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Adventures of Boo

Vietnam - Central

VIETNAM | Thursday, 17 April 2008 | Views [1265] | Comments [1]

Vietnam – Central

Bus trip to Hue

I’ll start with the bus trip. We departed from Hanoi around 7pm on a sleeper bus. What is a sleeper bus you might ask? Basically it is a large bus fitted out with seat-like beds that recline right back to near horizontal, (actually some do go right down, just have to be quick to get them before other savvy travelers). There are three rows of these beds with two levels, hence a bottom and top bunk.  Just to make things interesting, the beds aren’t all the same length and don’t accommodate the taller than average tourist. By pure subconscious brilliance I managed to pick the longest one, with the only down side been that it was situated over the rear door and toilet. That would’ve been fine as a compromise apart from the fact that this toilet was not functioning quite right and at random intervals would release a really foul stench for all to enjoy. I believe that it may have been related to the rough patches of the road where the bus would slam into potholes and over humps to stir-up the unspeakable from the depths of the buses bowels.

Then the bus driver puts on a DVD which turns out to be Rambo: First Blood Part II. This is the one were Rambo parachutes into the Vietnam jungle to search for American POWs and in his usual style annihilates the Vietnamese and Soviet forces pursuing him, and flies back to Thailand with the rescued POWs. Well I know that it is just a movie but it puts it in a different perspective watching it on a bus in Vietnam. It didn’t help that these two American guys, who’d had a few beers and vodka, were cheering Rambo on his killing spree. The other disturbing aspect of the movie is that the language settings had been changed to Vietnamese and the same FEMALE voice was doing all the characters! I know Rambo is just a script full of one liners but this was disturbing and close to unbearable. So I grabbed my trusty ipod and selected some ‘Heavy Metal’ tunes as my soundtrack to the movie…..ahhh much better! Fourteen hours after departure we arrive in Hue at 8am safe and sound, tired and hungry.




Checked into the Hotel called ‘Binh Doung II’ and after inspecting a number of the available rooms picked the one all the way up the top on the 5th floor. It was huge with 2 double beds, bathroom, balcony and a 270 degree view over the city of Hue, all for $10 a night. As you most likely have guessed it was cheaper as there was no elevator in this hotel and climbing up and down those stairs sure got the old heart pumping!

Later on I visited the sight to see in Hue, the Citadel which is surrounded by 10km of defensive walls 6m high and 21m thick, and a moat to top it off. And that’s just the first layer of defense, as there is a further two enclosures to protect the Imperial City and Forbidden Purple City which was reserved for the private life of the emperor.

During the 1968 Tet offensive there was heavy fighting in Hue, and much of it was concentrated in the area of the citadel. Consequently much of it was damaged and awaits restoration but there are still a lot of impressive and beautiful sites to visit, namely the Thai Hoa Palace. As I sense many of you are falling asleep at this history lesson, I’m going to fast forward to the next site of interest.

While visiting the Thien Mu Pagoda just 4km down the road from the Citadel and on the bank of the Song Huong River (lovely spot), I was warmly greeted by two charming young ladies. This was at the far end of the temple grounds near the pine trees, might sound dodgy but there were other people about so don’t worry. They claimed to be medical students doing fundraising for the Red Cross to help the poor people of Vietnam selling little bags of toothpicks. They were from Hanoi University and in Hue for a few weeks doing internship like training at the local hospital. One of them produced a laminated sheet with a few details of the fundraising and a notepad with names, nationality and donations of previous tourists. When I mentioned that the sums were quite significant and that I wouldn’t be surprised if a few numbers had been added here and there, they giggled and smiled and didn’t deny my suggestion. Nice little strategy putting pressure on the tourists to see if they’ll donate as much as ‘others’, as they were most happy to show me all those from Australia many with donations of around 500,000 dong (about AU$34). I know that I’m tight with money at times but I wasn’t convinced of the legitimacy of this operation so I paid 100,000 dong for my little bag of toothpicks and thought it better to distribute donations directly to the poor in the streets, many of them victims of the war. I just couldn’t help but think that the funds might go to financing their social life, as I know medical students like to party!


Hoi An

Located four hours by bus south of Hue is the city of Hoi An. I found this place to be more pleasant and interesting as a city than Hue. This place is well known for its architecture, nearby beach and gastronomic treats. A great combination in my books! Plus there are tailor shops everywhere, so many that I’d bet that this small city of 76,000 has more tailor shops than Tasmania altogether. This was ideal as I was after a suit for the weddings I’ll be attending in France during the summer. I already have three weddings on my list so I wanted something nice but different. A suit that stands out just a little bit, in contrary to my usual grey suits. After choosing the design, material and colours, my personal tailor whipped up this suit (jacket, pants, shirt and tie) in just 24hrs and at the fitting no further changes were necessary. Great quality with amazing efficiency and service, just awesome! I’m really happy with how the suit turned out. They even commented that they’ve never had a suit request like mine before which is just what I was after, something unique. I have a feeling I’ll be back to Hoi An.


My Son

While in Hoi An, I visited the ancient Cham city of My Son on a day tour booked with the travel agency. Sometimes I join in with the bus loads of tourists and visit these sights too! My Son is a Unesco world heritage site with the ruins located 35km inland in a lush jungle valley surrounded by hills. It became a religious centre in the late 4th century and occupied until the 13th century, so fairly ancient and steeped in history.

Our bus load of cheery tourists pulled up on location just a little before 9:30am and it was already sweltering hot. Maybe it was just me being a softie as I’d acclimatized to the milder climate of Northern Vietnam. In any case, it was all quite spectacular to see and walk around the ruins of this ancient city, hopping from one patch of shade to another with the other tourists like we’d all grown afraid of direct sunlight. I can tell you the drinks and ice-cream shop conveniently placed on the return route made a killing in business.

Major restoration is underway at My Son (part of the $4 entry fee) and yet a great mystery remains. These monuments were constructed by the Champa civilization using baked bricks with no mortar between them. Apparently, nobody in this high-tech world has yet managed to work out how the Chams were able to get their baked bricks to stick together. I made sure to closely inspect this phenomenon myself and have come to the conclusion that they must have used super-glue!

For the return trip I’d chosen to take the boat back to Hoi An along with the majority of my fellow tourists on the tour. This added extra promised us lunch on the boat and a stop at a government funded carpentry village to display how the furniture and crafts get made. I was most impressed to see how they embedded the pearl from sea shells into the wood to create amazing scenes from Vietnamese life. Lets just say that it is a time consuming process with many different stages to achieve the end result and I’m glad that my Father never employed similar design with his furniture as I would have spent the greater part of my childhood chiseling away majestic scenes traced out on the timber.    

As with the boat trip, lets just say that the ‘good boat’ that the tour guide told us we were waiting for wasn’t so flash. This open-aired boat was spewing diesel fumes like the green-house effect wasn’t an issue and I’ve never tasted stir-fried rice that had that extra special flavor. Once the boat did get out into the middle of the river it broke down and we had to flag down another to give us a tow. With the sick and sputtering engine turned off the remainder of the trip was much more peaceful.

Tags: hoi an, hue, my son, sleeper bus



"(...)get their baked bricks to stick together. I made sure to closely inspect this phenomenon myself"

I Can guess the influence of your father !

Have a nice trip and see you soon in France

  Mathias Jun 2, 2008 12:28 AM

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