AsiaVietnamHue

Hue 22nd and 23rd December 2007

Hue Travel Blog

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Perfume River

Ariving anywhere in Vietnam you are guaranteed a very warm welcome by a throng of touts attempting to cajole you into staying at a hotel where they will get a commission for your introduction. We always run the gauntlet of the touts in favour of going to the places we choose from our own research. Getting off the train from Hanoi we stepped into our first seriously warm weather of the trip so far. Despite it only being 8.30 in the morning the temperature was well into the high twenties. The station in Hue is a good 1.5km walk away from the main areas for hotels and guesthouses, so backpacks on we set off. It wasn't long before the sweat was trickling down our necks and for once the idea of being taken to any old hotel didn't seem so unattractive, but on we marched.

Perfume River

Our first stop was the Phu An hotel and after a bit of negotiation over the room price and considering the heat for walking to our second choice we took the room and handed over our passports, as is the way in Vietnam for registration. We dumped our bags down and immediately did what many travellers do on arriving at a new location.... laundry!! The nasty thing about doing laundry by hand in a sink or bathtub is that you actually get to see exactly how dirty your clothes are which kind of makes it a much more disgusting process. We had wet clothes hanging from everywhere, the shower curtain rail, the towel racks, chairs as well as our own travel washing line that we'd set up. Laundry done we flopped onto the bed exhausted to catch up with a bit of sleep only to discover that the bed was crawling with red ants!!! We went straight down to the reception and they promised to get it sorted so we decided to leave them to it and as sleep was out we headed off for a Vietnamese super strength coffee which would render sleep an impossibility anyway.

Steph at our favourite bar in Hue, DMZ

By now the heat was building and it must have been nudging 30 degrees. We walked around a bit, but for the life of us we couldn't find anywhere that wasn't a fancy hotel charging fancy prices. We trudged across a bridge, through a massive covered market, round and back again across the bridge and we were wilting fast. We had the shortest discussion ever over the merits of coffee vs cold beer and found a great little bar called the DMZ. Beers in hand and sitting under a fan the heat really didn't seem so much of problem anymore.

After a couple of beers we headed to a veggie restaurant mentioned in the Rough Guide and had a nice lunch, though not the nicest we've had on our travels to be honest. Best thing was though, it was down a really lovely little side street with some really lovely looking hotels.

Amazing what you see people carrying on their bikes!
We decided to check a couple out and made the decision to move for our second night to a different place. Back at the Phu An we went up to our room only to discover that they'd done nothing about the ants and now it was even worse, there were literally hundreds of ants enjoying our bed and plotting ways to invade our backpacks. Straight back down to reception and another promise to sort it our immediately. Hmmmmm!! Twenty minutes later back in the room with no action from the hotel we packed up our dripping laundry and decided we were out of there. The hotel had other ideas. They still had our passports and decided that even though the ants were in the room we should pay them a half day's rate!! Obviously the discreet and tactful approach wasn't working. We pointed out that the room was infested and that they were responsible for the cleanliness of the room.
A couple of the many dragon boats available for hire on the Perfume River
The receptionist decided it was all a bit much for her and phoned her boss who was by now hiding somewhere else in the hotel. After some discussion in Vietnamese we were handed the phone. Feeling brave by the distance she refused all our reasonable arguments and at one point even laughed!! She insisted that we take a different room or pay the half day rate. You can imagine how enthusiastic we were to be giving them any custom by now!! We decided to look at the other room and guess what, swarming with ants too! That was the signal for a gloves off battle! We pointed out to her that travellers are a talkative bunch and often pass on hints and tips about hotels etc. and we promised that we'd be giving a full account of her hotel. Out came the camera and we starting photographing the ants which had colonised reception (as well as telling the staff we had lots of photos of the others) and you've never seen such a quick u-turn.
Huda beer, our favourite in Hue
Before we knew it our passports were in our hands and they couldn't get rid of us quick enough. So if you ever go to Hue avoid the Phu An Hotel like the plague!

Relieved to have escaped the evil hotels clutches we settled into our much nicer, clean and more peaceful new hotel. We  spent the evening wandering our new area and settled onto the balcony of DMZ for a couple of beers and some street watching before eating at one of the many very attractive restaurants Hue has to offer. Hue is generally much cheaper than Hanoi and as usual it's cheaper to drink beer (9000VND which is about 26p) than it is for a can of coke (10000VND or about 29p). If this continues as we head south they'll be paying us to drink the beers by the time we get to Phu Quoc!!

We woke up refreshed and raring to go on our second day but had missed most of the organised boat trip along the river as they all leave at the unholy hour of 8am.

River life
Being of the opinion that we were winding down from here on in we decided we'd prefer the lie in over sightseeing. We headed for DMZ which was rapidly becoming our local and took a hit of the Vietnamese coffee which got us shaking and buzzing as usual. We decided that we'd hire a boat privately and go to see the Thien Mu Pagoda which was our priority and about a 45 minute boat ride away. The cruise along the river was lovely, the water and the breeze from our movement along it cooled us down. The Pagoda was lovely and has been renowned as a site of troublesome Buddhist monks for many years. In the 1960's at the height of the oppression of Buddhism by ex president of the South, Diem, a monk named Thich Quang Duc set of in his sky blue Austin car with lots of other monks to make a protest.
An example of the boat we took along the Perfume River
They got to a busy intersection where Duc sat down in the middle of the road meditating in the lotus position while his colleagues doused him in petrol and set him on fire!! He continued to meditate as he burnt to death. To say the photos are haunting is an understatement. The Austin car sits quietly rusting at the pagoda with the photos in his memory. As a footnote, this incident was the begining of the end for Diem and his American backed puppet government.

Back on the boat the daughter of the family who lived on the boat came round offering us cold drinks. So we bought her one too which she seemed most uncertain about, but eventually once we'd opened it and given her the money she seemed to really enjoy. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening reading, snoozing and walking around before we had dinner and some happy hour beers at the DMZ.

Adam at Thien Mu Pagoda
Incidentally, one of the local beers in Hue is called Huda Beer which is our favourite Vietnamese beer so far.

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Perfume River
Perfume River
Perfume River
Perfume River
Steph at our favourite bar in Hue,…
Steph at our favourite bar in Hue…
Amazing what you see people carryi…
Amazing what you see people carry…
A couple of the many dragon boats …
A couple of the many dragon boats…
Huda beer, our favourite in Hue
Huda beer, our favourite in Hue
River life
River life
An example of the boat we took alo…
An example of the boat we took al…
Adam at Thien Mu Pagoda
Adam at Thien Mu Pagoda
Steph making friends at Thien Mu P…
Steph making friends at Thien Mu …
The car which Thich Quang Duc drov…
The car which Thich Quang Duc dro…
The Flag Tower, as seen from our b…
The Flag Tower, as seen from our …
The view from our hostel balcony
The view from our hostel balcony
Hue
photo by: Paulovic