How to make the most out of your one-day-stay in Hue

onthewaytohue1Day XXIX – April 16

I wake up at 6am to the enthusiastic honking of the driver, the guy next to him chatting away in the same frantic manner.

And this is what I see:
To the left there are little brick and concrete cots shattered between the bright green fields that are still covered in the veil of morningmist, now turning yellow and orange with that big burning ball rising far behind the horizon, as the kids are rushing by in their school uniforms on their bicycles.

onthewaytohueTo the right is where the mountains are, vaguely scribbled grim line after line.

And before that lies another deep strip of those greenest fields, most of them rice, long straws standing fiercely straight in a basin that every now and then gets a chance to show it’s reflection like a sparkling gem. Some are different crops; variations of lettuces and cabbages, a banana tree here and there, some cornfields.
It’s weird how I still see dry riverbanks from time to time; with the amounts of water in the fields you wouldn’t expect this country to suffer any drought.
Supposedly we’re driving down highway #1. It’s possibly in worse shape than the highways of Laos. Or it just seems like that, because this driver doesn’t slow down one bit for bumps or when taking over. I conclude once more Vietnamese drive like crazy.

I delight myself over an oreo breakfast, and even more so about the locals on the bus doing the same. They are the ultimate bus-snack.

Once arrived in town, Tomas [GER] the other westerner who also gets off the bus here, and I look for a hostel together. The first decent one we find is the same chain I was in that first night in Hanoi, which I decided to ban. He settles.
I decide to look around some more. An hour later I have to admit with a sigh, they have the monopoly on dorm rooms. I go back to book one night; I’ve already confirmed my bus to Hoi An tomorrow morning.

How to make the most out of your one-day-stay in Hue:

You come in with the sleeperbus from Hanoi – perfectly comfortable to catch a few hours of sleep.
You’ll come in around 9am, so once you’ve fought off the motortaxies who all want to give you and that one other non-Vietnamese passenger a ride to a hotel, you’ve got plenty of time before check-in at 11am. If you’re looking for a dorm just go to Hue Backpacker Hostel.
bike hueFind a local market for some breakfast at a normal price; 10.000d a pineapple.
After you’ve got all your stuff sorted out and had a refreshing shower, go around the corner to rent a bicycle from Ms. Nam Thanh at 30.000d. Don’t forget to bring a map from the hostel.

Take a little tour through the citadel to begin with. It’ll give you a nice view on local life in this otherwise pretty crowded city.

And continue west over the Kin Long road. At the end a man will ask you to park your bike for 5.000d, some women will try to sell you overpriced water or a tour to the tombs. Ignore them and just walk up and wander around the pagoda. It’s up a hill so you’ll get a nice view and the garden is lovely quiet.
Make sure you’re wearing your swimminggear ’cause on the way back the river will most likely tempt you for a dive.

This time cross the bridge right after the railwaytracks and take another right at the second bridge on your left hand. Take a right at the junction and follow the road for another 5 minutes.
I was looking for this pagoda Lonely Planet was elated about, but even the locals couldn’t point me to it. Instead I found this place that might have been a graveyard of some sort? Anyway, you’ll find this deserted looking place with many cool shrinelike structures covered by flowers and plants. Have fun discovering!
After this you could follow the road some more, eventually you’ll drive into a belvedere, ‘s got some nice views. I wouldn’t recommand it necessarily though…
hue view
You might be craving for some cooled sugary drink after all that cycling. You’re not going to find it though. However you might find a stand where they sell cooled water, if you’re lucky.

hue mapOh and make sure you’ve got your sunlotion on. Otherwise the sun might carry an evil grin.
I’d forgotten mine in Vang Vieng, which wasn’t a problem in Vientiane, Hanoi or Halong Bay. But of course today I couldn’t find any. And I got burned good!

And the beach that the hostels map speaks of; it’s a fraud, there’s no such thing. So just go back to the other side of the track and hope you find a quiet spot. And that the sun hasn’t just finally been conquered by some clouds. Like the big ones.
Well at least it’s cooling down.
I’d better get my clothes back on and make my way back before the rains come pouring down…
Ooh, lightning! Hurry now.

Still. A good day in Hue! =)

Lesson learned: Asian business mentality means getting the best deal for everyone – yes they want to sell you something; they need to make a living, but they also want to make you a happy customer.

