19.01.2013 - 23.01.2013 26 °C
The general rule when it comes to mopeds in Vietnam is :
Whatever you do don't look behind you! And when someone in front of you is in your way hold down the hooter and continue hooting until they are well out of your way. Do this and no one gets hurt - well besides your eardrums! (nd possibly a few others who fall between the cracks)
Hue is definitely a much quieter smaller town than Hanoi but for some reason, the hooting is just as bad - the drivers here must be overly cautious ?! Hmmm not convinced on that one I think they just like the sound of their own hooter.
After settling into our hotel we set out to explore the Imperial city, a UNESCO world heritage site positioned on the banks of the Perfume river It's an interesting town to explore both because of the huge ancient walled city with a central forbidden city as well as its close proximity to the DMZ for the Vietnam/American war. There are also a number of old tombs and Moseleums to visit and a buzzing market on the river banks.
We spent a day exploring The Citadel and Forbidden City which was fascinating. The last dynasty to live within the Forbidden City were in the 1800's and although most of it has been destroyed by the bombs, it still has parts which are exquisite in vivid red and gold.
We picked up a few cold brewskis and after some lengthy haggling between Greg and two cyclo drivers we managed to negotiate two guides to cycle us around the old town to explore the back streets, laying back in a woven basket on the front of the bikes, beers in hand. The best was peering through people's windows, watching them preparing and eating dinner, playing cards and chatting - hardly any people were glued to the TV - quite refreshing to see! Good timing for the ride as it was sunset and the lighting in the streets off the beautiful buildings was brilliant. Everything involves a light hearted haggle with a pushing hint up of a upsell as soon as their is an opportunity.
You really do get good value in Asia and particularly Vietnam, that cyclo experience incl beers for just over an hour came in at under £4 for both of us, and a cab ride from one part of town to the other is also off the charts value compared to London or Europe at around Dong 30,000 or £1 for a 10 to 15 min cab ride!! Accommodation is also such good value, is hard to believe! Same thing in the UK or South Africa would cost 5 to 6 times the price if not more.
We then stopped off at a tour company to see if we could book a few tours as well as our onward travel to Hoi An. We sat down and the lady took us through our options and as we were booking the usual question of 'where you from?' was asked. We told her South Africa and she looked at us and laughed. . . You not from Africa? You don't look like them! So we just settled on London to keep her happy.
While we were in Hue we took two day tours one amazing and the other extremely boring pent up in an ageing tour bus for 12 hours!
We opted to do a full day DMZ tour which we were quite excited about as it visited the Vinh Moc tunnels and another few key areas from the Vietnam/American war (incl the Rockpile, Con Tien and Khe Sanh Combat base amongst others). The tour itself could have been so interesting but at it turned out is was as bland as anything and consisted of a woman giving a one sided and scripted version of the war and being stuck in a bus 90% of the time practically clawing our way out at the end. Visiting the Vinh Moc tunnels was really interesting and worth the drive so I suppose you win some you lose some!
The DMZ is a region, 5 km either side of the Ben Mai river separating North and South Vietnam, and was the scene of major battles and conflict during the war. A large proportion of military as well as civilian casualties took place over this territory, which does has a number of bomb craters and numerous cemeteries. The military cemeteries all relate to the Northern troops, and the "Southern Imperialists / Puppet Government" are all regarded as traitors so the tour guide looked at me with absolute disgust and astonishment when I enquired about the location of their graves. Anyway, that's the war talk, Cath says this is getting boring and I need to wrap of the war show now.
The next day we started the boat tour with the wind taken our of our sails expecting the same drab tour as the day before. We boarded the boat which would take us ip the Perfume River to visit various temples and Moseleums from some of the previous Monarchy's . Needless to say we were presently surprised when our passionate guide boarded the boat and started giving us some insight into Vietnamese history and culture. Every place we stopped off at he had a little story to tell about the culture and how each one related. We had the best time and left feeling very inspired and happy with renewed faith in our Vietnam trip!
We rounded off the excursion with a routine brewski on the banks of the river watching the sunset, the hussle, bustle and listening to the hoots of the city as well as the watching the lights of the town being turned on, a another brilliant day out!