14 september – hue
Awake about 7.00am, and yeah, wasn’t the best night’s sleep. Woke up several times from our mortuary slab style mattress, mostly due to not ever really reaching that deep sleep, for obvious reasons, as well as to deal with those last few beers.
Oh, and probably also because of that mattress…..
The beer cans are still where I left them, as too are our belongings, so that’s a positive.
Doze for a bit, and then finally up to deal with our predicament, heading out just after 8.00am.
First plan is to check out a ‘homestay’, which was pretty much the first one I looked at all those months ago, but then discounted rather quickly, on the eastern side of the Citadel.
Down our lane, with passports in pocket, and out onto the road beside the moat, where we had dinner last night. It’s already hot, and while not melting hot, it’s not far off it.
We reach the bridge over the moat, cross it, then continue on a bit. The heat makes me think of a caphe sua da, which I mention to the intrepid one.
She likes that idea, but it’s at that exact moment that I realise I’ve left my wallet back at the room.
Lisa offers to come back with me, but it’ll be quicker if I go alone. She also only has a certain amount of walking in her each day, made worse with this type of heat, and pointless walking is just wasted walking.
I head off on my own, significantly annoyed at myself.
Back over the moat, noticing the couple of fisher people trying their luck, and then onto the main-ish road.
One of the Citadel’s moats.
Sweat is now well and truly a thing, and I’m very pleased I left Lisa behind.
Back to Kota’s, wallet retrieved, and I stop when I notice a door, just outside our room’s door.
I tentatively open it, and it’s a bathroom, which now gets me thinking.
Is this the bathroom that we’re supposed to use? Hanh’s son didn’t say anything about it yesterday, when he arrived just after we did.
It’s dark, with no external windows, and I can’t find a light switch. But I can just make out toothbrushes on the bench, and I assume it’s the family’s bathroom, and not the guest bathroom.
I close the door, re-lock the house and head off to Lisa, hopefully where I left her.
But it all has me thinking now, and I’m questioning if we’re doing the right thing by doing a runner?
I list the issues in my mind as I head back. First, Hanh (the owner) isn’t here, even though she should be, and that makes it difficult to deal with these problems.
Second, we can’t get the shower to work, and with another three nights to go, that’s just a bit too much to deal with.
And third, the peeping Tom issue, which, after seeing Lisa’s reaction, that alone is more than enough confirmation of the decision.
Nope, we’re doing this.
I eventually reach Lisa, and yep, she’s where I left her. Down a bit further, bit of map reading undertaken, and we find the ‘homestay’ we’re looking for.
It looks alright, but I just don’t like the area. It’s, I don’t know, just a bit too upmarket, for want of a better word???
And for that reason, we pretty much discount it straight away.
Back up to the main road, and the objective is to use what I went back to Kota’s for, by doing something about that much needed caphe sua da.
We find a café with some chairs outside, and I head in while Lisa takes a seat. I ask the question, after waiting several minutes for someone to notice me, and my coffee woman gives me a blank look.
I try again, and we eventually have an understanding.
Our caphe sua da’s soon turn up, but they’re minus the ‘sua’ bit.
After the difficulty in ordering, it’s all just too hard to try and correct the problem, so we just go with our black iced coffee.
But this, while obviously comparatively minor in the whole scheme of things, is just another thing that is impacting our attempt on this whole re Hue-ing thing.
Almost finished our ‘sua’-less coffee, and they begin packing all the other tables and chairs away. Hint taken, we head off in search of accommodation possibility number two, which just happens to be on the western side of the Citadel.
Knowing this is really going to push someone’s limits, I try and keep upbeat, which is a bit of a push for me.
Down to the southern end of the Citadel, which gives a much grander view. And yep, it’s an impressive looking place.
Past all the locals, vast majority being females, and most wearing ao dai’s and posing for photos in the hot sun.
It seems to be the thing to be done, for some reason, and most of them are not that young.
It’s an impressive looking structure.
Just one of many in front of a camera.
We reach the western side, turn right, and then veer off to the left into the street that the next homestay should be in.
