Forbidden cities and shopping bikes

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Flag of Vietnam  , Thừa Thiên-Huế,
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our sleeper bus to Hue attracted jealous glares from large German ladies squished upon their tour bus. We stopped at Marble Mountain to see the temple and view of the South China Sea or as the Vietnamese call it, The East Sea. The glass elevator stuck to the side of the mountain was kaput. A few of us clambered up the very steep marble steps to the temple where an old lady with leathered skin chewed beetle nut and sold incense. Ready to board the bus again I noticed that some girls from our group were now inside the glass elevator. They reached the top before the lift broke again and we had a very cranky, beeping bus driver waiting for them to scramble down the mountain.

In Hue we rented shopping bikes and rode to The Forbidden City before venturing into the countryside. What a harebrained idea that was. We rode down bustling city streets and bridges eight abreast with traffic. Motorbikes tooted and trucks honked as we nervously giggled through intersections. No helmets, no gears, just big skinny wheels, a bell, basket and the wrong side of the road.

The Forbidden City, inside the walls of the Imperial Enclosure, is an impressive sight. When we arrived they were filming a 14th century film, so we got to see some traditional dress.

Bau explained some history to us.

Bau: "When the emperors reigned here they did not marry someone and make a queen, he just have many porcupines, sometimes maybe 300 to 400 porcupines"

Me: "Porcuipines? You mean concubines?"

Bau: “Yeah, that's what I said”

Three to four hundred concubines is a hell of a lot of noodle.

Back on our bikes we paid a local guy on a scooter to guide us through the countryside. We rode for a good 45 minutes before reaching anything that even slightly resembled 'countryside'. Busy streets hummed with daily life. Barbeques smoked, leaves were swept, offerings burned and washing dried. Trucks still honked as the traffic flowed around us. 
Crossing a long, wide bridge spanning the Perfume River, I started to feel as if I had an invincible bubble around me. Happily pedalling along I had to remind myself that even organised chaos can go horribly wrong. A moment later we were confronted with broken motorbike parts and bloodied teeth and limbs as we swerved around a collision that had just occurred. We continued along canals, down alleys and past cows until we really were in the middle of whoop whoop.
The sun lowered and city lights glittered in the distance. We had ended up on an unfinished highway that lay between rice fields and duck pens. 
About 25kms later with sweaty palms and sore bums we eventually made it through the darkness and into the idiocy of evening traffic.  An escapade not to be missed.
After dinner we ended up at a dark and musty bar called Brown Eyes. The flyer handed to us on the corner proudly declared:

BROWN EYES – Open 5pm until the last one passes out. During happy house exchange this flyer to buy one get one free.  Happy in work, Lucky in games, Crazy in Love and Strongly in bed.

Strongly in bed? Maybe the emperor popped in for a few on his way home to his hundreds of concubines. 
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Rebecca on

Hi Mon, One of the girls asked at work, what tour company did you go through to book your two week tour?
Love you lots

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