These reports are from our very first trip to Vietnam in September 2014, so therefore prior to the previous trip reports!
Originally posted on TripAdvisor, this is Trip Report #5…
1 – 4 October 2014
So, the Hue bit.
Leaving the Lantern Hotel was tough. We’d loved our time there and felt like we’d made some really special friendships.
Oh, and I did forget about our Vietnamese language class.
Probably because I’m not that good at it.
But then again, how could I possibly expect to be? English aint me strong point either…..
It took me the best part of the 4 weeks to get “cam on” right.
And the only other two words I remembered were “bia” and “ba”.
Notice the connection?…….ba ba ba bia
No problems remembering the important stuff……
Anyway, the Lantern Hotel.
Would I recommend it?
Would I stay there again?
Yep. And yep!
So, with our train tickets at the ready, it was time to head back to Danang.
The car we had booked the day before arrived on time and we were off.
No issues with time, we had plenty to get to the station.
Well we would have, if our driver had a little more strength in the leg that rests on the accelerator…..
He was most definitely not related to our driver in Nha Trang.
Watching the road, and constantly looking at my watch, I wondered if we were going to make it on time.
I also wondered if we were being set up.
You know, “Sorry, you’ve missed the train, but that’s ok, I can drive you to Hue”.
“For extra money of course….”
It’s funny what goes through your mind.
I also wondered what Dirty Pierre (from TripAdvisor) would say.
Anyway, needn’t have worried. Arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare.
Around 3 minutes to be exact…..
Jumped out of the car, grabbed our bags, kicked a local out of the way that was offering to “help” with our bags and headed into the station.
The train was already there.
Scampering across the tracks, it was at this point that I sensed the kids might not have been too happy with the particular mode of transport we had chosen.
“Is that our train?”, said in that teenager tone.
Yes. Yes it is.
Into the carriage. Look to the left. Mmm, nice looking seats. Air conditioned.
Look to the right. Timber seats. Bars on the windows. This is us.
Carriage is barely half full.
Not too many tourists either.
Actually, when I say not too many, I mean none.
Got the feeling we were a bit of a novelty too.
Finally got our stuff sorted and sat down.
Took a look at the kid’s faces.
Yep, not happy. Actually, more disgusted than anything.
But that’s ok. If they’re not happy, then I must be doing something right.
This train trip is a good idea. Isn’t it…..?
I’m not completely sure…..
Bloody Dirty Pierre.
Train conductor comes over.
Motions to me to stand up and go with him.
He points towards the soft seat, air conditioned carriage.
In broken English, and with hand gestures, he tells me we can sit in there instead.
For extra money of course.
Thank you, but no thank you.
How would I explain it to Dirty Pierre….?
I go back to my seat.
The boy looks at me. Still has that look on his face.
“What did he say to you?” he scowls.
“He offered us seats in the other carriage”, I say.
“I said no. I told him we’d prefer to stay here”.
That look on his face?
It’s much worse now. Much….worse.
Yep, I must be doing something right…..
Finally, we’re on the move.
Manage to open the window and sit back and enjoy the ride.
Conductor comes back. Motions to me to put my window down. More to the point, the bars / mesh part of the window.
Grrr, don’t recall Dirty Pierre saying anything about this.
Ten minutes goes by and there’s no sign of the conductor. My window is now open again.
Anyway, why are we travelling on this train?
That’s right, the view.
Dirty Pierre raves about it.
And so he should.
It is stunning.
And you can add any more superlatives you like. Just beautiful.
The first half of the trip is easily the best. Partly due to the scenery and partly due to the fact that your bottom is not yet painful. Those seats are hard.
The second half is not as scenic but still interesting.
Worth the sore bum?
Absolutely. Not sure I’d do it again but extremely glad we did it. A life experience.
The kids may have a slightly different opinion….
You’re off the hook Pierre. Thanks for the recommendation!
Finally pull into Hue and off we get.
Walk around the corner……arrrgghhh……50 taxi drivers.
Bugger this, be assertive.
Older bloke in a Mai Linh uniform. He’s my man. We’re off.
Short trip into town (which I knew it would be as our helpful travel agent in Hoi An had printed a map for me showing the station and our hotel. Made sure our taxi driver saw it as well…) and we arrived at the New Star Hotel.
Quick check in and then it was off to have a look around Hue……while the kids stayed in their room….
Walked out the front door…..”Want a cyclo ride?” No thanks.
Walked around the corner…..”Want a motorbike ride?” No thanks.
Walked down to the river…..”Want a boat ride?” No thanks.
Not sure why I thought Hue would be any different…..
Ended up at the DMZ Hotel for a fruit smoothie and a little respite from the heat.
On the way back to the hotel we found a travel agent and took a chance.
The only thing we really had in mind to do while we were in Hue was the Vinh Moc Tunnels.
Turns out we had two options.
One, a group tour that included the tunnels, Khe Sanh, Ho Chi Minh Trail, a couple of bridges and several other places. The bus left at 6.00am and returned 12 hours later.
That is a loooong day. No thanks.
Or two, a private car to the tunnels and a stop at the Hien Luong Bridge over the Ben Hai River. Could leave at whatever time we wanted and the trip would take around 6 hours.
Much better idea. Tour booked for the next day!
That night we had dinner at a place around the corner. Can’t remember the name of it.
Don’t want to remember the name of it. Trying to put it out of my mind.
