15 September – hue
Wake up about 7.00am, just like yesterday. But unlike yesterday, I don’t feel the need to check on our belongings, nor do I have to move any beer cans that were strategically placed near the door.
It’s a nice feeling.
We get organised, and head outside by 8.00am. It’s hot already. Like real hot!
The plan for today is the Citadel, which we actually saw in 2014, while the kids stayed in their hotel room. Ahhh, travelling with the kids takes me back, and I think about how lucky we are to be here without them.
I also wonder how the house is…..
I quickly force myself to alter my train of thought, as what I don’t know, isn’t actually happening.
So, the Citadel.
It was one of the first things mentioned that we would do, when Hue was officially put on the itinerary.
We’ve already been, back in 2014, but we walked around it on our own, and as such, kind of felt that we didn’t get as much out of it as we would have, had we had a guide.
That, today, is going to be rectified, and hopefully it will be someone who will be able to make it all so interesting and entertaining, that I will walk away from the place far more knowledgeable, and with a real appreciation for long ago happenings related to Royal type stuff.
Neither of us is terribly hungry, so we set off for the Citadel on foot, which is probably not the Intrepid Explorer’s preferred mode of transport.
Oh well, she’s not in charge of transport.
Down to the river, and yep, there’s the boardwalk I’d read about. The temptation to walk it is low, as it’s in the sun, and I can’t really see anything that looks appealing enough to actually walk to, anyway.
We do however walk a very short section of it, mainly because it will put us in the shade, as well as negate the need to cross the busy road, as the boardwalk goes under said busy road.
Into the shade; ahhh, relief; past the local guy in the river, under the bridge, washing his clothes, and then up the other side to walk the bridge.
We’re above a fairly wide expanse of water, but it makes absolutely no difference to the heat we’re feeling. And if I’m feeling it, Lisa will be feeling it more.
Avoiding eye contact is now a priority.
We reach the other side, and make our way towards the large-ish carpark with all the shops.
Being very close to the Citadel, it’s obviously an area that would likely have vendors who target tourists, and therefore an area I would ordinarily try and avoid.
But there’s a Mom and Pop type nuoc mia da cart set up there, and with more stating to the intrepid one, rather than asking, we’re going to partake in sugarcane’s finest gift.
And at 10 000 Dong each, it’s hardly the tourist rip off price I more than half expected.
We move on towards the Citadel, feeling slightly cooler, or maybe just slightly happier, following our newly acquired purchase.
Past all the photo posing ao dai wearing locals, just like yesterday, and finally up to the main entrance by 9.00am.
Tickets purchased at 200 000 Dong each, and then it’s time to do something that we should have done in 2014, which is to arrange that guide.
And if only we had, as that would have negated the need to hand over the 400 000 Dong I just have, to see the place again.
But, would we actually be here in Hue a second time, if not for the opportunity to see the Citadel again?
I’m not sure.
I can see where we can get our much-wanted guide from, but I can also see that they now have audio guides.
I think back to the last time we used an audio guide, which is possibly also the only time I’ve ever used an audio guide, and that was in Phnom Penh when we visited Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields.
It was one of the more difficult days of my life, but at the same time, the guide had been done exceptionally well.
A human guide is appealing, but it also has that component of potential difficultness, with over the top information that I know less than 50 percent will ‘stick’, along with the awkwardness of feigning interest, when I reach the point of losing interest, that I know will definitely happen.
I suspect the heat will also come into play at some point, and merely dumping the audio guide into wherever dumped audio guides go, when the point of giving up arrives, is perhaps easier than dumping a human one.
So, audio guide it will be, and we head over to the girl at the audio guide desk. Conversation is had, which is in English, and then she asks if we’d like our guide in English.
Ummm, yes, I say, followed by ‘definitely not Vietnamese’.
She laughs, and I smile, while wondering what other language she thought we may have wanted.
Another 200 000 Dong handed over (100 000 each), and we head off to become more historically educated on all things associated with walled royalty.
The audio begins at the first ‘number’ we come across, and we stand in the baking sun while the voice tells us what we’re looking at, as beads of sweat roll down our backs.
We move on to the next, and then the one after, and the one after that.
