As our taxi pulled up outside our bags were whisked off to the reception, we were sent into the breakfast room and presented with cold towels, fresh juice, fruit and biscuits. This was just the start of the best hotel stay ever. We were for no apparent reason upgraded to the honeymoon suite which had river views, a double Jacuzzi bath tub, a dvd player and even a pair of goldfish. Each night of our stay we received a special treat from Fresh fruit to cream cake and red roses. You have gotta love an upgrade!
There is pretty much only one reason you would go to Hue and that is to go to the DMZ (Demiliterization Zone) and the Vinh Moc Tunnels. The DMZ was the official division of North and South during the Vietnam War and whilst it is a long trip from Hue it is combined with a trip to the Vinh Moc tunnels so you don't have much but to go there. The tour has several stops enroute and as we quickly discovered they were all terrible; our particular favourite was the stop at the minority village, this actually involved the bus pulling over at the side of the road outside a wooden house that a minority tribesperson lives in. After a few more pointless and uninspiring stops we made it to the DMZ and unsurprisingly it is just a large expanse of land which has a few planes, tanks and helecopters. There were a few trenches dug out and the obligatory vendors chasing after you to try and sell old dog tags, bullets and medals. Tim enjoyed this significantly more than I did so I was not at all disappointed to be back on the bus and headed to a hotel for lunch. En-route suddenly our bus started to make the most terrible noise and filled with smoke, we all bundled out onto the pavement and watched on as the driver whipped out a brand new fan belt and had the bus back on the road in a matter of minutes. Something makes me think this is not an unusual breakdown. Lunch was something of an experience, there were about 16 of us in a hotel restaurant big enough for about 200 and whilst we tried to chat with the other people on the tour and enjoy our lunch the hotel staff spent the entire time walking past with their phones taking sneaky (and some not so sneaky) photos of us
. Such an odd lunch, I am sure that we are not the first foreigners to go there for lunch……weird!
After lunch it is finally time to head to the Vinh Moc Tunnels, the main reason that we are all on this tour. The Vinh Moc tunnels are significantly different to the Cu Chi Tunnels in HCMC, given that rather than being used by the soldiers for fighting, these tunnels were used by villagers to live in and shelter from the bombing. The tunnels were constructed in 1966 and were used until 1972, the tunnel complex was set over 3 levels and included wells, kitchens and even a maternity. Around 60 families lived in the tunnels and at least 17 children were born inside them. The tunnels are 2,000meters long and have 6 entrances to the top of the hills and 7 entrances to the South China Sea. The main difference between the Vinh Moc and the Cu Chi tunnels is the size of them, at the Vinh Moc Tunnels we were actually able to walk through with just our shoulders hunched over unlike Cu Chi which required us to be on our hands and knees. I was still happy to get out of the tunnels and certainly wouldn’t fancy 7 years living in them! As we were due to leave the tunnels we still had a few more pointless stops to make but one couple pointed out that they had a train leaving Hue at 7pm and had been told that this tour finished at 6pm. In fact the tour was due to finish at 7pm so we had a rather stressed and hectic journey back to Hue. Thankfully we made it and after a long 12 hour day touring, I was over the moon to have a good dinner and retreat to our honeymoon suite with a DVD for an early night.
Amazingly in Hue our paths crossed again with our new found friends Roo and Tony, and this time Roo’s sister Vicki was also in tow
. What else is there to do in Hue other than have a night out on the town…. So we met up for a few drinks and the madness commenced pretty much immediately. First up we were sat in the bar downstairs reserving a table for 5 whilst Tony, Roo and Vicki were sat upstairs. Then we were lured to a bar with the promise of free cocktails to be greeted by the strangest and drunkest waitress that we have found on our travels. We couldn’t really complain as the free shots kept flowing (possibly because she couldn’t remember if we had had any). We decided to make our escape to another bar and rather than walking we decided to see how many people can fit in a cyclo, a cyclo for those who don’t know is a man with a bike with a large chair in front of the wheel, usually you will see one or two tourists squeezed into the chair. We successfully managed to get 4 of us in whilst Roo (and another random tourist) ran alongside trying to get a photo. The only problem with our plan was that we forgot to negotiate a price and a destination so we ended up on a street we didn’t want to be on and paid well over the odds, but it was so worth it for the laugh. After a few more drinks and a few more weirdos that seemingly were attracted to Tim we decided to call it a night. As we walked back we reached the others hotel first to find the door locked and the lights out, we laughed hysterically and thankfully after a few hard raps on the door the security guard let them in, we then arrived at our hotel to find exactly the same, hmmm seems Hue is for the more mature, sleepy tourist!
Our last day in Hue and we felt it was only right to visit the Citadel, not because we had any desire to see any more palaces or temples, but because we had heard that there was a fancy dress stall where we could dress up as an Emperor and Empress. So in the red hot sun we set off and treated ourselves to a cyclo ride across the city to get to the citadel
. It is no exaggeration that it was as hot as hell. We made our way into the grounds and first up found some cool goldfish to feed, then we carried on just looking for our fancy dress shop. We looked and we looked and we walked and we walked and seemingly we walked right passed it and then ended up doing a complete loop of the citadel. We got to the point where we actually thought we were going to collapse through heat exhaustion and dehydration, but by this point we were trapped. We kept going and found a lady selling stupidly expensive water but we had no choice but to part with our hard earned dong to stay alive. Hydrated, but hot and somewhat sick of the citadel, we found and exit pretty much right at the entrance and I convinced Tim to just walk down one last section to see if we could recover the day and find our costumes. As it was the costumes were in the very first building we walked past with not a single sign or advert, just a lot of staff asleep on various chairs and tables. We handed over our money and were dressed up like idiots in no time. We played in the throne room for a while and then took to the citadel grounds on our own. Before long we were surrounded with a bus load of Vietnamese tourists who all wanted their photo taken with us, too funny.
Our last evening in Hue and we were packed and ready to head to the train station for our trip to Hanoi, the hotel had booked us a taxi and sent us on our way with a bottle of water and a cool towel
. We had heard that there was a Buddha festival going on this evening, what nobody bothered to tell us was that the festival involves a massive parade that seemingly circles the train station at exactly the time we need to be at the station. Our taxi reached three dead ends and eventually in broken English told us that we needed to walk the rest of the way. I checked google maps and we were about 5 minutes from the station, however the problem was that the roads were jam packed with people on mopeds who were waiting for the roads to reopen so with our rucksacks on we pushed and shoved our way through the parked mopeds and people to get to the road. As we reached the main road there were people looking at us like we were aliens, and there was a parade of chanting monks about to pass in front of us, but we had no choice but to make a run for it and cross in front of the parade. There was no time to be ashamed, we had a train to catch and this was the only way to make it. Hot, bothered and stressed we made it to the station and slowely but surely the station filled up with more and more harassed looking tourists who had had the same experience as us. The one bonus was that our 6 berth carriage was actually completely empty as seemingly our roommates had missed the train. I have a bad feeling that Buddha is going to send us some bad juju for messing with his parade, sorry Buddha!
We arrived in Hue, hot, sweaty and generally in a bad mood ready to moan to anyone who would listen about our nightmare train journey. As it was our bad moods were lifted immediately as we arrived at our hotel. We booked The Orchid as it had more amazing reviews on trip advisor than we had ever seen and we were quickly going to see why.