HUE IN A LITTLE LESS THAN 24 HOURS
Oct 15, 2009
Before I go into details on this pleasant transit between Hanoi and HCMC, let me just tell you that Hue is a very nice city to have a peaceful vacation, which then made me wish that we would’ve stayed there a little longer. I liked the windy air, much like Hanoi, I liked the vacant streets that it was safe to cross, and the laid-back atmosphere. Well, sometimes I do enjoy the hustle and bustle of bigger cities, but now and then a quiet ambience is just what we need to have a sense of balance.
Alright, enough of Socrates talk, let me introduce you a little bit more to Hue.
TRAIN OR PLANE? Which one to choose?
Our initial plan for Vietnam trip was to tour around Hanoi and HCMC only. Mumun insisted that we should try to take their trains between the cities to have new experience, of taking inter-city trains in a foreign country, and because she has friends who recommended it. Her friends, happen to be Caucasians, are awed by the view of paddy fields through which the train route passes. We, on the other hand, come from a country where paddies are like oxygen on Earth, it’s everywhere. (Um, I’m trying to look smart here, does it work?) So our aim in taking the train is more to experience the ride itself rather than the view.
Renny at the food service coach
After several discussions on the route, we almost canceled that plan because it would take about 3 days to get to HCMC from Hanoi by train, and just take the plane instead. We didn’t wanna spend too much time on the train. But we finally had a brilliant solution: take the train from Hanoi (a city in the northern Vietnam) to Hue (in the central), and then fly from Hue to HCMC. That way, we would have a train experience and spend just enough time on it. Everybody’s happy :D
Our hard sleeper compartment
This is where we got the info on the train schedule: http://www.seat61.com/Vietnam.htm
HUE HOLIDAY HOTEL, A NICE SURPRISE
Hue as a whole was a happy experience for us. It started with our train ride from Hanoi in the hard-sleeper compartment, in which I did not find trouble sleeping at all.
We arrived at the Hue train station at about 10 a.m. We called our hotel at a public phone next to the station’s exit, asked for a pick-up.
Hue train station (GA HUE)
We only had to wait about 10-15 minutes, a hotel staff came on a motorcycle. He surely wasn’t gonna pick us up with that. He made a deal with a cab to take us to the hotel, following him and the motorcycle.
Although the hotel is located on a narrow street, to which the cab couldn’t even get in, it’s surprisingly a very nice one, at least a lot nicer than our expectation. It’s clean, looks kinda new, and the staff were very friendly and helpful with their so-so English skill. It’s only about 1 minute walk from the main street, so it’s really no hassle to get to and from.
What made it seem even more pleasant is the comparison with our previous stay in Hanoi. (and later it turned out to be our best stay in Vietnam.) Riding up in the elevator was funny because it’s so small that only 2 people (with a backpack each) could fit in it (note: the people of our size), almost nose to nose. That was the smallest elevator I’ve ever seen.
View from our room, regular houses
Free internet usage is available in the computers provided at the lobby. That’s where we browsed for what interesting things we’d do in the city because we knew almost nothing about it.
And this method is also what we did in every city we visited in the whole trip. That was a lotta fun, I rarely had a spontaneous trip like that, and now I’m sort of addicted to it.
CITADEL HISTORICAL TOUR
Perfume River lies through Hue, dividing it to Northern and Southern parts. The Hue Citadel, which was the royal complex of the Tay Son reign when the city was chosen to be the capital, is located at the Northern bank of the river, while our hotel is at the Southern bank. So, up we went, riding the cyclo, costing us VND 80,000 (this price includes them waiting for us 2 hours exploring the citadel, and then taking us to the market).
To me, it’s awesome that all this already existed since almost 200 yrs ago, and still original, or at least most of it. Well, some parts aren’t really in good shape anymore, and some seem so rundown, unfortunately.
However, a historical tour without a guide nor research in advance, kinda got us lost, didn’t really understand what we were really looking at.
For more of the Citadel history, you can check it out here (http://www.vietnamtourism.com/hue/e_pages/kth_kinhthanh.htm ).
SHOPPING FOR AO DAI & SOUVENIRS
On the same side of the riverbank, not so far from Citadel, is the Dong Ba Market. Here at the market, you can get almost anything you’re looking for. Clothes, jewel, food, souvenirs, accessories, etc. And we got just what we were looking for.. the eternal love.. err I meant.. Ao Dai, one of the traditional woman clothes of Vietnam, VND 200,000 each.
Us in ao dai
And then, on our way to get some dinner near hotel, we stopped by some stores that sell many kinds of souvenirs and clothes on Nguyen Cong Tru Street, I think. We didn’t purchase many things. I got myself a USD 3,5 red silk scarf and a set of 3 statuettes that are now standing sweetly at living room’s my wall rack. One of my best buys in this trip :)
The 3 ladies each symbolizes Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City. Wow, what a coincidence, those are exactly the cities we visited! I guess they are the most prominent cities in the country?
Anyway, this set of statuettes cost VND 300,000. And later I found out that you can actually get them for less at Ho Chi Minh City’s Ben Tanh Market. Oh well.
BO BIN HUE & OTHER MUNCHIES
Hunger struck, it was time for us to hunt for some local delicacies. We strolled down the main road near our hotel, make a left turn, and there we were, on a street full of cafes and restaurants. But somehow we found it difficult to make a decision on where to eat, I don’t remember why..
Finally, we chose Temple Restaurant, on the 5 D Chu Van An street, simply because I was attracted to the exterior. It wasn’t Vietnamese at all, actually, but I just liked it. The stone walls and leafy garden reminded me of some illustrations on European fairy tales when I was little. Hahaha.. that is one weird reason to choose a restaurant when traveling in Hue, and definitely a very subjective one. But Mumun and Renny were kind enough to agree with me.
As for the food, well, it was.. just okay. Not great. It cost us VND 240,000 collectively.
Bo Bin Hue
Still curious on what’s local, Mumun insisted to try some Bo Bin Hue at sidewalk café. Really really on the sidewalk. Renny and I just pinched some of it to find out what it tastes like. It was, um,… salty, and.. much like some food that contains much MSG in it. What? Why don’t you believe me? Didn’t I sound like a food expert?
This is probably just some regular diner that’s not a place where people would go to for special occasions, judging by the looks of it. Why did we have lunch there? Because that’s what the hotel staff told us to when we asked about a nearby place to have a decent lunch.
Turns out, we did enjoy the food very much, as well as paying for it. Only VND 95,000 for everything that we ordered. Yay!
Next up: Ho Chi Minh City! Waaaait for it..!