Occasionally we find shade, and at one point, we actually find shade and a place to sit. Being able to see several numbers from our sitting vantage point, we’re able to knock off several of them without actually moving, while eking out the last, and fast diminishing, ice cubes from our nuoc mia da’s.
The shade helps. A little bit.
The audio is good, but I just struggle with this sort of history stuff.
It’s interesting, but it just doesn’t keep my interest. And I’m not really sure why.
Obviously it’s completely different to the audio guides at Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields, and while they were incredibly difficult to listen to, it was a story I could understand. Not the actual act of what was committed, but being just 50 or so years ago, it felt far more relatable.
The Citadel, and its history, on the other hand, I just find far harder to relate to. It’s the size, and it is massive, but it’s also the timeline, with it being so long ago. But then again, some of it also isn’t all that long ago.
Maybe it’s just royal type stuff that just doesn’t resonate with me?
I don’t know, I guess I’ve just never really been into historical stuff that I struggle to relate to.
On we walk, and on we listen, while those beads of sweat lose the ability to run, now that they have been trapped by our now soaked t-shirts.
We come across another tourist, who, because he was wearing a Gold Coast t-shirt, may have been a fellow Aussie, standing in the shade with a glazed look on his face. It may have been partly due to the information overload, but I think it was mainly due to the heat thing.
While we were struggling, he actually made us feel better, because he looked far worse than either of us combined.
We find a toilet, which only one of us needs; I think mine had just sweated out of me; and I find a much-needed seat in the shade. She eventually returns and collapses next to me. She’s wilting, and I pretty much feel the same way. My legs have had enough, and my brain, like my body, is fried.
I no longer possess the ability to learn, and anything that is remotely educational, is now just noise.
Decision is made to call it, and we begin the what feels like 15 kilometre walk to the exit on the eastern side.
It’s only 11.00am, but the thought of food enters our minds, probably due to the fact that we missed breakfast. But right now, she needs a drink, as I do too.
We get to the exit, audio guides dropped into the audio guide bin, and make our way out.
The way out.
Not even making it to the road, and the offers of cyclos, xe oms, and anything thing else that one can ‘sell’, begins.
Ignoring all, we make our way over to the park where we can see someone selling drinks. The lovely old lady sees us coming, and we’re quickly seated in the shade of the trees. Our second nuoc mia da of the day is promptly ordered, along with a cold bottle of water, all for the total cost of 30 000 Dong.
Our nuoc mia da lady.
With the batteries somewhat recharged, it’s time to work out what’s next. Chợ Đông Ba, which is simply Đông Ba market, is suggested, which she’s not overly keen on. Not because she doesn’t like markets, but because she’s ready to sit on a bed and do nothing after our walk around the oven that was the Citadel.
I mention there’ll be food there, which promptly seals the deal. The distance to get there, according to Maps.me, is 1.5 kms, which I say quickly, and then, just as quickly, change the subject.
We head off, declining all the cyclos yet again, and try and stick to any shaded areas we can find.
The walk doesn’t take as long as I thought it would, and even Lisa seems surprised at how close it actually was.
Into the market, and yep, the usual sights are found. And as always, it’s interesting, although perhaps a little underwhelming, but that’s probably because I was expecting it to be much larger, for some reason.
Non-dried seafood vendor.
We find the dried squid and seafood area, and as happens pretty much every time we come across that area, the Intrepid Explorer makes noises about how much she hates the smell.
I show no sympathy, and wonder how many more times she will feel the need to tell me of this particular complaint.
Lisa’s favourite part of a Vietnamese market….
We come across a couple of options when it comes to lunch, but none are to someone’s liking. We then a find a woman who appears to do several dishes, but more importantly, she has six or seven young locals eating at her stall.
Before I’ve even had a chance to ask, Lisa says yes.
Room is made for us, and we now have a seat each.
We decide on beef and chicken skewers, which comes with lettuce, cucumber and herbs, as well as rice paper sheets, and an accompanying bowl of peanut dipping sauce.
Another woman asks if we’d like a Coke, and with all the fluids lost today, the answer is yes please.
The Coke comes with a big block of ice in a glass, which melts significantly as soon as the Coke touches it, but it quickly does its job.
