13 september – can tho – hue
Alarm did its thing at 7.40am. Slept okay, but did have really strange dreams. Including one where we were already home.
Fortunately it was just a dream, but I think it says a bit about what my brain is spending far more time thinking about, than I’d like.
I really need to just think about today, today, and I can work on tomorrow, when tomorrow gets here.
Head up for breakfast of banh mi opla, along with a passionfruit juice. Simple breakfast, but really good, and while neither of our stomachs are yet totally happy, it’s all pretty mild, and much improved from yesterday.
Breakfast done, we sit and just take in our surroundings for as long as we can. For the fourth time in eight years, I really don’t want to go. In fact, I think it’s getting harder the more times we come here.
Doesn’t make it easy to leave.
Eventually head back to our hut for the final time, and finish off the packing up thing.
One thing we, although, it was really just me, have learnt over the last couple of trips, is the benefit of zip-lock bags for most of our clothes.
It’s twofold, with one advantage being that the clothes can be squashed down far more, and the other being the waterproofness of the said bags.
And with a three hour trip on the back of bikes this afternoon, and in an area that is known for heavy rain at this time of year, these bags may possibly come in really handy.
Clothes and bits and pieces bagged and bagged, we head back up to wait for our car, and to deal with that dreaded goodbye thing.
Rafael and Alexia make an appearance, with Alexia wearing a mask. It’s funny, three years ago I probably would have merely wondered why, but now three years later, there’s a whole lot more stuff that goes through your head.
They both look rather sombre, with Alexia looking particularly down. They’ve been speaking to their doctor back home, and the belief is that it might be tonsillitis. He’s recommended she go to hospital, which if it was me, would fill me with much nervousness, not least of all with the possibility of getting caught up in a Covid isolation situation.
I really feel for them, and hope that it’s not too serious, and that they’ll be able to salvage most of their remaining holiday.
About 15 minutes before our car is due at 10.00am, big black clouds roll in, and it’s soon raining lightly.
But the light rain doesn’t last long, as two minutes later it’s now hammering down.
Just after 10.00am, Thy tells us that our car is out the front. Time for the final goodbye has arrived, but it’s definitely a hen gap lai (see you later), and we make our way up the driveway for the last time.
The rain is still coming down hard, but Thy has a couple of umbrellas. They sort of work, in a way that doesn’t really work.
Doesn’t matter, and it was all rather funny.
Wet bags in the boot, a final wave, and we make our way out of the narrow paths and onto the main roads.
Off towards Can Tho, and into it, with the rain now easing. And for the first time since our international flights five days ago, we’re actually cold.
Wet clothes, along with a very efficient air conditioning unit, I guess will do that.
We make our way through the city, before heading out towards the airport, and fortunately, the rain has now stopped.
About forty minutes after leaving Green Village, we arrive at Can Tho International airport. A striking resemblance to Changi airport, it does not have.
Our driver jumps out to retrieve our bags from the boot, and we attempt to do the same. But we’re unsuccessful, as our security conscious driver has forgotten that he locked us in.
Bags now out, he’s organising us a trolley that we really don’t need, as we tap on the window trying to get his attention.
It’s not working, as his interest is with the unwanted trolley, as well having a joke with the driver parked in front of us.
Finally he realises, and very apologetically, frees us.
Being a Grab car, I have no idea what we owe him, but eventually work out it’s 250 000 Dong.
Money handed over, trolley returned to where airport trollies live, and we’re quickly inside and queued up to check in.
It’s quick, and painless, and before we know it, we’re in the security queue.
That was less quick, and less painless, with both of us being scolded for not removing all metal items.
Lisa’s was her watch, which I’m not really sure how she forgot that, whereas mine was for my belt.
The belt both annoyed, and annoys, me. Annoyed, because it didn’t go off in Singapore, but did here.
And annoys, because it’s just a pain in the arse to remove, as well as put back on, due to its slight bulkiness, as well as the rather tight loops on my shorts.
I really need to find more user friendly clothes.
Or just put on more weight so I don’t need the belt……
We eventually make it through, and just like five years ago, we’re in the area of Gates 5 to 8.
And just like last time, I still don’t know where Gates 1 to 4 are.
We sit, we wait, we walk, we watch the queueing thing, and just generally remain bored.
Bustling Can Tho International airport.
