16 september – hue
Awake around 6.45am. Not a chance that that is going to happen.
Manage to eek out another hour, and then make a move. But only because we really should.
We get a message from Eva, and yep, we’re doing the coffee thing after breakfast. Hue is finishing far better than it began.
Downstairs and outside in search of that breakfast, and we find ourselves in our local street around the corner. There’s actually a little street market here in the morning, which just helps to confirm how much I love this area, and I can’t ever imagine staying in that other area, just a few blocks away.
There’s not a lot of options from a breakfast perspective, but we do find a rather busy bún bò Huế place.
This’ll do, so we head across the street. They’re happy to see us, but there is also an element of ‘oh, oh’.
That’s alright, we still have more than our fair share of those moments, as we deal with this Vietnam obsession.
A table is found, and we sit while our lady tries to work out what we want. I honestly don’t care what comes in it, or with it, I will just deal with whatever it is that I’m served up with.
It soon arrives, and, not surprisingly, it’s good. The broth is beautiful, and along with the noodles, there’s some sausage, some beef, as well as a chunky bone which looks lamb-y, but I know won’t be, so is likely beef, pork, or maybe water buffalo.
Lisa also manages to get a piece of liver in hers, which means I now get liver.
And of course, it all comes with the obligatory herb leaves and bean shoots.
It’s already around 30°C, and again, the whole soup thing at a time like this still feels wrong, but I am getting used to it.
Boiling hot soup done, bill of 80 000 Dong for both fixed up, and we head back to Eva’s.
Lisa jumps on the back of Eva’s bike, and with Maps.me telling me it’s not actually that far, I’m happy to do the trip on foot.
The girls disappear off into the distance, while I set off trying to follow the map.
But I don’t get far, when I get stopped by an older guy, who just happened to stop us the other day.
He’s very friendly, and his English is pretty good, but I know that it’s much more than just a friendly chat he’s after.
I’m struggling to understand what it’s all about; he keeps mentioning something about a book.
I try to explain that I don’t want to buy a book, but he then says no, you buy me the book!
I have no idea what it’s all about, so I politely decline his ‘offer’ and resume my initial journey, now several minutes later than I should be.
Down to the big intersection with the roundabout, and a quick look at the map to see which of the five roads is the one I want.
Decision made, I tackle the traffic and continue on my way.
Two minutes later I sense a presence next to me on the road. It’s Eva on her bike.
Apparently I’m not on the right road*, and next thing I know, I’m sitting behind Eva and being ferried to the café.
*(Just to try and hang on to my last remaining credibility when it comes to map reading and all things directional, looking at the map later, I believe I was on the correct road. It may not have been the correct road from a driving point of view, but I’m pretty sure I could have gotten there on foot. Regardless, it was certainly nice to be able to complete the journey sitting down, and there is also never anything wrong with sitting on the back of a bike in Vietnam.)
We’re quickly there, and the good news is that Lisa is also still there, and she hasn’t wandered off.
The café looks a great little place, with lots of shade, as well as lots of people. It certainly appears to be very popular.
They’re apparently known for their salted coffee, which to me seems a bit of a strange ingredient for coffee, but if that’s their thing, then that’s what we’re going to have.
Our coffee quickly turns up and it has the appearance of a caphe sua da, with a phin (filter) sitting on top of the cup. It has a small amount of condensed milk in it, along with what looks to be some sort of cream, and obviously the salt already in it. It’s really nice, especially now that we actually have a milk coffee with actual ice in it, but really, the coffee is all secondary to where we are, and who we’re here with.
And to think, if things had worked out a little differently, this would never be happening.
We sit and chat, and it’s just great to hear a little about Eva’s family and her life. She comes across as incredibly genuine, and is just so easy to talk to. We must have had a good time, as the time really flies by, and in the end, after several top ups of our tra da’s, they end up kicking us out as they close through the middle of the day.
Catch up and coffee complete, Eva heads off while we decide we may as well do something about this island in the middle of the Perfume River, I know so little about.
But, I have my doubts on how this is going to go, due to both the heat, as well as the distance. In the end I keep those doubts to myself, as it’s just easier, and safer, that way.
We make our way back in the general direction of Eva’s, even walking down a very narrow lane that we would never have walked down last time we were here, but now really missing Saigon’s lanes enough, I feel that we need to get our lane fix.
We come out the other end on our favourite local street, which impresses the Intrepid one. I take the credit, but don’t tell her it was a fluke.