The skewers are beautiful, although the lady cooking them tells Lisa off for the way she’s wrapping the meat up in the rice paper.
Duly admonished, she soon gets it right, and it was all rather funny.
There’s several signs listing the different meals our lady does, but it’s a bit difficult trying to work out the exact name of our dish.
We get talking to the young couple next to us, in the hope they might be able to explain. They don’t speak English, so we attempt Google translate. The end result is that we’re apparently having ‘skewers’, which wasn’t quite the answer we were hoping for, but was a bit fun trying to find out anyway.
Food, which again was beautiful, and is something I could probably eat every day, done, we pay the bill of 100 000 Dong, which worked out to be 10 000 per skewer.
As we’re about to leave, our Coke lady, who I had forgotten about, reappears and says 30 000 Dong. The realisation then hits me that she’s not actually a part of our lunch lady’s set up, and rather just another vendor who piggybacks off her neighbour.
Not that I have any issue with that.
Drinks bill now paid, we head off back through the market.
We get to the tourist hat section, and while I want, and need, a new hat, of which there are some here, I just can’t be bothered with the tourist stuff. It can wait for another time.
Back outside into the heat, down towards the other bridge, and across the river in the general direction of Eva’s.
Back across the river.
We end up at the VIB bank ATM we used yesterday, and in the interests of acquiring more money, as well as a little research into how much money we can actually get, and for how much, we make use of the ATM.
Ten million is punched in, and 10 000 000 is duly spat out. And again, with no fee mentioned, it seems there is no ATM fee.
This is now so much easier than what we found three years ago.
While the twenty extra notes are now making my wallet work harder than it has in a long time, the fact that they’re mostly 500 000 Dong notes is a problem. They’re just a hassle for most of your everyday purchases.
But seeing as we’re outside a bank, we can actually do something about that. But not right now, apparently, as according to the young security guard out the front, there’s no one to help us at the moment, as it’s currently lunchtime. They’ll be back at 1.00pm, which means we have 10 minutes to wait.
No problem, so we take a seat outside and do the waiting thing.
One by one they return from their break, and once they’re all back, we’re let inside. We get our point across to teller one, who then asks teller three for some money. A plastic bag soon appears, which contains countless notes all neatly stacked, and secured by rubber bands.
One of those rubber bands flicks off towards teller two, just missing her nose, as teller one begins to separate the required notes, and we soon have four of our newly acquired twenty 500 000 Dong notes, changed into fifteen notes of the 100 000 and 200 000 variety.
My wallet, and pocket, are now less happy.
Transaction complete, we head back to our room for a rest and recovery session. I am absolutely spent, and I know Lisa will be feeling it, too.
Sweat soaked t-shirts are peeled off, and that much needed nap is had.
Feeling significantly better, we head outside around 3.00pm to try and do something about our caphe sua da issue.
We know where we’re not going, which is where we went yesterday, and I’d prefer something smaller, and more local, than the Cong café just down the road.
A little further down the road, and just a bit past Cong, we find a place next to a small school. Decision is made that this will be the place that will rectify our coffee situation.
Two caphe sua da’s are ordered, and seats taken.
A few minutes later our coffees arrive, and caphe sua da’s they are not!
Not are they not only caphe sua da’s, but they are actually cappuccino type coffees, in a coffee cup, with a pretty little emblem scrolled into the froth.
Not even remotely close to what I was expecting!
I can’t believe it, and I’m so shocked that all I can do is just simply drink it. I’m not even sure I knew you could get coffees like this in Vietnam, and if I did, I’m not convinced I’d actually know how to order one.
I’m really trying to love Hue, but there are things that are impacting that particular desire. And the coffee thing is most definitely one of them.
Coffee had, but not enjoyed, along with the cold, but da-less, tra da, and the bill of 56 000 Dong is paid.
We head back out, and to try and overcome our disappointment, as well as get our ‘cold fix’ we just missed out on, we pick up a couple of coconut icy poles (14 000 Dong each) from my convenience store from last night.
They’re nice, and they do help slightly to take our mind off our disastrous caphe sua da run.