Having been here before, and therefore knowing how quiet an airport Can Tho is, as well as how little there is to do here, last night’s idea of getting here just 1.5 hours before the flight time, instead of our usual 2 hours, is now an even better idea than it was last night.
More sitting, and more thumb twiddling, while watching the boarding of the 11.30am flight to Hanoi, through Gate 8.
And judging by who was left, it looked like we were going to be the only Western tourists on the Danang flight. Perhaps not all that surprising, seeing as tourist numbers in Vietnam are still a long way off pre-Covid days, but still….
The 11.30am flight boarding didn’t take long, and the next time I looked around, the boarding of our 12.10pm flight was being done through the same gate.
It’s lucky I did turn around, as there was no announcement of it about to begin.
Checked through, and then downstairs and onto the bus. We’re pretty much last on, and end up just inside the rear of three doors.
Two minutes later we’re at our plane, and the belief that being last on and first off, is very much short lived.
We seem to be having door issues today, because for some unknown reason, the driver only opens the first two sets of doors.
We eventually make it off, and then onto the plane to watch the overhead compartment shenanigans, as well as those who struggle to align the seat number on their boarding pass, with the actual seat on the plane.
While that was happening I received two messages; one from Hanh from Kota’s House Homestay, with instructions and photos of how to get in when we arrive, which really shouldn’t have been a thing that needed to be done.
The second message was from Sherlock, from Motorvina, who is one of our motorbike drivers that will be taking us from Danang to Hue.
He seemed very pleased when I told him we were already on the plane, and it looked like we would be taking off on time.
And sure enough we did take off on time, and while many criticise Vietjet, I can’t complain, as we’ve had no issues (admittedly from a fairly small sample size) with them at all.
Well, apart from them pushing this flight back 1.5 hours, and thus causing us to miss our train.
But at least they gave us enough warning.
The flight is uneventful, as all good flights are, but it did give me things to think about and consider.
Gee I miss having young kids.
The little boy sitting on his dad’s knee, constantly playing with the fold down tray table, even when we were taking off.
Tray table down. Dad puts it back up. Tray table down. Tray table up, tray table down, and on it went.
The young girl opposite me, who spent most of the flight kicking the back of the seat with the lovely elderly Vietnamese lady in it, while mum remained oblivious, or perhaps just chose to ignore, what her lovely little daughter was doing.
Part way through the flight, the flight attendants roll out a cart. It’s Vietjet merchandise, which includes, amongst other things, a pretty large range of Vietjet flight attendant uniforms.
The tartan shorts, the red shirts, even the pilot’s shirts with all the badges on them. It’s funny, as it reminds me of the saying, ‘Build it, and they will come’.
In the end, they didn’t get far up the plane, as one customer commandeered them for a good 10 – 15 minutes.
I’m not sure what she spent, but judging by the size of the bag she’ll be taking home, it would have been a fair bit.
We’re getting close, and everyone, including the flight attendants, are now strapped in.
And then it begins.
The mother of the kid with the tray table fetish, seems to have some sort of flying / motion sickness issue, and proceeds, quite noisily, to fill multiple sick bags.
I have no idea what she had for breakfast, but by the sounds of it, it was significant, and I think I’d need at least two hands to count the number of bags she went through.
On it goes, and as we get lower, she gets louder, as the contents of her stomach diminish. She’s doing it tough, but her husband is doing it tougher, juggling both used bags, as well as new bags, that are being passed down the plane to him, his hyperactive toddler, and now his even younger child who has been sitting on mum’s knee.
While I felt for her, and him, I actually found it quite funny, as I’ve never heard a plane become so quiet, as the vast majority held their breath. For obvious reasons….
Down on the ground by 1.30pm, and she’s still going as we taxi to the terminal, but the worst is clearly over.
Off the plane, avoiding eye contact just in case, with the unfortunate row involved, and on the bus and into the terminal within a couple of minutes.
Find our baggage carousel, while Lisa finds a toilet, and my job is done before Lisa returns, with our bag making an appearance in the first ten that are released. It’s not quite as good as Phnom Penh three years ago, when ours was first out, but it does make me think back to that momentous occasion.
The fact that I still recall it, should give an indication as to how big a deal it was. And still is.
Yes, I don’t have a lot of special stuff happen in my life…..
Quickly outside, and with a little help from us being pretty much the only Westerners in the vicinity, Sherlock, and his mate So, find us.
