there would only be tourists and rich Vietnamese on board. So much for that. We were the ONLY tourists, the air con was pathetic and we were jammed into tiny uncomfortable seats for what turned out to be a mammoth 11 hour trip.
Believe me – a combination of the heat, the kamikaze bus driving style (which includes frequent use of the horn and driving on both sides of the road) and the space restriction meant very little sleep. We arrived into Hue at 8.30am exhausted, and thankfully the hotel allowed us to check in early. I promptly collapsed onto the bed and fell asleep while Ju went for a wander around the town and woke me up at 12pm. I was feeling in much better spirits so I left her to have a nap while I went for a walk. I came back and began reading my book (Ju was sound asleep). About 5 mins into my book I could smell something burning…..’that’s odd’ I thought – and continued to read my book.
Then the smell got stronger and I could hear flames flickering. I opened the door from our hotel room into the hall way – nothing. I turned around and opened the bathroom door. I could see bright orange flames and a thick black smoke engulfed the room. No such thing as a fire alarm here, so I did the next best thing and screamed for help. HELP HELP HELP. I was absolutely hysterical. Within seconds, 6 Vietnamese Hotel staff were on the scene trying to work out what was going on (they thought there was an intruder in the room), thankfully the neighbor behind the hotel had heard my screams and began pouring water on the flames from the building next door.
It turns out there was an electrical fault with the bathroom fan. Any later raising the alarm bells and I reckon the whole hotel would have burnt down. I guess that is one way to get a room upgrade!
After recovering from the drama of the fire, we hired a couple of cyclo drivers to take us around the citadel. The citadel has a moated 10 kilometer perimeter and is reached via bridges across the moat. The flag tower in front is 37 meters high – the tallest in Vietnam. We felt a bit guilty making them peddle around two heifer lump Westerners but it was a relaxing way to see the city. We took lots of photos of the impressive Imperial Enclosure, including the Ngo Mon Gate, Thai Hoa Palace, Halls of the Mandarins, Nine Dynastic Urns and To Mieu Temple.
Lots of photos:
Dinner was in a Vietnamese restaurant, where a group of musicians were performing traditional Vietnamese folk songs (rather lovely I got the CD).
The next morning, we hired a charter boat to take us along the Perfume River to see the Thien Mu Pagoda and to work on our tans….. (yep a bit of sun burn there oopsies). Like the embroidery boat in Tam Coc we got the hard sell when there was nowhere to run (see photo).
It is impossible to walk down the street in Hue without being pursued by “Hello Cyclo” & “Hello Moto-bike” & “Where you from? Where you go?” Walking with 3 or 4 of them in hot pursuit can be quite taxing when you have to politely refuse them 100 million times! After our boat ride, it was too hot to walk anywhere so I decided to jump on a motorbike to brave the Dong Ba market, while Ju opted to chill out in a café with a cold drink.
Turns out the market was one of the more stressful experiences of the trip (so far). My simple trip to the market was an exercise in tragic comedy. All I wanted to do was wander up and down the stalls, but the local Hue-ians wouldn’t take no for an answer and I had a Vietnamese women chasing me around trying to get me to buy a fan for $10NZ….Ju had paid $1 for one the day before so I wasn’t even going to barter on that one! I lasted less than 30 minutes before speeding off on the back of a motor bike back to the “safety” of the hotel. To top it all off the motorbike driver wanted the equivalent $32NZ (for my trip around the block) I sighed, smiled sweetly, told him he was cheeky, gave him $5 USD and walked off!