Down our street, and towards the end, we find a nuoc mia da cart. Taking the opportunity while we can, rather than wishing we did when we could, two are ordered to try and stave of the heat exhaustion before it becomes painful for both of us.
It could well be the best 20 000 Dong I spend today.
Down around my much loved tourist area, and out of it as quickly as possible, while trying to maximise the amount of shade we can achieve, by crossing the road when need be.
We reach the small, but only small because it’s flat, bridge, that is on the road that you could / would take if you wanted to travel to the beach, and we have well and truly lost our shade for a bit.
While we’ve lost our shade, we’ve now gained the sights of rubbish in the water. There’s a lot of it, and it always disappoints me, but I’m pretty much used to it now. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it, but I’ve just come to expect it.
Unfortunately, I add to the problem, when while looking at the said rubbish, I accidentally kick a plastic container on the side of road, into the water.
I feel really bad, but I ain’t going in to retrieve it.
We reach the other side, and the walk continues. We’re back to having bits and pieces of shade, which helps, but it’s still hard yards.
Those doubts I had earlier about this being a good idea return, and again, with me now starting to really feel it, I know the wilting behind me has already begun.
She’s hanging in there, but it is just a matter of time.
We stop for a moment to check Maps.me, and the good news is we’re still heading in the right direction. The bad news, however, is that we still have a bit to go.
We push on, t-shirts now well and truly as wet as yesterday, and we eventually reach the turn off.
Down the side road, and the bridge to the island is in front of us. It’s narrow, just one car wide, and it’s steel. I dare Lisa to walk, or run, it barefoot, with the incentive being a couple of drinks.
The hot, at least today, bridge to the island.
We reach the other side, and yeah, it’s nice. It’s a bit country town-ish, and is far more laid back and quieter than Hue proper, as you’d expect.
We head off to the right, down narrow roads past numerous houses. There are not too many people about, but the ones we do see are really friendly, and we get lots of hellos and smiles.
The end of the road is eventually reached, so we turn around and head back. An older couple, on the right of us between the path and the river bank, suddenly appear, and the man says something to us. My initial thought was that he was about to offer us a drink, as I could see him holding a cup, but it quickly became apparent that that was not the case, by the tone of his voice.
His wife then became involved, as she walked up to the road just after we walked past, yelling and screaming at us.
I’m not sure what it was all about, with my best guess being it was some sort of begging request, but she was certainly aggressive. Regardless, she soon returned to her husband, as it became clear we were not going to stop.
We walk most of the length of the island in the other direction, before cutting back to the side that the bridge is on. Suspecting that a food request is imminent, I keep an eye out for possibilities. But being surrounded by water, and therefore classified as an island, most places sell stuff that comes from that water surrounding us.
That’s never going to be suitable for one of us, and as such, my time is wasted looking for options.
Back to the hot steel bridge, and over it to the hot road. Island seen, sort of, and box now ticked. It was a pleasant enough walk, but perhaps a little too far from where we’re based, and just a bit hotter than ideal. And while the island was good to see, it was perhaps a little underwhelming.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did expect to see more farmland / crop areas. I know they’re there, from Google Earth, but we couldn’t see them behind the houses. Whether you can get to them or not, or are welcome to do so, I have no idea.
Back towards Hue proper, and it doesn’t take long before the heat begins to do its thing again. I go back to looking for food possibilities, more so for the rest it will give us, than the actual food itself, as the effects of this morning’s large breakfast is still being felt.
We eventually find a woman doing com tam over the road, so we head over. She certainly wasn’t expecting to see us, but she’s more than happy we’re here.
It ends up coming with pork and pickled vegetables, as well as a light vegetable soup, and complimentary tra da.
The food is really good, but as is often the case, there’s just too much of it. And the tra da? I’m not sure it’s ever been more required, appreciated and enjoyed.
Did I mention it was hot?
Lisa, looking how I feel.
There’s only one or two others in there, including a Grab guy, who gets up to leave as we’re finishing. He heads over to pay for his meal, and then makes his way out to his bike, leaving his Grab jacket on the back of his chair.
Lisa notices, and tries to get his attention with several ‘em ơi’s!
It takes a number of attempts; I probably should have just jumped up and taken it over to him, but my legs were reluctant, and I sort of just really wanted to see how Lisa’s Vietnamese was going to play out; before he finally realises the ‘em ơi’s are directed at him.
He smiles sheepishly, and returns for his jacket.