We walk straight past it without even realising, but that’s okay, as we don’t like the street.
On to number three, which we do manage to find, but it isn’t the one I actually set out to find. It’s too far away from everything, which I knew, and that’s why it wasn’t on our list.
I’ll blame the heat for messing with my mind…..
Correction made, and back up the road we just needlessly walked down, becoming acutely aware that Lisa behind me is beginning to wilt.
Eventually, according to the map, we reach the fourth homestay, which is really the third. But in reality, it’s neither, as it’s not where the map says it should be.
That’s it, I’m now done. It’s been such a wasted morning, and I no longer want to play this game. The toys are still in the cot, but only just.
And I know I’ve pushed Lisa as far as I can.
We head off in the direction of the homestay we’re trying to extricate ourselves from, while keeping an eye out for a cold drink.
Onto the road that runs along the western side of the Citadel, and a voice comes from behind.
“Can we stop and get a drink? I’m really struggling”, the wilting one pleads.
“Yes, I know, and that’s what I’m trying to do”, I reply, kind of feeling sorry for her.
“Oh, you knew?”, she responds, with a fair bit of surprise in her voice.
“Yes, I knew before you did.”
She thinks I’m psychic, but having been with her so long, I just get this sense. She’s also not as good at hiding it, as she thinks she is.
Café eventually found, and we head in. Surprised to see us is an understatement, and they all look at each other waiting for someone else to pluck up the courage to serve us.
Finally the young girl does, and with the help of Google translate, we have the conversation that needed to be had.
Two orange juices and ice (15 000 Dong each), and we’re quickly doing the cooling down thing. It was badly needed, and really good, but in the end it didn’t matter what it was going to be, it just needed to be very wet, and really cold.
And our girl was really nice too, and I admired her for the way she stepped up to help us, when the others were so reluctant.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a criticism, as I completely understand how daunting it can be.
We sip, and savour, while trying to come up with Plan C, seeing as Plan B was an abject failure.
I really don’t want to go back over the other side of the river, but I think we’ve reached a point where we don’t really have a choice.
Remembering a place that a friend I’ve met through Trip Advisor, John, often recommends, that becomes our objective.
I just can’t recall the name of it, and my only recollection of it is that it’s not in the main tourist area, but it’s also not terribly far from it.
I send John a message, hoping he’s awake, while then searching the Trip Advisor forum in the hope I can find a mention.
That works quicker than getting a reply from John, and I now have a WhatsApp number for Eva Homestay, which I send a text to.
Juice done, heat recovery somewhat done, we head back to Kota’s about 11.00am, to begin the waiting game.
About half an hour later we get a text from Eva, who is also sometimes known as Melody, from Eva Homestay, saying she has a room available for the next three nights.
“We’ll take it, and can we come now?”, is my hastily typed response.
Yes, is the reply I was hoping for, and that is what I received.
It’s such a huge relief, and I just can’t wait to move on from this mess, and hopefully start to actually enjoy Hue.
We pack up like people possessed, as I expect the son to be home from school for his midday break, and I’d rather not be here when he arrives.
I send Eva the address of where we are, and ask if she can ring us a taxi. Of course she can.
Pack up complete, money, being payment for our one night stay, along with the key, is left on the table, and we head outside and up to the road beside the moat.
While waiting, the son does return, and sees us as he turns into the lane. I’m not sure if he saw our bags, though.
Ten minutes later the taxi turns up, and we’re on our way after showing him Eva’s address on my phone.
Back out past the Citadel, and over the Perfume River, and a few minutes later we pull up near a sign that says Eva Homestay.
Bags retrieved, 70 000 Dong fare paid, and we head in and are immediately welcomed by Eva. It’s nice to put a face to the name of our saviour, and straight away she seems so lovely.
She shows us to our room, which is also great, and then, being lunchtime, we head out to explore the area a little, to see what’s around.
The road we’re on is interesting enough, but just around the corner, it’s far more local looking with several food options.
