BootsnAll Travel Network

Hue, Vietnam (Post #82)

Hi there…Michele here…still in Vietnam and behind on the blogs. The internet cafes in Vietnam are some of the worst we have experienced and a couple times we’ve not even been able to log into our blog site or even hotmail (and forget about uploading photos!) I will probably go back and insert photos once we find an internet cafe where I can upload them. [Note: Yep, I went back and inserted photos into the Vietnam blogs on Feb. 6th] Right now we are in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam. Vietnam is a long thin country which makes travel pretty easy – you either start in the North (Hanoi) and make your way south (Saigon) or you start in the south and make your way north. As you can see below, we started in the north. Our schedule in Vietnam has been:

1/10: Hanoi
1/11: Hanoi
1/12: Hanoi
1/13: Halong Bay
1/14: Cat Ba Island
1/15: Hanoi
1/16: Hue
1/17: Hue
1/18: Hue
1/19: Hoi An
1/20: Hoi An
1/21: Hoi An
1/22: Saigon
1/23: Saigon
1/24: Mui Ne
1/25: Mui Ne
1/26: Mui Ne

1/27: Phnom Penh
1/28: Phnom Penh
1/29: Phnom Penh
1/30: Phnom Penh
1/31: Siem Reap
2/1: Siem Reap
2/2: Siem Reap
2/3: Siem Reap
2/4: Siem Reap

2/5: Bangkok
2/5: Bangkok
2/6 to ??? Southern Thailand (not sure where yet)

You know, looking at that schedule makes us seem so organized!

So, about Hue, Vietnam…

We got to Hue by taking an overnight train from Hanoi. Some of the scenary was really beautiful – which of course is one advantage of taking a train over flying. Here is a picture from the train window:

I know we said we hated overnight trains but we saw pictures of the “soft sleeper” cabins (those with beds that have a matress) and thought they looked o.k. What can really make or break the trip, as we have found out, is who is in your cabin. We booked the best cabin class we could for $37 each. The cabin actually has a door that closes and four bunks with matresses. Plus, you get a pillow, sheet, and blanket. There was even a flushing toilet with water at the end of each car (as opposed to the ol’ toilet “door” that opens onto the train tracks below.) We met our cabin mates, Jose and Patricia (from Argentina) and got along with them quite well. The train only made 2 stops during the night and we actually got some sleep. In the morning we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the price of the train ticket included a typical Vietnamese breakfast – noodle soup with chilis and coffee.

While we were on the train a guy came by our cabin and told us about a hotel for $10/night. It sounded pretty good to the four of us in the cabin so we arranged a train station pickup and went to the hotel in the morning. The hotel turned out to be very nice and we made arrangements to meet Jose and Patricia for dinner later that night.

During the day we wondered around the city and walked to the Citadel. The Citadel was constructed by the Chinese Emperor Gia Long in 1804 and it sits on the Song Huong River. The citadel is huge with a monstrous Vietnam flag flying and many ornate gates, huge urns, pagodas (temples) and a theater. It is also surrounded by a moat that you can cross via two small bridges. Inside the citadel area is the ancient Forbidden Purple City, which was reserved for the private life of the emperor. When you walk around the Forbidden Purple City and the surrounding grounds of the citadel, you really feel as though you are in an old ancient city. Below is a photo of one of the many gates in the ancient city:

We spent several hours there and decided to take a cyclo home. There are far more cyclos than there are people who want to ride in one so the price is very, very cheap (about 75 cents for 2 people). A cyclo is a bicycle with a one person seat in the front of the bike. You can turn the one person seat into a 2-person seat by putting a wooden board across the seating area, which essentially splits it in two. It’s always fun to try new modes of transportation and we had a fun time weaving in and out of traffic on the way back to our hotel.

