Hué, Morgane, Aldric and other funnies
Trip Start Jun 16, 2011
69Trip End Nov 10, 2011
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I spent one and a half day in Hue, the first half day doing basically nothing apart from eating a fantastic Pho Bo at 6 pm. At around 10 pm, I met Morgane and Aldric who had just landed, coming from Hanoi. They're going south and I'm going north. It was therefore quite easy to meet. We had drinks and shared our pictures. I showed them where they won't be going and, they showed me Sapa.... I had decided not to go there but now I am really wondering because it looks stunning. For now I feel I will take yet another flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang directly. I don't know yet... I'll see ! Friends, if you have taken this route let me know !
We went back to our respective hotels at about 1 am, probably the latest I've been outside of my hotel room since I arrived in Vietnam... Morgane and Aldric had arranged with their tour operator for me to join them the day after on their Hue tour. Great ! I knew I had nothing to plan :-) also, since they had another bed in the room, they would ask for the extra cost if i joined them for the second night. Indeed my hotel was a real shithole. A chosen shithole, and a 10 bucks a night shithole nonetheless whereas their hotel was very very nice (Orchid Hotel, in case you go to Hue).
The next day, I receive an SMS from them telling me to take my stuff over there as the extra cost was the same 10 bucks I was paying in my hotel. We met at nine at their hotel and off we went for the day. The program was not so heavy : boat trip on the perfume river, visit of the imperial palace, visit of a tomb, lunch, small tour on bicycles, foot massage and cyclopouss ride.
The palace was really stunning despite the huge destructions made by American bombs. It was however noticeable that the buildings, quite new (a mere 200 years old) would not be there for very long. Hue climate not helping (only two seasons : summer and winter. Summer is VERY hot, jeez I am dripping, and winter is quite cold) and material used being not that long lasting (bricks mainly, and wood a bit), the site looks like it's degrading rapidly, despite the millions donated by Unesco for preservation of the site and reconstruction as it originally was... So it is beautiful yes, yet nothing like what I could see in Angkor, of course. The tomb of the childless emperor was also quite stunning, in the middle of a gorgeous park. Three years of work for 3000 workers. Wow.
All in all, and Morgane and Aldric will agree, Hue is definitely not a must see in Vietnam, apart from the fact that it used to be the imperial city and therefore former capital city of Vietnam. But it feels weird when you get there. It feels like a regular town, nothing special. It doesn't have this magic and vibrant touch that Saigon has or this kitsch yet romantic beauty that Dalat can boast about. Hué feels like this town that used to be great, whose greatness has been forgotten and whose imperial city is the only thing that reminds it of its lost grandeur.
However it felt great to be with long time friends on the other side of the world. I had a great day with them and literally crashed into bed at around midnight, exhausted. I gave them some tips for Hoi An and Saigon.
We witnessed something great too. When you stay in Vietnam as a tourist, you soon get the feeling that you are a wallet on feet and that Vietnamese people are here to rip you off. Well, we had a beautiful counter example. We took a taxi to get to the nice place I was the night before, in order to have a very nice Pho. We paid the taxi driver (1 USD !) and went to the restaurant. 10 minutes later, we see the driver coming back to us and ask if, by chance, we hadn't forgotten a cellphone in his cab... And indeed, Aldric's phone has slipped out of his pocket when he took out his wallet to pay for the taxi. The guy had actually left, and came back all the way to give us our cellphone back... What French taxi driver would do this ?!
Oh and now it's "shame time for Morgane" as I promised to her I would definitely talk about this on my blog.
First small shame : Morgane travels with....... her pillow ! Otherwise she can't sleep well ! Hahahaha ! I told her it was a real good thing that packpacking was not her thing ! Bouhouhou ! Shame on you :-)
Second small shame : in all Vietnamese restaurants they propose these small "refreshing tissues" that you can use or not. Some restaurants only bring them if you order them. In any case, every restaurant makes you pay for them. It's 2000 VND, so basically 0.10 USD, next to nothing, but still, you pay for it. Customs, habits and cultural stuff ! Well, Morgane didn't know that and, when we wete having dinner, takes one from the table next to us, to the great astonishment of the people there who had ordered them specifically... Quick eye exchange with the people and explanation to Morgane. Fortunately the people spoke French and she could profusely apologize and blush like only she can :-))) giggle giggle.
That's it Morgane, you are now well known throughout the world :-)
Last funnies. I found in Hoi An this flyer that is, in my opinion, hilarious (but maybe because I have been to Vietnam) and that is : "You know you have become Vietnamese when..." ... And now here are the facts (I removed the ones you would definitely not understand) :
- you keep your motorcycle helmet on when entering a shop, office or bank.
- all food tastes dull without fish sauce. In fact you consume more fish sauce than your Vietnamese counterparts
- you wear your pajamas out of the house. Also when you start to wonder why they were even considered like pajamas back home. They look just like regular clothes.
- when you spend more than two hours drinking the local coffee. At this point you can no longer drink coffee at all without condensed milk. You also prefer the taste of Vietnamese coffee to an Italian espresso.
- you think this is normal to have more than two people on a motorbike.
- you start making a left or right-hand turn 200 meters before the road ends. And then, to avoid stopping altogether at the intersection, you ride again the ongoing traffic until the coast is clear to cross over.
- you text or continue to receive calls while riding your motorbike, even during peak hour.
- your living room doubles as a parking lot.
- you can comfortably sleep on your motorbike in the middle of the day.
- the red light doesn't mean stop under all circumstances.
- you throw your rubbish casually on the floor at the seafood restaurant.
- cleaning out yours ears or picking your nose in a public place feels perfectly acceptable.
- you ignore the horns of vehicles trying to pass you on the road.
- you have a casual conversation with another person or three whilst riding your bike on the road. You continue this conversation despite the incessant honking from the vehicle behind you that wants to pass.
- you can happily sleep on a sedge mat instead of a bed. And that you can also share that room with an entire Vietnamese family.
- a person's calves look weird without a "Saigon kiss" (i.e. The burn mark left from a motorbike exhaust)
- the market vendor thinks you've ripped them off.
- you roll your eyes at the tourist who, having tipped the street vendor a 500 Dong (0.025 USD) note, acts like they've been extremely generous.
- you transport furniture, a refrigerator or a large flatscreen TV home by motorbike.
- you cannot go without eating rice and a decent bundle of local herbs at least once a day.
- you cannot go more than two days without eating a Pho.
- you consider beer to be expensive at 20,000 Dong (1 USD)
- you start wearing a face mask while riding your bike.
- you consider flip flops a suitable shoe for every occasion.
That's all folks !