30.07.2013 - 31.07.2013 36 °C
We can’t believe it’s nearly August! Everything so far has gone so fast. In a few day we will have been away for 8 months.
So, we arrived in Hue and after leaving the noisy and stressful train we were greeted by motorbike taxis touting for business, the usual pushy men who are obligatory at every transport hub in Southeast Asia. We walked straight past them and although we don’t normally we decided to walk it to our guesthouse. It was 1.5k and a bit hard towards the end with our big bags in the heat but we found our place. The walk was mostly by the perfume river which is really nice. All along is a park and although the streets are wide and busy with traffic it was immediately less crazy than Hanoi. We enquired at Binh Minh sunrise 1 Hotel and were shown two rooms of differing prices which were both lovely. The hotel is a short walk to the main tourist area which we always try and do as we can’t be bothered with all the hassle in the busy areas. They do a twin room for $8 with en-suite and fan. For $12 you can have a big double room with air-con and breakfast. All the rooms are nice though and they all come with a fridge and a kettle and cups. We checked into the better room and showered and relaxed. Chelsea had not slept well on the train so she was tired.
We went out for an explore and ventured towards the main tourist area for lunch. There are a lot of places to drink and eat, all relatively expensive compared to local food or street ford and all with happy hours to bring in business. We saw a board which offered a burger, chips and drink for a happy hour price and decided to have one. It was nice but we were constantly approached by people selling things, mainly sunglasses and paintings but also motorcycle tours. On our way back to our hotel we called in a place with 5000 dong (15p) beers and had a couple in the midday heat. We didn’t really do much else on our first day.
In the evening we tried to find a cluster of Bia Hoi places that we had read in our guide but they were nowhere to be found so we went to our cheap 5000 dong a beer place and ordered a few snacks to have with our beer. We had the obligatory spring rolls and had two Hue specialities. The spring rolls in Vietnam are way better than any other spring rolls we have ever had. We tasted versions of these in Malaysia and Thailand but the ones in Vietnam are amazing, they don’t even compare… we can’t stop eating them. Soon we are going to turn into chubby spring rolls! We had Banh Beo which is small circular steamed rice pancakes in tiny bowls topped with savoury flavours, we had shrimp. It was really strange and is a sort of flour and water paste that is steamed and then served cold with the topping with a pork scratching on it. The texture is sort of gluey. We also ordered something similar, another Hue speciality where the same rice flour paste is steamed but in a banana leaf with a savoury topping and we had crab. This was even more gluey and sort of slimy and they are both served with fish sauce to flavour. We are glad we have tried them but we were not really a fan. Afterward we set of in search of a main meal and were lured into a happy hour place where we got buy on get one free GIANT beers and shared an awesome pizza. We were in need of some home comfort food and have now had our fix for a while. After we had savoured our pizza we played pool in the bar which was a change and headed back.
Today we were up nice and early and sat in the hotel restaurant having breakfast. It is a nice change to be staying in a nice hotel as we normally go for small guesthouses. The main perk for us is a kettle so we can have unlimited cups of Yorkshire tea in our room! The TV is a hindrance though because Liam can’t be dragged away from it. Breakfast was ok, bread, cream cheese, toast, jam, butter, fruit, juice, coffee and omelette.
After getting our fill of breakfast we decided today to visit the citadel. Hue is the former imperial city of Vietnam and before it was bombed during the war housed an elaborate royal citadel where the ancient emperors lived. It is in walking distance to our hotel so we crossed the river and walked down the other side towards the old walls. The river has a park running alongside of it and vendors line the walls selling all sorts of things. One man just sold birds in cages, there was a lady who sold orchids and there was a shop to buy pet fish. Also there were men sleeping in chairs selling war memorabilia, water canteens and medals and others selling Vietnamese pottery.
The citadel is surrounded by city walls and a moat and we crossed the water into the ancient town. Inside is now residential and a normal part of the town but inside the main citadel is a smaller citadel where the king lived. Sort of like a citadel within a citadel. Surrounded by walls and another moat is the forbidden city of Hue. We walked towards the citadel and noticed that inside the walls is considerably quieter and greener than the town.
On the way we were continually approached by men trying to get us to go on a cyclo ride around the city. They were telling us things were closed and that it was 10Km away and telling us that it was in the opposite direction. We just ignored them as we knew where we were going and they were trying to con us, conning seems to be a theme of Southeast Asia. On the way we went past a war museum where they had old tanks, planes and helicopters from the war on display and we enjoyed having a look.
The interior citadel’s moat is beautiful and the water is covered in water lilies. The entrance fee is 105,000 dong (less than £4) but count your change as the lady tried to con us by giving us change from 250,000 dong not 300,000 dong which we pulled her up about and she gave us the money.
As you enter it is lovely, the gates on the walls are especially impressive with multiple doors. The central door could only be used by the emperor and the doors furthest from the centre were used for less important people, the end doors were used for the elephants. On entering you cross a bridge over a carp filled pond and you can buy some fish food to feed them which we enjoyed.
We looked around the Thai Hoa palace which is extremely ornate and walked around the Forbidden City and citadel grounds. It is a little strange. The buildings that are there are in various states of restoration. Some have been totally restored and have shining, painted ornate exteriors where as some are crumbling beautiful ruins, relics of Vietnams former glory.
It was interesting to walk around the complex and it almost feels a little deserted and barren at times. Some of the gardens have been kept but some have been left to become overgrown, strewn with old chunks of building.
We really enjoyed it. The only criticism that we had was the terrible restoration the complex is currently going through. It seems like they have decided to restore a lot of the citadel at once so a lot of it is crudely tarp lined with fraying, multi coloured tarpaulin. The people working on it seemed to obviously be living there and so their litter was strewn over the areas being restored while they just laid around, sleeping, eating and socialising with each other.
We spent a long time walking around the grounds and it has been really sunny today so after a few hours we were struggling. We exited one of the beautiful gates into the town and found a little street drinks stop to sit and have a rest looking over the park. Liam had a sugar cane juice and Chelsea had lemonade and we recuperated our energy in the shade. We walked back through the citadel on the way back to our hotel, calling at another place on the way home for refreshments and cookies.
We would really recommend a visit to the Forbidden City if coming to Hue and it is definitely worth the entry fee. It was not particularly busy with people and was quiet and really interesting. They show a video in the palace which explains the different areas and is really informative.
The late afternoon consisted of us sat in our lush hotel room, updating our blog and drinking copious amounts of Yorkshire tea. Tonight we are crossing the river and eating over the other side away from the tourist area for a change. We are spending one more day in hue and have decided we think to rent bicycles and cycle around the citadel and down the river, maybe calling at a royal tomb on the way or maybe to go on a boat down the river. We’re not sure yet but we will keep you updated.