February 24th, 2006 – by: Stormcrow
The view while traversing the Hai Van Pass.
Once again there's no time for sleeping in, our alarm sounds at 6.15, because we have to leave for Hue at 8. And once again it's raining.
The first leg of the drive is only about 45 minutes long, then we arrive at the Cham Museum in Da Nang
. Yesterday's guide is there too, just our luck... We listen to her story, of course, but as soon as she's done we're off to take a look around, because we only have an hour for the entire visit.
Every statue that is on display here comes from the My Son site, differing about a thousand years in age (the oldest ones were made in the 7th century). The Cham worshipped Garuda, Ganesh and Brama for their benevolence. Shiva, on the contrary, was feared!
The Forbidden City.
35 we hop on the bus again and we start the winding climb of the Hai Van pass (the Pass of Clouds). It is a beautiful stretch with fantastic views (in 2008 Jeremy Clarkson will call this one of the best coastal roads "In the world"), but it doesn't take too long before the pass starts honoring its name by shrouding our bus in mist and clouds. The pass isn't that high (400-something meters), but the rising mist from the sea somehow accumulates here. The pass is also a natural divide between the often wetter and colder weather in the north of the country and more subtropical climate in the south. Ã�nd it was the natural border between the ancient Champa and Dai Viet empires. At the highest point we stop for a little while, where we immediately get swarmed by very tenacious hawkers.
His majesties' seat.
Still, the views make the stop worth our while. From here we drive to Hue in one go, and during this leg the views are equally stunning.
When we arrive in our hotel in Hue a little after 12.30, Trudy is desperate for a toilet. Unfortunately for her it takes a little while before the hotel rooms are assigned, and near the lobby there's no sight of a ladies' room. She asks an employee to show her the toilet and the lady starts walking up and down flights of stairs with Trudy in her wake. This process takes this long that Trudy really can't hold it any longer and (a woman's got to do what a woman's got to do) uses an empty bucket that's standing in the hallway.
At last we are told what room we will be sleeping in and Michel tells us the report to him immediately if we get a room without a window, this appears to have happened before.
Any cooked criminals in here?
I'm glad to say that this is not the case now, but our foam rubber mattresses are in such a deteriorated state that it feels as if we're lying down on the bed slats themselves. We think this is a good enough reason to ask for a room change and of course Michel arranges it without question. Even though this means we don't have a window anymore, it's a good trade for a better bed!
We go and have dinner with Caroline at Hoa ViÃªn, that's at small distance from our DÃ³ng Loi Hotel.
At 14.00 hours we leave with the entire group in cyclo's for the Forbidden City, also known as the Purple City. The Forbidden City is the heart of the Imperial City and it is the area where only the NguyÃªn imperial family and their direct servants (who were all eunuchs) could go.
The Forbidden City.
It is a magnificent complex, little over 200 years old (building began in 1804) with a 10 kilometer long earthen wall and moat surrounding the grounds. Unfortunately both the French- and the Vietnam War didn't leave it unscathed, but still there are plenty beautiful things to discover and juicy stories to learn about. One story in particular causes a little uproar within our group: there is a big cauldron on a square that raises some eyebrows, and the tail behind it is that it was used to boil perpetrators alive as a sentence. That'll teach'em not to try thÃ¡t again! Whatever it was...
There is a dance show in one of the buildings of the old city and Michel tells us that this one isn't a waste of our time, so we decide to go there. The show lasts about half an hour and it actually is quite nice (and sitting down for a little while isn't too bad either).
The dance show in the Forbidden City.
It is about 16.30 when we leave the compound and when the cyclo's drop us at the hotel we walk into the city of Hue without delay, to find an Internet cafe to try to make a phone call to Holland and have our digital photos burnt on a cd. This is our first holiday to bring along a digital camera, we're still having some trouble trusting the new technique and are afraid of loosing them.
Making the phone call doesn't work out, getting our pictures backed up does. While I'm making the back ups the girls are going for a drink. Trudy and Caroline would like to know what avocado juice tastes like (without ice, of course), and Trudy brings her to bear her best Vietnamese. She asks for "Avocado juice cam vat" that means as much as avocado orange juice. This results in a nice glas of lukewarm orange juice, so the ladies still have no idea what avocado juice tastes like.
We do some stocking up on finger food for the train ride tomorrow (we're not too sure about the catering on board) and then go for diner in the restaurant across the road from our hotel. With our bellies filled the tasks for tonight are split evenly among our little holy trinity: Caroline and Trudy are going shopping again and I am going to look for an ATM. The directions Michel gave me are surprisingly accurate, so I surprise the ladies with my speedy return, cutting short their shopping spree (we agreed beforehand that they would quit shopping when I got back). They were not completely done, but they are good sports and don't stretch it too long before coming back to the hotel with me.
Caroline goes to her room and we take our leave to ours, where we take a refreshing shower. The rest of the evening is reserved for taking some time of and relaxing, we don't turn in too late, because we've got to get up at six again tomorrow.