Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hue 16th - 18th

We arrived in Hue just before midday and the first thing we noticed
was how quiet it was on the streets in comparison to Hanoi. While
there were people around it certainly wasn't the hustle and bustle of

We caught a taxi to one of the guest houses in the guide book and were
greeted by this bubbly lady at the door. She quickly showed us around
the hotel and we settled on the cheapest room they had, which was
still well equiped in our eyes. I'm finding it hard to describe just
how lovely this lady was. It was impossible not to smile in her
presence though.

We left the hotel in search of a bank and food. Walking around Hue, we
noticed not just how quiet it was but also how much wider and open the
streets were. On finding the bank we saw that it was closed for what
we thought was lunch, so instead lunch became our priority. We sat
down on the plastic chairs of an open front 'cafe' called Minh and

While we were enjoying our lunch this man came and sat by us and made
small talk about the usual, where we're from, how long we've been
here, when do we leave. He introduced himself as Mr Trung. He then
started talking about the tours he does (it seems that approaching
people in restaurants is quite a common thing as it happened to us
more than once) and showed us a big book filled with recommendations
from others. Not wanting to make any decision then and there we left
to explore the rest of Hue.

After a trip to the market to find a hat and a lovely sit and chat by
the river side with a couple from Holland (the man was very tall - 6
ft 8 - and his head was enormous!) we decided to book a motorcycle
tour for the following day with Mr Trung.

The tour was amazing! We really weren't sure what we were in for, but
after the first stop we were so glad we did it. I was on the back of
Mr Trung's bike and Andrew on another.

Our first stop was a covered bridge, Thanh Toan, a gift from the
Japanese. There are four of them on Vietnam. On the other side of the
bridge was a rice museum. Inside we found what Vietnam is all about.
Not rice, but the people. We were lucky enough to meet an amazing
elderly lady. When we came on she happily showed us around and how
everything worked. The frail old lady literally got on and showed us
all the equipment, singing and chanting along as she did. She was so
happy to pose for all the pictures we wanted and at the end made us
take a picture of the three of us together. All of this done without a
word of English. Andrew and I left with tears in our eyes as we were
so touched by the kindness and enthusiasm of this women.

Back on the bikes and we zipped off towards the Tu Hieu Pagoda. Mr
Trung told us about the different types of monks in Vietnam and the
ones that live here at the Pagoda. We were lucky enough to see them
pray, something that they do a number of times a day - involving
drumming and chanting.

We also visited Tu Doc Tombs (quite an eerie place), a hat making and
incense making community (were I got to have go at making incense
sticks and saw the amount of work that goes into creating an authentic
hat) and the Royal Arena (a coleseum type area were they uses to fight
tigers and elephants).

Our next stop was Vong Canh Hill. From here you had a magnificent view
of the Perfume River. The top of the hill was also home to a number of
American and French bunkers. To the north of Hue is the DMZ. It was
while we were on the hilltop that Mr Trung told us about the Vietnam
War and his part in it. He was a 4th lieutenant in the South Vietnam
army. It was a real honour to have him share his story with us. He
seemed to still become very emotional when talking about the torture
that he faced.

A visit to Thien Mu Pagoda and the Citadel finished off our day. By
the time we got to the Citadel we were exhausted and could barely lift
our feet. We bumped into a German couple we met on our Ha Long Bay
tour and shared with them the amazing time we'd had that day.

We definitely slept well that night. We were absolutely exhausted from
all the walking, but still blown away by what we has seen and who we
had met.

Sent from my iPhone

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