We then head off to the bike parking area nearby to try and find their bikes, which due to the sheer number of them, probably took longer than them finding us.
Needle in a haystack stuff.
Can Tho, and Saigon for that matter, were hot, but Danang feels like an oven. Impressing myself with some forethought, which doesn’t happen very often, I pull out the sunscreen, while Sherlock and So strap down the bags.
We’re quickly on our way just before 2.00pm, which after landing at 1.30pm, was pretty impressive.
Out onto the streets of Danang, and we begin making our way towards the mountain range, with familiar roads, and familiar sights, even though it’s been five years. We soon begin the climb, and it doesn’t take long before that scenery comes into view.
Lisa on So’s bike.
There’s an occasional stop or two on the way up to take it in, while also trying to get the camera to do it justice. We then stop again closer to the top for a rest, and a quick lunch.
It’s a simple one of two minute noodles with sausage and egg, along with a passionfruit juice and tra da.
While there was nothing wrong with our simple lunch, the food paled in comparison to where we were, and what we were looking at.
It was just stunning, and again, it reminded me of 2017 when Toan and I enjoyed a drink while looking out over the most amazing mountains I’d ever seen.
Camera kind of captures it, but we don’t improve it.
Lunch done, a few photos, as well as a great chat with Sherlock, who is a lovely guy and very easy to talk to, and we were back on the bikes with So, who had been looking after them.
Over The Pass, where they’re doing some restoration work on the old buildings there, and then down into Lang Co for the obligatory photo opportunity.
We continue on, reaching a short-ish tunnel, which makes me realise I’ve never been through a tunnel while on the back of a bike – not that it was on any sort of wish list – and then veer off the main road not long after it, to check out a very large lagoon, which also gives us a chance to stretch our legs.
Fishing boats / homes on the lagoon.
Back on the bikes, and then eventually back on the main road, and it’s at this point that I realise that Hue is most definitely not a day trip from Danang. Well, not coming the scenic way.
We reach the outskirts of Hue around 4.30pm, and then the city proper not long after. The traffic, which had been reasonably light for most of the journey since leaving Danang, was now at another level. Not quite at a Saigon level, but still incredibly busy all the same. Again, very pleased to be able to sit back and watch, rather than concentrating on the driving thing.
It’s been a long eight years since we’ve been here, with one of the reasons for that being that we didn’t really enjoy Hue back then on our first trip, but it’s nice to see the place again.
We eventually reach the river; I now have my bearings, and we’re soon crossing it towards the Citadel, with memories of 2014 returning.
Through one of the Gates, which was kind of cool, and then sort of around the back of the Citadel, which up until a few months ago, I had no idea that it was in a much larger Citadel.
The lack of the whole research thing, which was perhaps one of the reasons we didn’t ‘get’ Hue back on our first trip….
Through a Citadel gate, and now getting close.
A quick stop to check the map, correction made, and then down a couple of very narrow lanes in search of Kota’s House Homestay.
It’s where the map says it’s supposed to be, as we pull up outside it just after 5.00pm. Bags untied from the bikes, and it’s time to say goodbye to Sherlock and So from Motorvina. While I was a little disappointed we missed out on the opportunity to do the train again, I was very pleased about the way we were able to do it instead. There was obviously the scenery, but the whole trip up from Danang with the boys had been a lot of fun. And again, a reminder of just how great it is seeing parts of Vietnam from the back of a bike.
WhatsApp on my phone is consulted for the entry instructions, and we’re soon inside. It’s a bit of a strange feeling being in someone’s house, when they’re not there, and it feels almost like we shouldn’t be there.
We find our room, which is at the back of the house, and while pretty simple, seems nice enough. Opening the back door, and the expected small courtyard is actually the bathroom, with a basin at one end, and the shower and toilet at the other. It’s all rather private, with a reasonably tall brick / concrete / tiled wall, along with a wire mesh extension, with a screen attached, but no roof. Not sure what it would be like in the cooler months, but that’s not going to be a concern for us over the next four days with this heat.
It was a bit of a surprise though, as I don’t recall seeing photos of it when I booked it, but that’s likely to be a memory issue, as opposed to anything else.
Bags dropped, and we head back outside to have a look around, with the main aim of finding a beer.
Out of our lane, and then up the larger road next to one of the Citadel’s moats. Turn right onto the road that brought us in, and while it’s not a large main road, there’s plenty about. And as far as street food goes, well, the hardest thing in that department will be deciding which one you want to eat at.
