Thursday, May 15, 2014


With a few days remaining on our trip to North Vietnam, we decided to take an extemporaneous trip south on May 13th and check out a couple of towns that sounded interesting.

We chose an overnight train that once again left Hanoi at 23:00 for a 12-hour ride to Hue (pronounced "Way" with a slight H sound in front). Hue is the former capital of Vietnam - now it is Hanoi. Scudding along rails in the last few hours, we were presented with some beautiful scenery of meandering rivers bordered by the pervasive rice paddies with backdrops of towering limestone hills.

View from train

The City of Hue is bisected by the 80-km long Huong River (aka Perfume River). The nickname derives from all the flowers that fall into it which give it a nice aroma. Our hotel was on the south side, a couple blocks off the River.

After our midday check-in, we hiked across the bridge to the north half of the City and to the old citadel (Imperial City) of the last reigning dynasty. The walls of the citadel, 10 km long and 2 m thick, are still intact as is most of the surrounding moat.

Bridge over moat to citadel

Within the outer walls is the intact walled compound of the late dynasty surrounded by a 2nd moat. Restoration work is being done to its walls and the vestigial buildings within. The sinecure dynasties reign ended in mid 1900 and on display were many old photos that showed the privileged lives of the nobility and their ample entourage in an exquisite setting while the masses bestowed a reverence worthy of gods.

Inside royal courtyard

Vietnam to spend $61 million to restore the citadel by 2015!

Later in the afternoon, we got a guided tour ride back to our hotel by an informative rickshaw pilot. He told Jordan to sit in the back in the King's position, while I was to sit in front, the Queen's position!

The Queen and King

After a refreshing heat extracting shower, we headed over to a luxury hotel and caught the elevator to the 16th floor rooftop bar to watch a resplendent sunset bring in the night.

From there, we walked to a popular touristy street and found the Why Not? bar next to the Why Not? hotel beside the Why Not? restaurant where Jordan had learned that a pool table existed. Being a pretty good player, he thoroughly impressed his opponents.

What we noticed in Hue, as well as most all places in Vietnam, was the unusual and prolific habit of face masks to protect against the environment. Some take it to the extremes like the 2nd photo below where a local jokingly said they were from another planet.

Alien motorcyclists!

The next morning, we booked a private boat ride on the river to see some pagodas, tombs, and temples. It was a total letdown. It was an impersonal noisy boat, the scenery was repetitive, and the temples were a sad display of a diminished veneration. We were also pushed to buy souvenirs from the boat owner. Oh well. Off to the next town...

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