The Contrasts of Hue
Hello, What’s Your Name?
We were lost…again! I swear it’s not my fault this time, however I could see in Niki’s face that she didn’t have the patience for it today, not after our last episode only a couple of days ago. Getting lost is something I usually don’t do and when I do do it, I don’t do it very well! See we arrived in Hue that morning after taking a sleeper bus (think Harry Potter style) to the cultural heart of Vietnam. Home to imperial cities, the former demilitarized zone and many opulent tombs. Unlucky on my behalf, the hotel (Bing Minh Sunrise 1) we were looking for had closed down. In fact it had been pulled down and rebuilt into a concrete car park. I liked what the owners had done with the place, rather simple yet minimalistic.
What muddied the situation even more was a pushy tout who latched onto us saying the hotel we were looking for had closed and we should stay with him. I have to say though, when is this ever actually the case? Vietnam is the only country I’ve ever visited where hotels have actually disappeared, closed or been demolished. On any other day my not so friendly tout would just be pulling the wool over my eyes. With the heat bearing down and our stress levels going up, we got a lot a little too stern with our tout. With this he then promptly zoomed off on his moped and shouted something in Vietnamese which I could only roughly translate into “may you develop back and nose hair like an ugly yeti, whilst your bed is filled with a plague of cockroaches”. This was about the same time we found our car park and now needed a new place to stay.
Rule No. 11 of being married – Learn from your past mistakes, getting your wife lost twice in one week is never a good idea.
We ended up checking into the not so smart hotel named the Thai Binh Hotel 2 and regretted the curse our tout had put upon us. I’m not a fan of hurling abuse at hotels, however I’m going to give it go: Over priced ($40pn), big cockroaches, bad service, bland breakfast, gross dinner and it shouldn’t be in my guide book! Hurts me to say it, however it was easily the worse hotel I stayed at in Vietnam. Still to this day I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about the size of those cockroaches!
Our first day in Hue was spent visiting the impressive Citadel on the north side of the Perfume river. Constructed in 1904, the citadel houses the imperial enclosure and the decaying remnants of the Forbidden Purple city. It will easily take half a day just to walk the enclosure and is well worth the visit; don’t forget heaps of water and a hat. The site is slowly being rebuilt after it was bombed by the Americans during the war and there isn’t a lot of information available on what you’re looking at, so if you can grab a guidebook or a guide, you’ll get a more rewarding interpretative experience. By the way, watch out for the toilets, we saw a BFS – a Big Fire truck of a Snake.
Walking through the citadel is an intriguing experience and one of contrasts. You have the opportunity to experience ancient oriental architecture long lost in the pages of history, yet it’s strangely disengaging as you pass hawkers deformed from the atrocities of war selling dog tags and war “memorabilia” of fallen soldiers. It got even weirder when we ate at the Lac Thien Restaurant which is run by a deaf family and is popular with tourists. It wasn’t weird due to the establishment or the excellent food, but due to the messages that had been written all over the wall by passing Contiki groups about varying topics – ranging from political statements to how good someone was in bed; it sadly reminded me of a dog marking its territory in the park. I felt awkward as an Australian to be reading some of the comments about Tasmanians and Queenslanders, yet here I was in Hue reading stuff that wouldn’t look out of place in a pub back home. Heading back to the hotel and to the waiting cockroaches, I didn’t really know what to make of Hue so far and felt a little perplexed by it all. I suppose every destination doesn’t necessarily have to be fun and entertaining to be worth a visit, sometimes it should be reflective and engaging, after all that’s what travelling is about. Perhaps tomorrow will shed some light on the subject.