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Nicola and Christopher's Grand Adventure! This is a little story of our 3 month journey through, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. We hope that you (our friends and family) enjoy reading about our trip!

A day off in Hue

VIETNAM | Saturday, 14 August 2010 | Views [528]

The sun is shining as we look out across the balcony from our third floor hotel room (might as well be a suite). We have a computer in the room for internet access, satelite tv, a/c and a fan... and all this for $25 NZ a night. It is a nice little find that Nicola turned up on the net while we were in Hanoi. We have decided to lie low today as we have spent the last eight days on the move or sight seeing, and by unanimous decision a day of rest is in order before we move on to Hoi An tomorrow.

We jumped on the reunification express train from Hanoi to Saigon in the evening a couple of days ago, 13 hours and not a huge amount of sleep later we arrived in Hue. It is the old imperial capital of Vietnam and is quite relaxed by comparison with Hanoi. The train was an interesting and thankfully uncomplicated journey over 600kms. We could not get a spot in a four berth cabin so ended up with two top bunks in a six berth one instead. We had read that the head room would be limited but again it was a step into the unknown. We arrived about 20 mins before boarding via taxi from the hotel (again a great deal!). We found our cabin easily enough and as the pictures will tell we had about 50cm between the bed and the ceiling, yes, Christopher proceeded to bang his head a dozen or so times over the entire journey. We stowed our packs and hung around to see who our traveling companions would be.

A Taiwainese family of three proceeded to enter our cabin, they were a couple of teachers with their son, on their annual family holiday. We proceeded to chat amongst ourselves for the best part of two hours, it was a delightful way to begin our journey. It was looking good on the `not sharing with axe murderers' front, although our main concern was actually snoring by any of our fellow travellers. They were an interesting family who spend two months away from Taiwan every year, and have to be some of the most well travelled people either of us have met. Christopher was delighted to hear that they had had a lovely couple of weeks in the UK and even happier to see them unpack some chocolate digestive biscuits from Marks and Spencer. They would not hear his howls of protest and insisted he eat half the packet. They had two translation computers and all spoke very good English, it was a joy and a delight to have such lovely company.

The train stopped a couple of times during the night and our other companion, a quiet Vietnamese man, had left by the time we woke for Hue (we feared he didn't share our combined pleasure for M&S produce and asked to be moved). The staff on the train were generally indifferent to us or the fact that we were paying for the privilege of traveling on their train, they were worse than the staff on the trains in the UK even! We arrived in Hue, bang on time at 8:01 in the morning and shlepped our gear to our hotel which as I mentioned was a real find.

Hue sits on a river and although much of the old imperial city was destroyed during the wars with the French and the US, they have begun to restore it. When we were walking around the city it was easy to cast your mind back to how it would have been a couple of hundred years ago. The influence of the Chinese, who occupied Vietnam for a 1000 years, is quite evident, more so than any other country we have visited on this trip. The hawkers/touts are again ever present and we have been practicing ignoring the incessant `hello' to the point that we can almost continue our conversation as normal. It would appear that saying 'No' only encourages them for some strange reason. The restaurants also appear to be outlets for buying pictures/paintings and booking accommodation, train, bus or tour tickets... it is hard not to be left with the feeling that we are little more than `dollar's on legs'.

Nicola has been quite adventurous on the food front in Hue, it must be said that Vietnam is quite a culinary experience. Make your own spring rolls was the order of the day yesterday and she took great delight in putting them together while the waiter tried to sell us some silk paintings. Today she tried the Vietnamese delicacy pho, a soup made with a meat of choice and bean sprouts, mint and chili on the side. The chillies on the side reminded us that the food in Vietnam doesn't reach the spicy heights of Thailand, the taste hot spot of this trip.

We must mention Halong Bay before we sign off. There are boat loads of trips on sale from the various agents in the old quarter of Hanoi. We splurged a little and went for a middle of the range priced, overnight tour of Halong Bay. The Bay is situated about 3.5 hours drive E/SE of Hanoi, it is truly an amazing natural wonder. Once we were on our modernised junk and sailing between the hundreds of limestone krasts, we could see why it is a world heritage site and is a must see destination when you are in northern Vietnam. We had more seafood than we could eat (we think it should help with Christopher's anorexic looking physique!), we got to do some sedate kayaking among the krasts, and to have a wee paddle in the water to cool down. It was a treat for us and not something we will forget. Although it must be said that after two days on a package tour we were happy to gain our independence and head south under our own steam.

Well, we must get back to relaxing in our lavish accommodation. Next stop is Hoi An for four nights, the home of the tailor, in fact we hear that there are supposed to be over 250 tailors shops. We have been thinking about what clothes we should have made, Nicola is convinced that a pink silk suit for Christopher is in order!




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