Historical Hue

Trip Start Feb 16, 2010
Trip End Mar 09, 2010

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Had to use the loo at 5am. Made my way down from my bed and opened the door to discover passengers sleeping on straw mats on the passageway. More were sitting with their luggages just outside of the toilet. A mother and her toddler son were cramped in the space between carriages. I felt really sorry for them. Back at my cabin, the extra bed was occupied by a family of three. They were trying their best to be comfortable by laying diagonally across the bed. The train staff did not seem to mind - probably a very common occurance on vietnam trains.
Finally arrived Hue at 8am. Out at the station, many hotel touts pounced at their chances. I rejected the first 4 touts before one guy suggested that if I dont like what I see in the room, I can walk away. Plus the pickup to hotel will be free. At US$8 a night, I slumberly agreed. Straight into the minibus, I realised that they only managed to pull one customer - me. 3 vietnamese blokes hopped in and we were on our way to the city centre. For a moment, I thought I might have gotten myself into some trouble (if I decided not to stay). But it turned out to be the best room I had stayed so far and the cheapest too. Although the hotel was hidden in the back of an alleyway, it wasnt that bad after all.
By 9am I was already sitting at a street stall, enjoying 2 breakfasts - a mixed beef noodle soup and a dry noodle dish with crispy fish skin (only vnd 5000 for this one). At Sinh Tourist office, they offered a 1 day Demilitarised Zone trip at Dongha (I initially scrapped Dongha off my itinerary due to late train ticket), so I saw my chance and booked it for tomorrow at vnd 260 000 and arranged my Hoi An bus for the day after - vnd 60 000 - so cheap.
Making my way to the Old Citadel on foot across the Perfume river, I caught sight of a big shopping plaza and thought I would check it out. A series of bizzare incidents began today. Approaching the plaza, an accident involving 2 scooter motorists happened in the middle of the road. They crashed and slammed themselves on the asphalt but with no serious injuries, just stunned. This was incident 1. The plaza was pretty huge with KFC, a supermarket, food court and many smaller stalls and kisoks selling electronics, jewellery, books..etc. Exiting the plaza, incident two had already happened - another scooter collision. This time, policemen were already marking the accident spot and collecting evidence and measuring distances between the 2 collided scooters.
Walking along Perfume river, I finally entered the Old Citadel for vnd 55 000 entry fee. I was quite disappointed with the scale of this Forbidden City. I spent 2 hours in the shearing heat and was soaked in sweat. Most of the buildings were restored after the American war, however I was more intrigued by ancient ruins. Leaving the Old Citadel, a cyclo rider convinced me of a 1 hour cyclo ride through the old town of Hue for vnd 75 000. I agreed out of the need for a rest from the impossible heat. The ride was ok and it went on for 1.5 hours. I was shown Ho Chi Minh's childhood house, one of the emperor's fave haunt and also stopped for a chilled lotus tea. It was really hard work for cyclo riders so I tipped him pretty well.

Walking towards east, I explored the wet market and then decided to head back to room to chill out with my ice teas I bought from the supermarket. It was full blast air con and a chilled shower. Ate at this recommended food shop by the hotel around the block. I must say it was the cleanest food establishments I had eaten in (the other is my fave cafe in hanoi). Ironically I suffered a mild diarrhea later in the evening..maybe it was too much yoghurt at dinner. Strolling along Perfume River, the sights were familiar - young couples dating and families out for a stroll.

As I was crossing the road at central bridge, the third incident happened. Right in the middle of the road, a motor scooter skidded and slammed on the road, stopping literally right at my feet - I probably looked like a stunned kangaroo. The poor bloke looked like he injured himself but I didnt see blood. But he also looked more embarressed than shocked or maybe both, because it happened right in the middle of a major junction. All the traffic stopped for a split second before they started meandering around us. He quickly picked up his scooter and rode away to his direction and I quickly hopped back to the pavement.

That was 3 scooter accidents in one day. Yet for the last 12 days, I saw none in north vietnam. I finally bought a dragonfruit for dessert, tasted like kiwi..pretty nice.
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