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July 05, 2004


I was late for the bus so it was mostly full when I boarded and I ended up with a seat over a back wheel. I was hoping to stretch out onto the space next to me to make up for the lack of leg room (5' 10" is too tall for Vietnamese busses) but a girl plonked herself down beside me and announced that she was going to practice her English. She was called Tam and was on her way to visit relatives. She was a student hoping to become an economist at a joint venture company and had a whole store of personal questions to ask me. We stopped at a cafe at around 1.30 to use the hideous toilets and have a drink. I got a can of cold lychee juice and everyone stood around watching a tiny TV that was incongrously broadcasting the Euro 2004 final live. Tam got off the bus at 4.00 and I slept until we arrived in Hue at 8.30 in the morning.

The city has two halves - one new and the other old - divided by a river. The latter is built inside citadel walls and to the south of it lies the river, bordered by narrow parks. I admired the flagpole and explored the ancient Imperial City, which has been restored with the aid of UNESCO funds. It was used by emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th and 20th centuries and was modelled on the Forbidden City in Beijing. There were lots of pavillions, ponds and ruins, but a lot was still being 'reconstructed.'

I fell over and skinned my knees and realised that I hadn't eaten since the previous afternoon, so I headed to a really nice restaurant on stilts in a lily pond within the citadel walls. There were only two other customers and I sat there for ages watching the water drip from the roof and savouring a glass of iced lemon juice. A girl hooked a lily pod from the lake and unwrapped some seeds for me to eat. The lake looked none too clean as it seemed like the restaurant staff and customers threw their rubbish in it (why do people in Vietnam do this? I saw crew in Halong Bay throw stuff into the water... when they know the sea is their livelihood?) but since I have gastro-enteritis or whatever already, I thought "what's the worse that can happen?" They didn't taste of much, incidentally.

I tried to walk to the Thien Mu Temple, but it was too far and too hot, so I got a lift on a motorbike there and back. I sat at the Pavilion of Edicts for a while and watched the sun set and the kites swirling in the sky.

Posted by Rowena on July 5, 2004 02:12 PM
Category: Vietnam
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