On the road to Hue

Day XXVIII – April 15

Another early morning, packing up my things again; it’s becoming a routine, and I’m getting better at it every time, it even seems like my bag’s getting lighter. Breakfast and goodbeys again.
On the way back they dropped us at that shopping centre again. I gave in and got myself some sweets. They’re disgusting though.

I’m getting a little itchy about catching my sleeperbus to Hue tonight; it leaves Hanoi at 6pm, or so I’ve been told, so I have a pick up at the hostel at 5.30am.
And though it started out with them telling us we’d arrive at 4, they’ve already stretched it to 5pm. It’s definitely getting tight.

This trip to Halong Bay was cool.
Very touristic though, and I think I expected more of Halong Bay. I’ve seen too many limestone’s on the mainland to be completely stunned by these.
And it is too easy to capture it’s magic on picture, the real deal doesn’t add a terribly big lot to that… Plus the blanket of grey that just wouldn’t go away.
All in all, I’m not sure if I’d recommend it, especially for that price. But I had fun.

[I’m now back about a month, and am still obligated to live extremely low budget as I’ve had next to no income since then, but I seem to have settled well enough back into our pricerange. And I remember I really thougt it was a very expensive trip, 2 days all-in for €45,- but I now realize it really wasn’t that much. So to come back to the recommendation; make sure you set that amount aside in your budget. It ís worth it.]

I jump off the bus around the corner from the hostel, back in bustling Hanoi at 5.35 and rush down the street, panting as I arrive at the reception, where they tell me to sit down and wait a moment. The wait turns out to be 45 minutes.

The guy behind the desk is the guy that was bartending the other day, and with a giddy face he asks me if I had fun with David, making me blush while I tried to be cool about it, and then makes it worse by noticing the hicky that’s still sitting there plumply in my neck.
I sit down behind a computer to check my mail, and find a message from David.
I ran in to him this morning; he got on the exact same boat I’d been on, but there was no time for actual words. Now in this mail he tells me his travel plans have been altered so he won’t be coming after me, and we most likely won’t meet up again.
Behind me I hear a few girls babble and catch something about a boy and a little affair and hear the name David. A very common name… But I’m just going to go ahead and assume this boy really wasn’t as gentleman as he made believe, but in fact was the ladiesman I first made him out to be. Well, whatever. Nothing less than to be expected anyway.
bus ticket
When I’m done at the computer and check again at the desk to make sure I wasn’t forgotten, I get to talking with two Israeli also waiting for their pickup but heading for the opposite direction; Sapa, who try to convince me to come their way.

One of them, Alon, begins: “I have a story I want to tell you,” and ducks down to grab something from his pack. It’s a little photobook. “I took this plastic toy horse from home, and I traded it. I hope to eventually trade to a real horse, to travel my last destination, Mongolia.”
He has some pictures of the guy he traded for a sweater with, and some others, and then with the man that traded to a fishing rod; his last trade. Cool concept right?! Check it out on Hope he makes it!

I realized on the boat I’d forgotten to pack my sarong again when I left here yesterday morning. So I ask if they found anything on that bed I never really used. They didn’t, but offer me one of their towels instead. Isn’t that sweet?

Five minutes before the bus is said to depart the station, a minivan comes to pick us up, and has another stop to pick up some more so we’re properly crammed in the back. Then the driver pulls over, gets out and another one gets in without any passing of words whatsoever.

I think this was the absolute oddest thing that happened during my entire trip.

Two blocks later we stop by the side of the road. Looks nothing like a bus station. But when I ask, the drivers points at a single bus that just pulled over. The others are told to sit and wait for their Sapa bus.
I ask what time we leave and after a lot of effort understand it’ll be another half hour.
So I decide I need a smoke. Sorry David (the German who lid my potentially last cigarette in Vang Vieng)
Oddly enough none of the streetvendors or shops there are selling those. But the next lady I ask, who doesn’t have them on her cart, asks me which brand I want and tells me to wait. She comes back 5 minutes later with two packs, asking only 2000d commission.
Here I am, one little Dutch girl on an odd bus with bunkbeds for seats – luckily I don’t have the size problem the other westerner on this bus does.
Nothing is explained to us. “Just go with it and don’t worry,” I tell myself. Of course it all turns out fine and we’re back on the road about a half hour later and eventually I even fall asleep.