The next day we decided to take a motor bike tour to some of the ancient sites surrounding Hue. Mike rode on the back of one motor bike and I rode on the back of another. We spent almost 7 hours going all over the place. We drove on small country roads, big highways, and even through the market (eeek!) There are very few cars in Hue and no one wears helmets here. Riding through the streets can sometimes be like an amusement park ride (you just have to close your eyes and assume that it will probably turn out o.k.). We had a great time and visited these sites:

Thien Mu Pagoda – an octagon pagoda founded in 1601. This was the home pagoda (temple or worshiping place) to Thich Quang Duc, who publicaly burned himself to death in 1963 to protest the policies of President Ngo Dinh Diem. (No one really like Diem and there are different thoughts on who finally killed him.) Here is a picture of the pagoda:

Tomb of Ming Mang and Tomb of Tu Duc – These are both tombs of the Nhuyen Dynasty from the mid 1800s. The tombs are larger and more ornate than most tombs and are surrounded by several walls. But this isn’t what is so special about visiting them. The tombs are in the middle of massive plots of land that were developed into parks. Each tomb is surrounded by a moat along with small lakes (with islands in the middle), and beautiful buildings and landscaping. There are also cool looking pagodas and statues around the grounds.

Thanh Toan Covered Bridge – Can’t say much about this bridge except that it is a small wooden covered bridge with a little temple in the middle. The fun was riding on the motor bikes out there and back. We passed many rice fields with Vietnamese people working in the fields using very primitive equipment (for example, oxes pulling wooden boards to plow the soil). On the way back my motorbike started fishtailing and my driver pulled over and simply pointed to the tire. We had a flat. I walked and he pushed the bike to a small shop where we got a patch and away we went down the freeway.

American tanks from the Vietnam War (called the American War in Vietnam) – Mike and I asked the two drivers if we could stop by the American tanks we had seen earlier. Hue, Vietnam saw a lot of action during the Vietnam War so it’s no surprise that there were tanks on display.

At night we went out to dinner and were stunned to see two Americans we had met in Arusha, Tanzania 3 months ago. Small world!

Our last day in Hue (Jan 18), we got up at 5:15am to go on an all day tour, called the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) tour. As someone interested in war history, I was very excited about this tour since we would see many sites associated with the Vietnam (American) war. Here’s what we saw:

The DMZ and Ben Hai River – From 1954 to 1975, the Ben Hai River served as the demarcation line between South and North Vietnam. The DMZ is an area 5 km either side of the demarcation line.

Vinh Moc Tunnels – Unlike the Cu Chi Tunnels outside of Saigon, the Vihn Moc Tunnels were not used for fighting. Instead, they were used for living. The Americans heavily bombed North Vietnam and these tunnels were where the families lived. Inside the tunnels we saw the school room, the meeting room, the familiy rooms, and even a maternity room. It was very stuffy and wet inside the tunnels – not a place anyone would want to live.

The Rockpile – The Rockpile was a very large hill where Americans were stationed. A helicoper dropped them at the top of the hill and they used it as a lookout point to see North Vietnamese activity. This area was heavily bombed with agent orange because it killed vegetation, which is where the North Vietnamese were hiding.

Khe Sanh Combat Base – Anyone who knows anything about the Vietnam War, knows about Khe Sanh Combat Base. This is the site of what many would say was the Vietnam War’s most famous siege. Helicopters and crashed planes and bunkers were still there along with huge bombs that are now rusting away (see photo below).

Dakrong Bridge and Ho Chi Minh Trail – The Dakrong Bridge was built after the war but it connects to what is now a paved road. This paved road used to be the site of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Ho Chi Minh Trail was used to bring war supplies from North to South Vietnam.

After sweating all day (it’s hot in Hue!) and riding a bus around, we finally got back to our hotel room 13 hours after leaving. The next day, we got up at 6:00am to catch a bus from Hue, to Hoi An, Vietnam.

We love blog comments but if for some reason you want to say something to us more directly, please email us — mikeandmichelertw at hotmail dot com (appropriate punctuation changes will be required of course).


0 responses to “Hue, Vietnam (Post #82)”

  1. Jim + Cindy says:

    Hello,,I am going to VN next month and was curious about certain sites. I remember the war, and wanted to see some places like Khe Sanh. How was it and was it worth the long trip from Hue?

    And do you have any suggestions on where to stay in Hoi An?

    Thx in advance

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