Our lunch lady, who had been sitting quietly at her food, and who was probably also waiting to see how Lisa’s Vietnamese was going to work, laughs at what just took place in front of her.
As much food had as we can manage, and jug of its tra da drained, we will our legs, and minds, to make the final push home towards Eva’s.
Bill of 70 000 Dong in total is paid, which is both a bargain, and confirmation of how much cheaper things can be when you’re away from the city centre, as well as those areas that tend to attract people just like you.
Back into the heat, and the walk continues. A little further up, I find a small plastic number ‘5’ on the ground in amongst some other rubbish. It’s about the size of a number you might see on a standard street letterbox, and seeing as I like ‘sign’ type things, it ends up in my pocket.
It’s most definitely coming home with me.
Looking up towards Hue, with the bridge we walked across yesterday.
We eventually, and finally, reach the bridge that will take us back to ‘our’ side, and this time no rubbish is kicked into the water.
Over the river, and just because it’s there, we head up Chu Van An street, which is where we stayed back in 2014. I also wouldn’t mind seeing if I recognise the hotel that we stayed in, assuming it’s still there of course.
The street kind of looks familiar, but there’s certainly no ‘Oh wow!’ moments. Which is probably not surprising, seeing as the street, as well as the area, just didn’t get us excited back then.
We soon find Hot Tuna, which is a café / restaurant we frequented a couple of times eight years ago, mainly because they did more Western food, which helped to keep the kids happy.
But finding the restaurant means we’ve walked past our hotel. We double back, and nup, I just can’t recognise it. I’d find it hard to believe it’s been pulled down, as it didn’t seem that old when we stayed, and it was also a rather tall hotel.
Down to an area where I know it won’t be, and we do another u-turn back up towards the restaurant. And there, on the right, looking past a building that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before, is the hotel. The hotel itself, as well as where we had breakfast next door, is now easily recognisable. It all comes flooding back, and I’m really glad it’s still here. But I’m also really pleased that we are not staying here.
Reminiscing done, we head back up to the restaurant, and round the corner. Cyclos and xe oms are a constant, and they’re persistent. A bit further up, a familiar face; it’s my book requesting guy from earlier this morning.
He goes through his pleasantries again, and he really does come across as a nice guy, but then he starts on his spiel. Again, something about wanting me to buy a a book from his brother, or maybe cousin, and then he wants me to give the book to him.
Why he wants the book, I don’t know. Is it so he can give it to someone else? Or will he just give it back to his brother, so he can sell it again?
I don’t know, but what I do know, is that I’m not buying him a book.
We bid him farewell, and make our way back towards Eva’s, stopping on the way for supplies of two Cokes, and a one litre bottle of water (45 000 Dong).
The Coke is really cold, and it’s quite possibly the best tasting Coke I’ve ever had. But that may just be because the heat today, and for the last few days, has been brutal. And it’s not even Hue’s hottest month of the year.
Upstairs around 2.00pm, t-shirts peeled off, and collapse on the bed for that much needed rest and recovery session.
It actually works quite well, and after a little packing up in preparation for tomorrow, I head out to do my final Hue afternoon beer thing, around 4.00pm.
Yep, one of those ‘lasts’, that I love so much.
Down the street, turn right, and then cross the next intersection. And there it is. Nice to have been able to work out my directional issues in time for our last day….
There’s no one there, so I take a seat. A woman, who may have been the cleaner, walks in a minute later, and seeing me sitting there, calls out to the owner. He pokes his head around the corner, sees me, and heads straight to the fridge.
I like that, and he’s just made my day a little bit better; yes, I know, it sometimes doesn’t take much.
But he’s also now made it a little more difficult to say goodbye.
The beginning of the last.
Beers enjoyed, while the world is watched and contemplated. The beer delivery lady, moving more crates of beer than I could, and then moving just as many crates of empty beer bottles, back to her small truck. The guy from the café next door, trying to water his hanging baskets, that are hanging out the front above the footpath, with a garden hose. Not as easy as it sounds, when the baskets are a fair way above your head. Also not great for the guy walking along the footpath, trying to either get garden hose guy’s attention, or having to try and time his run.
He did eventually manage to make it, and without getting too wet.
Beer delivery / bottle picker upper lady.
The final Hue afternoon beers done, bill paid, it’s time to head back. And this time it’s painless, embarrassing-less, and quick, with it being out the door, up the road, and turn left.
Still not sure why it had all been so difficult before…..
