Huế

Day 56 / Day 15 of ATID – Hue

On this day we took a private coach to the city of Huế, Vietnam, which was once the imperial capital of Vietnam. On the way, we stopped off at a lovely viewpoint in a high area (so lovely, in fact, we spotted a brave couple trying to get their wedding photos taken…) by way of a break, though I regret to say I was so grumpy from the bus journey, I wasn’t paying attention to where it was. Here are some pics, though!

Viewpoint
Viewpoint
Brave couple!
Brave couple!

We arrived in Huế in the early afternoon, and all of us had opted into a motorcycle tour of the city, which we embarked upon straight after check in at our hotel.

The motorcycle tour basically involved each of us having our own motorcycle driver and riding through the roads of Hue to various sites. think in total we each paid the equivalent of US $20, and it included everything I’ll talk about. One of the drivers was the official guide of the tour. I’ve ridden on the back of a motorcycle before, on trips to India, usually behind family friends – this was the same except we were told by the tour facilitator not to hold onto the driver’s shoulders (as apparently it impairs steering, which I didn’t realise to be honest as that’s what I’ve always done…) but their waist or the back of our own seats, and except for the fact that we all got helmets! Had never worn a helmet on the back of a motorcycle before in India…ha, oh dear…

Wheeee motorcycling towards a pagoda!
Wheeee motorcycling towards a pagoda!

We had one random stop before we began our actual tour, on the side of the road. There were some burning fields in the distance and at the time I wasn’t quite sure what this was all about, but I’ve since read that rice farmers in Vietnam, after the rice harvest is over, burn the remaining straw and husks. An interesting sight to see!

Burning fields...
Burning fields…

The first official stop on our motorcycle tour was a Buddhist nunnery, where we were treated to an absolutely wonderful vegan lunch cooked by the nuns there! Honestly, it was one of the best meals of the entire trip! I feel like I may have said that before…but as I say ‘one of…’

Amazing veggie food
Amazing veggie food

After, we went round a few sites in quick succession. These included an old tiger arena called Ho Quyen (cool but also quite saddening to see all the tiger-claw-scratch-marks on the walls  of where they kept tigers imprisoned)…

Didn't get a proper pic of whole arena, but some tiger scratches
Didn’t get a proper pic of whole arena, but some tiger scratches 😦

 …two quick stops to witness some Vietnamese hat making and incense making (essentially tourist traps! We did buy a mini Vietnamese hat decoration though as was super reasonable and we were very impressed with how deftly the disabled workers were producing hats)…

Excellent skills!
Excellent skills!

…a pagoda, the Thiên Mụ Pagoda, apparently the tallest religious building in Vietnam! It has some lovely views…

Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda

We also stopped off a beautiful viewpoint, where we took many photographs of the river…

Viewpoint of river
Viewpoint of river

…and a really rather nice little rice farming museum. Actually on checking through the album I realise this was the first stop and the pagoda the last! Ah well, best until last. This was my favourite stop, where a lovely little old lady showed us how to use all the equipment involved in rice farming. Dave had a go sifting the rice, too, which was quite fun to watch.

Getting a demo on using rice farming/harvesting equipment!
Getting a demo on using rice farming/harvesting equipment!

It was a whirl wind of an afternoon with a few clear ‘tourist traps’ designed to encourage us to buy products but you know what? For that amazing lunch, the brilliant motorcycle rides, and some of the really rather cool sites we saw (esp the rice farm!), I didn’t particularly care. There was never any pressure to buy anything and actually Dave and I quite enjoyed the hat making.

Er, one small disaster did occur though. Right as I swung my leg round to get on my motorbike behind the driver, the ‘elephant pants’ I was wearing tore straight down the crotch. Ah dear. Luckily always carry a long, wide silky scarf with me so used that as a sarong over the trousers during the tour! But yeah, a warning about ‘elephant pants’ bought from street stalls (I don’t think I mentioned but we picked up two pairs during our time near Angkor Wat, then Dave got another pair in Hoi An, the others have actually lasted well to be fair)….they do not always last very long…

In the evening we headed to a nearby Italian restaurant, where we were treated to a free – weak 😉 – cocktail each, and we ate pizza…after, a few of us headed to a fun bar, again within walking distance (so easy to have a safe, early night!), where I remember they played a bunch of old school songs that we had quite a bit of fun dancing to 🙂

Day 57 / Day 16 of ATID – Huế

Alright, so, this was our last morning in Huế before we departed on another sleeper train to our next destination in the afternoon, and I think it was quite possibly the hottest day we have experienced on the trip. Dave disagrees and thinks it may have been in Hoi An (when we took the pretty walk around town)…not sure. But this morning was pretty darn hot, and subsequent Googling reveals temperatures were over 40 degrees (Celsius).

But! As it was our last day, and we still hadn’t seen the famous citadel or any of the famous tombs in this old imperial capital, we were determined to sight see! The day before, four of us (and two more joined on this morning!) had organised (through our tour facilitator) to go around with some of yesterday’s motorcyclists to see one tomb (no time for more) for a few dollars each before joining everyone else at the citadel and then heading back to near the hotel for lunch.

The motorcycles were great in that the wind whistling through our tops cooled us down on the way to, between and after seeing the sights! Worked as well as a taxi AC, I’d say.

The tomb we chose to see, on the recommendation of the guide from the day before, was the Tự Đức tomb. I think it was a very impressive complex to walk around, there are maps to help you navigate all the different areas (which include residential areas to temples) and it is quite peaceful especially as there is a park area with a body of water within it there. To be honest, though, what I remember most is the beating sun – my umbrella didn’t help much – and constantly trying to find shade to sit in, which is a shame.

At Tu Doc tomb
At Tu Duc tomb

There were supposed to be traditional singers, too, in a pavilion overlooking the water but they were packing up to leave ten minutes earlier than they were meant to (which is when we got to that bit) – I don’t think this is that unusual in Vietnam…

The citadel, a walled fortress compound containing a palace, was even more impressive but by this time I was spent, so let Dave do most of the darting about and picture taking. We hired a guide for the citadel – unsure that was necessary given I was so hot I wasn’t paying a blind bit of attention to anything she was saying. She was fully dressed in long sleeves and floor length skirt, a hat and was clutching a handbag and keys on the whole walk round. Unsure how she wasn’t passing out but guess locals are accustomed to the heat!!

Seen at the citadel
Seen at the citadel

I can’t remember the exact prices for the entry into these two places, but I remember it was reasonable if not ‘mere pennies to us’.

After all that we returned to the hotel to find most of our group exhausted from the heat and slumped on chairs and tables just outside the lobby (it was past 12pm, i.e. check out time, by now)…they joined us for lunch at the WhyNot bar (WhyNot is a chain in Vietnam), then Dave and I picked up our snacks for the train, and soon we were whistling our way Hanoi, from where we’d be going on to Halong Bay. This time, there was hot water dispenser in our carriage for the noodles, woop!

This was a bit of a hard post to write as our time in Hue was so short, and we packed so so much into it – too much for the heat, I think! So I wasn’t paying enough attention to retain a lot of what was going on in any depth. Have tried to provide links to attractions though so you can do your own reading 🙂

Thanks for stopping by – next post, the amazing Halong Bay including my first kayaking experience!

Ro x

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