One is durian, which the older female vendor offers us with a smile. That is not going to happen, and we have a bit of a laugh with her.
Up a bit further is a couple doing Bun bo (beef noodle soup), and we quickly find ourselves seated on the street, with a couple of steaming bowls in front of us, that still feels so wrong in this heat.
But it’s good, and much enjoyed, and I already think it might be a street we’ll end up spending a bit of time in.
While having lunch we’re approached by an older guy with really good English, who initially, seemed like he was just interested in a chat. But of course there’s often more to it than idle chatter, as the pushing of tour guide services quickly followed.
Eventually he got the message, and left us alone.
Now ‘safely’ on the other side of the river, I take the opportunity to let Hanh from Kota’s Homestay know what happened. She’s very apologetic, and explains that while she’s never had any issue like that, she will look into it to find a solution.
We’re both okay with that, and as far as I’m concerned, we’ve now moved on.
Food bill of 100 000 Dong (total) paid, and because we haven’t done enough walking already today, we head off towards the tourist area to see what we can recognise.
We stop at a VIB ATM on the way, and manage to withdraw 4 million Dong, seemingly without a fee.
That’s interesting, as we’ve always copped the ATM fees, with the exception of Citibank; and the fact that we were able to get 4 million, indicates we may be able to get more, after really struggling in 2019 to get much more than 2 or 3 million at a time.
Prior to 2019, we never really had that issue.
Onto the tourist area, and yep, some is familiar, and yep, it has about as much appeal as it did eight years ago.
The touts, the cyclos, the xe om’s, they’re all still there. And the tourists, of which there seem to be quite a lot of. Nothing like pre-Covid days, but far more than we’ve seen in the last week.
And again, like 2014, they’re much younger than I thought Hue would attract, with it pretty much being the historical capital of Vietnam.
But it’s mainly the touts, cyclos and xe om’s that I’m really struggling to understand. You’ll find them, obviously, everywhere you’ll find a congregation of tourists, but they just seem different here.
There’s an aggressiveness, or harshness, to them, that while not coming across as threatening or dangerous, could make some people feel a little uneasy.
It’s a bit like they’re not going to take ‘no’ as an answer, so you really need to be firm. No need to be nasty, but just stand your ground with politeness.
But again, that’s tourist central, and up until we’d got there, we’d not found that in the short amount of time we’d spent near Eva’s.
Lisa’s beginning to wilt again, and she lets me know she needs to go back.
“I know, we’re already heading in that direction”, I say.
“Oh”, is the response, with not one bit of eye rolling coming from me.
And I mean that sincerely, as we’ve only just arrived, and if at some point during our visit she does get her bearings, I know there’s no chance it will happen today.
Café around the corner from Eva’s is found, and we head in. Caphe sua da is the request, but we’re met with blank looks. I try tra da, but again, same response.
A local in there sees our struggles, and comes over to try and help. He has some English, and understanding what we’re after, speaks to the two employees.
Apparently, and I’m really finding this difficult to believe, they don’t do either of those drinks.
Yep, I’m stunned, and yep, again, this is not helping with the ‘love for Hue’ thing.
We end up having a cocoa with ice (21 000 Dong), which I’ve never had before, and will never have again.
Disappointing drink done, Lisa heads back to the room for a rest and recovery session, while I find a convenience store to deal with the in-room beer thing.
Huda beer found for 15 000 Dong, which while in the ballpark, is still more expensive than the 13 000 I was paying last night at the restaurant.
Back to the room to cool down, and write some notes out on the balcony, about what has become a rather long day. But, at least now, I feel we have salvaged something from it.
That done, I find Lisa asleep when I return inside. I really need a nap, but I need a beer more, but not wanting to wake her, I also lay down.
Ten minutes later I wake up, and actually feel much better for it, so I obviously needed it.
Well and truly beer o’clock, I head off downstairs and end up having a quick chat with Eva about possible local beer places. She thinks I might be a bit early, but I take that as a challenge as I head out to see what I can find.
Worse case scenario, I’ll go to the tourist area, but I will be doing everything I can to avoid that particular scenario.