No visible bar found, but we find a street food lady who also has beer, so the question is asked if we can just do that. The friendly nod indicates we can, but then she asks if we want food. Not at the moment, but maybe a bit later.
A small table and a couple of the usual small plastic chairs are found, and we quickly have two bottles of warm Huda beer in the always appreciated 450ml size, along with enough ice to do what is required to the said beer.
I love it, and judging by the reactions and the looks some of the locals gave us, they seemed pretty happy that we were there as well.
I think I’m going to like this area.
Part way through the first beer, and seeing as it was kind of dinner time, we do the right thing and order some of their food. It turns out that it’s a choice of shredded chicken or duck, and it comes mixed in with a salad. We go with the chicken option, because that’s what Lisa chooses, and we share a plate. Still being a little early, we consider it more an entrée, rather than dinner itself.
Food done, beers had, the bill of 130 000 Dong (food 50 000, beers 80 000 – 4 x 20 000 each) is paid, and we head back in the direction of Kota’s. We stop along the way at a convenience store for supplies of beers, apple ciders, soap, and because we’re going to be here for four nights, a 5 litre bottle of water to try and help save the planet of multiple smaller bottles.
Supplies dropped off, we head back out to try and do something about adding to our entrée intake.
Now perhaps getting a little late for dinner, there’s not a huge amount to choose from, and we end up round the corner opposite the ‘moat’, at a reasonably large family run establishment.
They have a fairly extensive menu, which is never my preferred option, and with the help of Google translate, we end up ordering a BBQ pork dish that comes with lettuce (75 000 Dong each), as well as a few beers, which, at 13 000 Dong, were actually cheaper than around the corner, but were also in the smaller bottle size.
The ice for the beers did its thing, which made the beers good, and the food was, well, it was okay, with the pork being rather dry.
In the end, it was just about relaxing out on the street, reflecting on our day, and making some loose plans for our next few days, on this, our second attempt at trying to understand and enjoy Hue.
Which, so far so good, with the area living up to the expectations I hoped it would have.
Quick toilet visit inside the ‘restaurant’, at the rather interesting looking right angled urinal with the bunch of spring onions hanging nearby – which, perhaps not surprisingly, caused me to try and remember if our pork dish had spring onions in it, and then back off ‘home’ to Kota’s.
The son is now home, along with a few of his mates, and they’re playing video games on the tv. He, along with his mates, give us nothing as we walk in, which, being teenagers, perhaps isn’t all that surprising. They’re a little noisy, but that’s alright, we have no plans of going to sleep just yet.
Into our room, and while I do the usual beers on the bed thing, Lisa heads outside to do the shower thing.
A minute later she returns, not only still dry, but with a look on her face that I’m not sure I’ve seen before.
The shower is one of those that has a shower head, as well as a tap attached to the same pipe, and she was trying, unsuccessfully, to get the water to come out of the shower head, and not the tap.
Struggling with it, she turned to head back inside for help, and as she did so, she noticed someone peering over the wall at the far end.
The look on her face at this privacy intrusion tells me we now have a major problem. And it will be a problem that can only be solved elsewhere.
I was prepared to put up with the disappointment / annoyance of our host not being here, but this is now a whole different story. It also now makes you think of other possibilities, and the whole stay now has a creepy feel about it.
I head outside to look at the shower, and end up being as successful as Lisa was at trying to get the water to come out of the preferred outlet. She ends up using the tap for a quick wash, while I remain hot, sweaty, and dusty.
Back to my position on the bed, but now with completely altered contemplations. The only definite I know at the moment is that we will not be here tomorrow night. But the problem I have at the moment is that I just don’t know where we will be.
I’m annoyed, because I really tried to do something completely different to our last visit here in Hue. I ended up succeeding in regards to the area of our accommodation, but that all now amounts to naught, with what has just happened.
I really, really, don’t want to go back over the river to where all the tourists are, and where we were last time, but I spent a lot of time looking for something around this area, and I struggled to find a second or third possibility.
Yep, I’m annoyed. And incredibly disappointed.
I’ve also lost all trust and confidence in where we are, so much so that I make our passports and money more secure, as well as put some empty beer cans at the base of the door.
All probably totally unnecessary, but that’s now my state of mind.
And I hate that.