Hue (18th to 23rd February)

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Where I stayed
Canh Tien

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, February 22, 2008

As we could not get a flight from Hanoi directly to Hue, we flew to Danang, stayed overnight and got the train to Hue. It took 4 hours and the journey is certainly the most spectacular train journey I have ever experienced. The 1st class fare (only 2 dollars) included a hot meal and a drink. The track hugged the coastal path the whole way, with mountains on the other side ( and some very long tunnels through them). The journey went past miles upon miles of beautiful sandy beaches (including China Beach where the US soldiers when surfing in Apocalypse Now!).

Although he original plan was to spend a couple of days in Hue , all flights heading south were fully booked for the following 10 days due to Tet  (which was 10 days ago!).  The alternative bus trip (26 hours to Saigon) did not tempt us and the trains had only 2nd class seats  (for 28 hours) which did also not appeal.  We finally managed to book a Pacific Airways flight  (the budget version of Vietnam Airlines and because it does not pay commission is not offered by travel agents) on the 23rd, meaning that we spent 6 days in Hue.    

Hue has a reputation of having the most rainfall in the country and true to form, it rained everyday and was also uncharacteristically cold (due to the extraordinary snow storms in China).  So much so that the local news told of old people dying of pneumonia, as were lizards, bats and birds.  The temperature reached about 10degrees.  The guest house gave us an extra blanket.  But the humidity meant that most things felt damp most of the time and the hotel kept stealing our wet laundry for a couple of days (to dry out elsewhere).  

Hue has a large river known as the Perfume River, on which much local life can be seen, including the Dragon boats.   The Citadel and the Purple Forbidden City are the main sights to see in the town.  The Dragon boats can take you to the Tombs of the previous Emperors who chose to be buried in this area for its beauty and good feng shui. 

Ho Chi Minh lived in Hue for a while and there is a museum which we visited dedicated to him which showcased some really strange items, including photos of people with captions like "Honorable American-killing compatriot" or "leader of the 11 ladies of the river".  Also included items that his family may once of used (like a wardrobe), or a radio that he offered to Mr X and even a bow tie that someone wore when in mourning for him.   

Hue is known for its pancakes called Bang Xeo. They are rice pancakes, fried in the wok and folded over and filled with bean sprouts, pork and prawns.   Hue claims to be the culinary capital of Vietnam and while in Hue we tried out many restaurants, including the 3 run by deaf and dumb families (same menu in each), also a place called Bloom which is run as a training centre for orphans and which was excellent and similar to Friends in Phnom Penh.  

One of the traditions of Tet was the burning of fake money in the streets  -  The Vietnamese a way of sending it to their ancestors at this time of year.  
We also visited largest market called Bang Da, which is now mostly geared to tourists in the centre and for locals on the perimeter.  Lovely Pho breakfasts in the local section -  during which time, the locals stopped to view us eating.  

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