Apart from the hamburgers we had at Vin Pearl Island it was the worst meal I had in Vietnam.
It’s funny how things work out. One of the reasons we did this trip was to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.
And what day was our anniversary?
Yep, that particular night.
Memorable for all the wrong reasons…..
Fortunately I survived the night, and the next morning we were able to set off on our trip to Vinh Moc.
This required a bit of time on the dreaded Highway One. Interesting experience.
This particular stretch of Highway One is in the process of being widened to two lanes either way.
The result of this is that travel is extremely slow. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing.
Less likely to have a head on with a bus……?
Anyway, it was a long trip – around 2.5 hours.
Arriving at the tunnels we were taken in to a building to watch a 20 minute video on the history of the area. Once that was done it was time to go underground. Well three of us would do that. Someone’s claustrophobia kicked in before we even got there and, not mentioning any names……Lisa….., decided to stay above ground.
The tunnels were nothing like Cu Chi. You could actually walk through them reasonably comfortably. Most of the time they would be a little under 6 feet high and there were parts that were a little higher than that. Our guide was very informative and I found the whole thing very interesting. It really was remarkable what the locals managed to achieve all those years ago.
On the way back we stopped at the Hien Luong Bridge. This is the bridge that separated the north from the south. There’s not much there but it was well worth a look.
Finally back in Hue we had time to relax by the pool. Apart from walking through the tunnels we hadn’t really done much but it was nice to be able to have some down time. Again, it’s the travel that wears you out.
So the verdict on the tunnels?
Very interesting and happy I saw them. But….it is around 5 hours of car travel. I’m not totally convinced it’s worth it.
Went back and saw our travel agent friend who suggested hiring push bikes and taking a boat ride up the Perfume River.
Seemed like a good idea for the following day.
Out for dinner again that night, at a different restaurant this time, and we were back on track in the food department. Much happier!
After picking up the bikes the next morning we headed down to the river.
The plan was take the boat to Thien Mu Pagoda and then back on the boat to Minh Mang Tomb. We would then go by bike to Khai Dinh Tomb, then on to Tu Duc Tomb and then make our way back to Hue.
Our travel agent had even given us a map so we wouldn’t get lost.
Unfortunately, the map was one that he had drawn.
For some reason I didn’t hear the alarm bells…..
So the boat trip. It started well and we were soon at our first stop. Lots of history and plenty of photo opportunities.
We then stopped at some other temple/pagoda thing (wasn’t on the map), and had to pay for the privilege. Now I have no issue paying to see something. But something has to be there that is worth seeing. There wasn’t.
Back on the boat again and we were headed towards Minh Mang Tomb. Shouldn’t take too long I thought…..looking at my hand drawn map.
It seemed to take forever. And all I could think of was how long the bike trip back was going to take.
Finally arrived at our stop and somehow managed to get the bikes off the boat without falling in the river.
Found the tomb and…….cracked it. Yep, cracked it.
Had decided I’d had enough.
The boat trip annoyed the ….. out of me, the kids were starting to do the same, it was stinking hot, I was sick of putting my hand in my pocket and the “good” quality bikes (travel agent’s words…) were……not. Yep,…..cracked it.
So out with the trusty map to work out how to make our way back.
Five minutes later I’m not convinced we’re going in the right direction.
Stop. Ask someone. Concerns realised.
I now have an urge to do something nasty to our travel agent.
Back on track we continue. Until we get to another intersection.
Time to ask for directions again.
Lisa is now not very happy. Her knees hurt.
The girl has cracked it worse than me. Toys have been thrown from the cot…..
The boy is actually going along ok. He does however have the best bike.
And me? At this point the travel agent is in great danger.
Eventually we get back to town.
Fortunately for the travel agent, and me, he is not there.
Off for some lunch and a cold drink to cool, and calm, down.
The next morning we (no kids…..surprisingly…) headed off to look at the The Citadel.
We planned on walking in the general direction and perhaps picking up a taxi when one went passed. Before that could happen though we had a guy on a motorbike offer, actually, insist we use him and his mate to get us there.
Oh well, bit more interesting than a taxi.
The Citadel – what an amazing place. It is massive.
We didn’t organise a guide, and in hindsight we should have. I think we would have gotten far more out of it. Still, interesting none the less.
Got back to the hotel and started packing up. We had a mid afternoon flight to Hanoi.
Incidentally, this was the only internal flight that had a time change and that had happened a month before we left.
A quick lunch and we were off to the airport. The private transfer had been arranged by our travel agent mate. And he even managed to balls that one up. Sent us a four seater when he intimated that it would be a seven seater.
So my opinion on Hue?
My initial opinion was that I didn’t really like it.
But I’m now unsure as to why that is. It may just be me.
I had no preconceived ideas about the place and didn’t really have anything planned apart from probably seeing the tunnels.
I think I was surprised by what I found when we first arrived. I didn’t know what to expect but it wasn’t what I expected. If that makes sense…..?
I was surprised by the number of tourists there. And in particular, the type of tourist. They seemed very young and Hue to me doesn’t come across as a young persons’ place. Maybe it was just the area where we were staying?
For a place that has so much history, I found it a little characterless.
Big wide roads (in parts) with large uninteresting buildings.
I don’t know, it just didn’t grab me.
Like I said, it’s probably just me.
Anyway, waffled on too long again.
Till the next one,