25.10.2011 – 27.10.2011 Sunny/Rainy 28 °C
We were zipping along now after only staying in dodgy Da Nang for one night which meant we had extra time for Hue or Hanoi. Two nights here and a third on the sleeper bus to Hanoi was the decision we made.
We grabbed a hotel recommended in our Rough Guide to Vietnam book for $12 a night (we switched to Rough Guide after realising how much bullshit was in our Thailand Lonely Planet – but RG is arguably worse!). The hotel was nice, spacious with all the mod cons but they were a little on the pushy side when trying to sell us excursions. I say pushy, I mean they wouldn’t leave us alone, being clobbered every time we came in or out and even whilst having breakfast across the street once! Motorbike, push bike, city tour and a trip to Halong Bay were the attractions being offered. I suppose we were to blame a little as we showed minor interest when we first arrived, the trick is to never show any interest I think, always remain aloof.
After studying the city tour and finding three of the eight sites to be mausoleums at a further 60,000d per person entrance plus some Pagoda we decided to go under our own steam and headed for the Citadel, a city within a city which began construction in the early nineteenth century under the orders of Emperor Gia Long. Seven metre high, twenty-metre thick brick and earth walls, encircled by a moat, containing five-hundred and twenty hectares of land with over three hundred palaces, temples, tombs and other royal buildings which took over thirty years to complete stood on this site. How’s that for some stats? It’s an impressive feat and although some are still being reconstructed and renovated after bomb damage during WWII and the row with the Yanks in the 60’s, it still took us the best part of the day to get around it and was worth it. The video reconstruction was informative and very well done too.
The natives need to stop attempting to rip off the tourists though. Over four million tourists a year Vietnam get which must pump a considerable amount of Dong into the country’s economy yet everything you buy is strife. One small bottle of water inside the Citadel, overpriced at 15,000d (bartered down from 25,000d) I bought wasn’t even sealed, it had the bit of torn plastic over the lid to give the impression the bottle was sealed but the plastic tabs were already broken and after opening it, there were black bits which looked like pepper inside. After kicking up a fuss the con artist swapped it. The Thai’s aren’t a patch on the Vietnamese for bumping up the price and they are bad enough.
We broke the walk back to our hotel in two with a stop for a Hue speciality, a bowl of Hue Bun Bo, a spicy play on the nations favourite dish, Pho, which was delicious and some Che, a cross between a dessert and a drink (coconut and bean, various fruits and beans in syrup with condensed milk stuffed in a tall glass-topped with crushed ice and a spoon rammed in) again, really good. We’d already tried the Banh Khoai a day earlier, a crispy yellow pancake made with egg and rice fried up with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts and served with a peanut sauce plus vegetables. It tastes better than it sounds – lucky we’re walking miles everyday. Would definitely recommend these.
The same as Hoi An though, Hue is dead past 10 o’clock so there isn’t much in the way of nightlife. We sampled a couple of the regions local beers that evening which weren’t bad and topped them off with Vietnamese coffees, then retreated for bed.
We spent the following day hanging around for the bus and sampling more of the regions specialities. We did manage to book an upcoming flight from Manila to Hong Kong, one way for £30 each with Tiger Airways which was a right touch. Hue is a nice place to stop, the Citadel is worth seeing and the local delicacies are great.