The second stage of my trip through northern and central Vietnam.
Saturday 1 August 2009 - Tuesday 11 August 2009
Wednesday 5 August - The overnight train from Hanoi to Hue was fine. I shared a four bedded compartment with two South African girls and a Vietnamese tour leader working for Intrepid. We left on time and the light was out soon after that. No one snored, with the possible exception of me, but given that I was asleep, I did not hear a thing. Awoke at about 6.00 am. We got to Hue a bit late, but nothing to worry about.
Hotel review: The Orchid Hotel upgraded me to a superior room right on the top of the building. It had a great view over the town and river. The breakfast was very good, the staff were friendly and they organised everything I needed very well.
The afternoon walk around the town was curtailed due to the heat.
Dinner was average, but the evening improved when I found the Brown Eyes Bar just down the road from the hotel. They had cold beer, a free pool table and great staff. The staff were very keen to sit and talk to you about virtually anything in an attempt to improve their English language skills.
Thursday 6 August - Another river trip, this time along the Perfume River to the various royal tombs in the area.
Our tour boat.
Life on the river.
The first stop was a very touristy place just across the river from the town. So touristy that I did not bother to go in.
The second stop was the Thien Mu Pagoda. This is very historical and has a commanding view over the river from its hill top position. This is where I discovered they have snakes in Vietnam. I was walking down the path back to the boat when this snake fell from the grass onto the pathway. It scared the living daylights out of me but with most animals it was probably more scared of me. It was about a metre long and looked like it had just eaten a mouse or something. It finally slithered away into the undergrowth down towards the river.
The Thien Mu Pagoda.
Tourists at Thien Mu.
More of Thien Mu.
Stop number three was several kilometres down the river at Hon Chen Temple. This is a small temple just above the river, again with commanding views up and down the river. A very good lunch was served on board whilst we motored to the next stop. The small kitchen on board turned out all manner of hot cooked things, accompanied by rice and cold drinks.
The Hon Chen Temple.
Stop number four was the tomb of the Emperor Minh Mang. It has some impressive gardens and architecture and given its size, it is quite easy to find a quiet area to sit and take it all in. This was the end of the boat trip and we transferred to a bus for the remainder of the day.
Part of Tan Nguyet Lake, surrounding the Minh Mang tomb.
The main gate to the Tomb.
The Sung An temple, the centre of the Tomb.
The Minh Lau Pavilion.
The view towards the Emperor's actual burial site.
Stop number five was the tomb of the Emperor Khai Din. This tomb is completely different from the others in that it included a lot of European style architecture. Looked rather ugly, but had good views from its hill top position.
Some of the many steps up to the main section of the Khai Din tomb.
The Honour Courtyard.
At least it has a good view from the top.
The main pavilion with the actual tomb 18m below.
Our final stop was the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. This is a very large complex just on the outskirts of Hue. Thus, it was heaving with tourists, but if you tried hard enough, you could find quiet spots for relaxing and contemplation.
On the way to Tu Duc's tomb, we stopped at a village making incense sticks.
The Xung Khiem Pavilion.
The Khiem Cung Gate.
The natural habitat of the two legged, blue hatted tourist.
The Xung Khiem Pavilion.
Another quiet part of the tomb.
In all, a very interesting day, all for the sum of $US7 plus entrance fees (another $US10), very good value indeed.
An average dinner followed, but again the cold beer and friendly staff of the Brown Eyes Bar made up for that.
Friday 7 August – Today I was accompanied by Mai, one of the friendly bar staff from the Brown Eyes Bar. She obviously decided that I needed a guide around the citadel of Hue. Her English was quite good and so we wandered around the place for a few hours. The citadel is impressive but not very old, built in the 1840s. It has a couple of museums, especially the military museum showing tanks and things used during their victory in the American War.
Mai, my trusty guide around Hue.
The Thuong Tu Gate to the Citadel.
The fortifications and the 37m high flag tower.
Weapons used by the Liberation Army.
The Ngo Mon Gate, the main entrance to the Citadel.
More interesting bits of the Citadel.
The Halls of the Mandarins.
I found the touristy area for dinner. Pizza is not a native Vietnamese dish, but they do it well. The Brown Eyes Bar was becoming my second home. Not sure whether that is a problem or not.
Hue is a great place, lots to see, the traffic is manageable and the people are friendly.