Out of Eva’s, turn right, and then eventually turn right again. Big scary intersection with lots of streets entering and exiting traversed, and yep, not much found.
Back down a narrower road, attempts made at a couple of places that look promising, but aren’t, and then find a very accommodating place a bit further on.
It’s a small bar / restaurant, and while it’s not exactly what I was looking for, they are incredibly friendly.
Table and chair found, which wasn’t difficult, seeing as there was only one other group in there, and I quickly have a cold 450ml Huda beer in front of me. And after the heat, and the day we’d had, I’m not sure a beer has ever tasted better.
The only other occupied table consists of four men, one of them a fair bit older, who happened to also have a young boy of maybe 8 or 9 years old with him. He kept prompting the boy to come and talk with me, but the boy is just too shy, so he lets it go.
That’s okay, I’m not going anywhere just yet, so if he changes his mind, I’m more than happy to practice some English.
So the sitting and the watching of the world ensues, while beers are enjoyed, and people are caught up with on WhatsApp.
A little later a younger guy joins the group, and it seems he may be the young boy’s father, with the older guy probably the grandfather.
The grandfather’s job appears to be done, as Dad is about to take his son home, so I try to coax the boy over before he leaves.
His shyness is killing him, but he reluctantly comes over.
I ask him his name, and he tells me. I tell him mine, and that I’m pleased to meet him, and then put my hand out to shake his. He obliges, with a nervous smile, before heading off with his dad.
Beers and world watching continue, until about 20 minutes later the grandfather also makes a move. But before he does, he comes over and shakes my hand, while saying thank you.
It was a lovely gesture, and one that meant far more to me than he probably knows.
Three beers done (19 000 Dong each), and it’s time to go ‘home’.
Sights of Hue.
Much needed shower had, due to both heat, as well as yesterday’s lack of one, and then it’s back downstairs to find a dinner place.
We bump into Eva on the way, as well as her husband, Dũng, who is also really friendly, and stop for a chat. I brought up John from Trip Advisor, and that in turn brought up her foster father, Steve. It was lovely talking to her, and it was really nice to be able to put a few pieces of the puzzle together.
Outside and we make our way over to our lunch street, and end up settling on a husband and wife doing a fried rice type dish. Pretty simple stuff, but again, really nice, and a far more desirable setting than can be found just a couple of blocks away.
Food done at 55 000 Dong each, plus a couple of beers, and then it’s off in search of my beer place from this afternoon.
But, and due mainly to the fact that I originally found it after walking in circles for a while, I cannot for the life of me find it again. With my bearings completely and utterly now shot, I give up, and we decide to give a rather noisy place a go, that we just happen to stumble across, while walking aimlessly.
It’s not great, but it’s more than adequate, but I really do hope I can find my earlier place tomorrow, when the time arrives.
Having said that, the 450ml Huda beers here at 12 000 Dong, are pretty hard to go past, especially when you consider I paid 15 000 for 330ml cans at the convenience store just a few hours ago.
I will, at some point, let that go….
Beers, and noise, done, we decide to end the outside socializing and head back to our room, stopping at another, but much more family run, convenience store.
This time it’s 5x450ml Huda, 2x330ml Saigon beer, 1 Coke, and one packet of chips, all for 148 000 Dong.
I’ve now found my convenience store, and the previous one will not be entered again.
Back at Eva’s, and we have a quick chat with her again, as well as try a little English with her daughter, who is as lovely as her mum.
Upstairs for the usual late night bed thing, with beers I probably don’t really need, as well as a few more notes.
It’s been one of those days where I feel like we’ve been so busy, and done so much, but when you actually think about it, there really doesn’t seem to be much to show for it.
But it’s been an interesting day, in that it started out pretty ordinary, got a whole lot worse, and then ultimately finished in a far better place.
This is not where we planned to be; in fact this is exactly what I was trying to avoid, but now, I am just so pleased that we are here.
Perhaps, for some as yet unknown reason, this was just meant to be.