Very close to 4.00pm, it’s time to go and do my thing. Back to the room to drop Lisa off, but not before a quick chat with Eva on the way up. We need to do something about our growing pile of dirty clothes, which Eva can organise for us, and while we’re talking about that, she asks us if we’d like to catch up for a coffee at some point tomorrow. Absolutely we would, and that now gives something to do on our last full day in Hue.
Lisa left to sort out the clothes, I head off to do the beer thing. Out to the right, and then right again, a bit further on. I discover I have a problem.
Like last night, I can’t find it.
I keep walking, while trying to remember what the street looked like, and from which direction I walked when I returned to Eva’s yesterday afternoon.
Several streets are traversed, that in my mind, I believe make perfect sense in where I think my place is, but still, I just can’t find it.
Eventually, in desperation, I walk a street that I think makes absolutely no sense, and what do know, there it is!
And worse still, it’s actually around just one corner from where we’re staying.
Yep, I can be a little challenged at times…..
Crisis averted, seat taken, 450ml Huda beer arrives. Life is once again good.
The first one, which came out of the fridge, doesn’t last long, and the second one soon turns up. This time it’s warm, but that’s nothing some da can’t fix, and in some ways, it’s actually better for me with its slight watering down effect.
Everthing you need!
World, as it usually is, is watched, while also doing a doing a little WhatsApping to people who need to be WhatsApped.
Eventually it’s time to make a move, so the bill for the three beers is paid. And today it’s 54 000 Dong, which is 18 000 each, as opposed to the 57 000 it was yesterday.
I have no idea why, and I don’t really care anyway.
Back out onto the street, and two minutes down the road, it strikes me that I’m actually walking the wrong way.
I can’t even blame the beer, and with Lisa not being here, that’s not an option either. I correct my stupidity, and five minutes later I’m back at Eva’s, mentioning nothing about my ineptitude, but everything about my success in actually finding my beer place.
Shower had after a beer on the balcony, and then out to do something about dinner. Around the corner, and into our local street from last night, and we find a place doing those little pancake things, which I believe are bánh bèo, as well as some rice paper rolls.
The rice paper rolls are good, but the bánh bèo is sublime. So much so, we actually order a second serve.
While we’ve had no luck with the caphe sua da thing, we have managed to snag two really good meals in one day today. It’s not that I have any issues with Vietnamese food, it’s just that some is better than others, but it’s rare that I find something here, or anywhere for that matter, that makes me really sit up and take notice.
Dinner done (90 000 Dong), and done so quickly we didn’t really get a chance to order a beer with it, we head off fifteen minutes after arriving in what I hope will be a painless, and very quick, search for my beer place.
It is both of those things, and Lisa now knows where I’ve been the last two afternoons.
The second, this time successful, attempt at showing Lisa my beer place.
A few beers had, lots of people watching done, and then, both surprisingly and disappointingly, another Western tourist couple arrive.
But more disappointing than having tourists in my beer place, is what they ordered; chips, or fries, depending on where you come from, as well as garlic bread.
Yep, good traditional Vietnamese food…..
More beers, more watching, before calling time and fixing up the bill of 90 000 Dong, which confirmed the 18 000 Dong each price
Back ‘home’, with a brief stop off on the way at our convenience store for supplies, and then onto the bed for the usual beers, notes and Trip Advisor stuff.
We’d ‘sort of’ ticked something off today, with the Citadel visit, so that now doesn’t need to be seen again.
The rest of the day didn’t involve a lot, but it had been fun. Well, apart from our continuing caphe sua da issue.
And now, after two full days in Hue, how do I feel about it?
I like it, but don’t love it, but do really like our local street around the corner. I also really like the people, but then again, I like the Vietnamese people all over the country.
Would we return Hue, though?
At this point I wouldn’t say no, but at the same time, I’m also not sure why we would.
So, down to just one full day left in Hue, which I’m keen to make the most of. No real grand plan about what to do, but one possibility is a walk down to, and around, the island that sits in the Perfume River. No real reason for that, other than I know it’s there, and with a bit of luck we may see something that we’ve not seen before. If nothing else, it will give us something to do.
Oh, and hopefully, that coffee with Eva. Which I’m really hoping we can make happen.