Laundry picked up on the way up the stairs, and then it’s time to wash a day’s worth of sweat away. As usual, it feels good, as does putting on freshly washed clothes.
Far cleaner, and far better smelling than I was, we head downstairs to do something about dinner. We see Eva on the way, and we sort out a car with her for 10.00am tomorrow to take us to the airport. All so easy, but it just reminds us of the looming ‘goodbye’ day.
Out into the street, and around the corner to our street. It ain’t been broken so far, so there’s no need trying to fix anything.
We find a place on the footpath that seems to mainly do bún bò Huế, but also some rice dishes, so this will be the place. Lisa goes with the rice, as I knew she would; she can’t do ‘soup’ more than once a day, but strangely, probably would back home; while I go with the local dish, partly because I don’t want rice again, but mainly because we’re still in Hue.
A couple of Huda beers, in plastic cups with ice, to compliment the meals, and right now, life is more than just a little bit good.
And who would have thought that would be possible, here in Hue, after our first trip eight years ago, as well as what happened three nights ago?
My kind of ‘restaurant!’
Food and beer almost done, and a group of six or eight Vietnamese locals, but more than likely local tourists, turn up to do what we’re doing.
There’s certainly enough tables and chairs for them, but they can’t all be seated together, which seems to make a couple of them a little unhappy.
Interestingly, one or two didn’t seem too unhappy at all about that little predicament.
Time to make a move, bill of 180 000 Dong paid, which was probably something like 50 000 x 2 for food, and 20 000 x 4 for beer, and we head off as lightning cracks above us.
Down the street in the direction of my beer place, and the few spots of rain that fall last not much longer than the light show did.
A few minutes later we’re at my second home, and being a Friday night, they’re really busy, but, and as is the usual Vietnamese way, a table is quickly found for us.
Seated up the back, beers in front of us, it’s just a really enjoyable night of watching the locals do their thing at the end of a working week.
The young guys look after us throughout the night, and they well and truly know me now, which is nice, but again, it just makes it that little bit harder to leave.
Eventually, and unfortunately, the time arrives to do just that, and I feel the need to tell them that I won’t be back tomorrow. Phone out, Google translate found, and however it translated my words, it appears it was good enough for them to understand.
But I have one more request, and rather than using Google again, I use hand gestures to get my point across that I’d like a photo.
They get the photo bit, but they think that I want one taken of me with Lisa. As ‘nice’ as that would be, that’s not what I want. I want one taken with them.
They’re a little surprised, but more than happy to oblige, so the photo is done.
My beer guys.
Bill fixed up, several cảm ơn’s given for looking after me, and we head back to Eva’s around 9.30pm. Well, Lisa does, as I make a pitstop at my convenience store for a couple more beers, as well as a packet of chips, just to prolong the night a little longer, while doing the usual on the bed.
Hue is essentially done, with just a couple of hours left in the morning before we head off to catch our 12.00pm flight to Hanoi.
So, 24 hours after saying I liked Hue, but didn’t love it, and also couldn’t see a reason for us to return for a third look, do I still feel the same way?
Well, I still like it. And I’m still not sure I’d say that I love it.
But would I return?
Yes, I believe we will.
Not so much for the place itself, but for who we’ve met here.
Three days ago we discovered we had a problem. Not a serious problem, and not really a difficult problem to solve, but it was a problem that needed to be solved, and solved early the following day.
We couldn’t quite fix it exactly how we, or perhaps more I, would have liked, but we did end up meeting someone who, as far as I’m concerned, is now a friend.
Eva, fortunately, had a room available, but it was more about the way she went about it. Hastily organising things, calling us a taxi, and then making us feel so welcome, not only when we arrived, but throughout our stay.
Yes, it’s her business, and her job, to do that, but her genuineness and kindness really was something else. And then to be able to spend a couple of hours chatting this morning over coffee and tra da, well, that just topped it off.
So yes, it is highly likely, probably even a given, that we will return to Hue at some point, and that will be to catch up with Eva, and her family, again.
Amazing how things pan out…..
Now 11.30pm, beers done, which is probably a good thing, and the inevitable can’t be put off any longer, as much as I would like this night to go a little longer.
We’ve still only been here in Vietnam for a little over a week, but it’s starting to feel like it’s going really fast, which concerns me greatly.
Need to live the moment….
So, while really not looking forward to the goodbye tomorrow, there is one thing that makes it slightly easier, and that’s the fact that we’re going to get to see Hanoi again.
And that is a very good thing.