Vietnam - Hue

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

After a crappy nights sleep (the hotels only problem was that we could hear the staff early (5am) in the morning), we had a leisurely breakfast and chatted to a couple of other English & Scottish guests before checking out.
On arriving at the airport we found out that our 2pm flight was delayed until 6pm! We were given the choice to go back to a hotel in Hanoi and then be picked up in time for the flight - this would involve more travelling and less than an hour at the hotel! We refused and said we would stay at the airport and have a free feed there instead.
We called our Hue hotel (at our expense) and told them we would be late. We then argued our way into the executive lounge so that we could relax and use their Internet. The only other people waiting around for this delayed plane was another English couple and we tried to get them into the executive lounge, only to be told that if we mentioned it to them we would not be allowed in either!
At around 5pm we were informed that the plane was delayed by another 4 hours so wouldn't leave until an "estimated" 10pm. Eventually we managed to drag out of the airport staff that there was a 7:30pm flight that we could change to, so we did.
Ultimately the English couple managed to wrangle a seat in the lounge and we spent the last hour of our wait chatting and moaning about Vietnam Airlines. We couldn't believe that we had encountered such problems with a national carrier airline when previously we had been on 25 other flights, mostly with budget airlines, and had no problems or delays.
Our new plane left 15mins late and finished the Vietnam Airlines experience with the roughest landing we have had since leaving on our travels.
A hotel minibus collected us and zipped us over to our bed for the next two nights. The hotel was down a back street on the outskirts of the city and on first impressions it looked a bit dodgy, however it turned out to be a decent place for the princely sum of £8/night.
After the previous days fiasco we took advantage and had a lie in. It was a welcome rest for Verdi who, you guessed it, was still ill!
Hue is like an onion! It has many layers. We were staying across the river from the main city centre. Across the long bridge the second 'layer' is a poorer, dirtier area of shops and housing. The Citadel is the main, ancient centre of the city and it a massive walled collection of buildings, which used to be used by the richer locals and ministers. Within the citadel is the fourth and final layer, known as the Imperial City, used by the royal family and their servants.
We wandered around the citadel and Imperial City, taking in the impressively ornate ancient structures. At the very centre of the Imperial City lies the Forbidden Purple City; access to this was only allowed to the King. Unfortunately it looked more like the forgotten city, as there was nothing left of it but a big green field! (PIC)
We rushed back to our hotel for an arranged 'pick-up' for an afternoon tour along the Perfume River. This pick up turned out to be a young lad walking us from the hotel to the boat in the rain!
On board the boat we travelled down the river to the Dieu De National Pagoda. The local life on the way gave an insight into the hardy existence that many of the Vietnamese people lead. (PICS). The pagoda was a colourful piece of architecture that seemed very out of place along the quiet rural riverside. The gates to the actual tower were locked so we weren't afforded the great views that would have been possible with a walk to the top. We had to settle for the collection of sculptures and ornaments on display in the pagoda grounds.
Continuing down the Perfume River we reached the Tu Duc Tomb stop. Our female host, who had spent most of the boat ride constantly trying to sell us stuff (thinking that if she tried again 5-mins later we would forget that we had said no and suddenly be interested in her tat), told us that we would need to take a moped to the tomb - first we'd heard!
We were greeted by a load of aggressive motorbike drivers that insisted we pay for a ride to the tomb; it was apparently too far to walk. After some too-ing and fro-ing, arguing, refusing to go with them and getting back on the boat, we got them down from 100,000D to 30,000D for the two of us, return.
The tomb was fairly disappointing. The old, crumbling buildings lacked character and the grey, overcast weather and lots of other bus groups didn't add to the atmosphere. The grounds of the tomb were not well maintained and we were more enamoured with the few older, deserted places on the moped ride back to the river.
Another hours journey on the boat and we were back at the hotel. We stopped off at a recommended Indian restaurant on the corner of the street by our hotel. The dowdy décor with mould up the walls and dead cockroaches on the floor let down the dining experience but the food was still pretty good. Periodically hearing a dog yelping out the back we tried not to think what meat was actually in the curry!
The following day we would take an air-conditioned bus to Hoi An. Hopefully it wouldn't be run by Vietnam Airlines, we would then stand a chance of getting there on time!
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