Hue and What to Do

We choose to take a car and drive on route to Hue and make a day of it. You can get there various ways.

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Train – Cheap and slow and you miss the views and stopping where you fancy.
Bus – Misses most of the beautiful pass and bay and to be frank,ย  we had them pass us along some of the route. They drive fast with no care, like they have a death wish. The poor motorbikes get pushed off the road into the dirt all the time and the bus will play with the traffic, not slowing down until you do to let them through. Then 5 mins later they are at the side of the road having broken down or over heated and all the passengers are sweating in the heat.
Motorbike – For the mentally insane westerner who wants the standard right of passage leg scar and knee injury. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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After you pass the mass development of jumbo sized new resort hotels being built on the beach front pretty much all the way from Hoi An to Danang the 1st stop is a place called Marble Mountains. It looks just like 5 pieces of rock poking out from the earth and not much to see but as soon as you get on them you see why people like them and also why during the Vietnam war they built a hospital in them. It was right next to the US army base hidden in plain site and never found! The views are great and you could spend half a day here easily, exploring the temples, tunnels and caves inside. We were so glad it wasn’t raining as you would really struggle to get about as the marble is slippy enough in the dry.

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Then we took the slow road to Hue to be able to go through the Hแบฃi Vรขn Pass as seen on Top Gear. The views are lovely on the day we drove although it can be extremely foggy sometimes.

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Final stop is Lang Co Bay, apparently one of the 30 best bays in the world?

We arrive at our hotel, Hue Villa Hotel which is part of a tourism training college teaching the young how to run hotels and part funded by Luxembourg. Rooms are big and it’s a cheap place to stay as long as you don’t eat there as the food was expensive.

We spend the evening watching the sunset over perfume river and the dragon boats shuffling tourists back and forth.

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Next day we bake ourselves in the sun whilst looking around the imperial city. It’s currently being restored as it was, as you can most probably guess, bombed by the Americans in the war!

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It’s an impressive place and the restored parts are beautiful. Deb finally runs out of memory cards which gives us a good opportunity to look through our photos and realise just how much we have seen and done and just how quickly it has gone by. Can’t believe we will be on our way home soon.
This starts the whole, what are we going to do conversations again and then on to what destinations we fancy next?

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The sun is still shining so we book a car and driver for the afternoon for ยฃ15 and head off to the tomb of Khan Dinh. It’s a pretty stunning place but again, if you look at how poor the people were verses the tomb it’s pretty sad. It was know as the place you never return from when it was being built and so many died in it’s making. The imperial king also put the taxes of the village up by 30% just to pay for it!

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Then we are off to the abandoned water park down the road to pay a villager 70p who is making himself an extra bit of cash on the side to let you through the gate. This place was opened back in 2004 although not complete and closed in 2006, for a reason no one is quite sure of. Up until 2014 there were plans to turn it into an eco holiday park but this has since failed. The park is now just in decay and a cool place to visit since the crocodiles have been re-homed.

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The scariest thing is that you can walk up to the top of the dragons head and look over the edge. Some have even climbed on to the top of the head. The place only has a few people wandering around. Mainly younger bloggers/vloggers trying to be super cool. No health and safety here, sure it won’t be long until some crazy vlogger or blogger falls off and then the access stairs will get smashed up to stop you going up.

The night is spent on the riverbank watching the locals cooking up spurious bowls of stuff on stalls under a bridge and trying to sell some rather tatty souvenirs to the over dreamy tourists.

Then it’s off to have maybe the second best curry Deb has ever had at Shiva-Shakti Indian Restaurant complete with the locally brewed beer.

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Over night the rain arrives and the power come and goes, just as well we are packing up and moving on to Bangkok to catch our flight over to Myanmar.

Live Happy
Debs and Steve

P.S. This is what happens when you have a Korean wanting to help take your photos and shows you how to pose!

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Hoi An, City of Lanterns.

We arrive in Hoi An in the rain and decide to get the umbrellas out and go for a wander. 5 mins later we are back as it turns into an absolute down pour.

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The rain doesn’t stop so it’s dinner in the hotel and an early night with the hope for a better day tomorrow.

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Next day the rain has subsided but the clouds still look dark, so we go to explore and find a place to sit and people watch.

We have arrived in the middle of the lunar new year celebrations so the 2017 light festival is in full flow. The river is lit by big dragons and other creatures and there is a stage with a singer, who sounded a bit like Asian Lulu and seemed to be stuck on a continuous loop. You could also find stalls with games like coconut shies and target shooting.

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Hoi An is well known for it’s lanterns. We missed the one night a month that they turn the lights off and everything is lit by lanterns, but we’d imagine this must be so nice.

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For the price of about 30p you can buy a little floating lanternย  with a candle in it from the old ladies then you can float it down the river. As it floats off be prepared for the eco friendly recycling as the women collect them down stream put fresh candles in and then off to market they go for resell.

It’s a pretty village just full of colourful lanterns, more coffee shops than you will ever need, some lovely local markets and so many places to eat. Then the rain comes again and an umbrella isn’t going to save us this time so we duck into the clothes market. The stall holders are happy to have a captive audience. There are also many tailors here but most are not real tailors.

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They all sell similar designs and are just windows to the same factory who makes them. If you really want to get clothes made here you will need to check out tripadvisor for reviews. Deb liked the idea of having something made but being a seamstress, looking at quality and price soon put her off. Fabric is very very over priced and costs of making it just too expensive for what you get. The shop keepers get 10/10 for persistence. One guy was particularly persuasive and had about 4 sets of people on the go. Unfortunately it seems to be the younger set that get suckered in and end up not being able to say no. The chatter on the street is full of people comparing what they paid and people concerned they have wasted money buying something they will never wear. Meanwhile Deb and Steve were content with the $1 t-shirts from Cambodia that surprisingly washed up really well.
Rain stopped and we make a swift escape, back to the hotel ready for a spruce up and to discover Hoi An at night.

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Hoi An at night is really pretty. All the bars and streets light up with lanterns and reflect on the water, it’s a beautiful site. We can now see why it seems to be everyone’s favourite place in Vietnam. We did the usual, wandered up and down looking to choose a place to have a cheap drink and then wander around again unable to decide.

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We walk to the end of the bars and find a nice stop on a roof terrace called Purple Rain. This place is NOT recommended! Yes, we have been watching ourselves in Vietnam to avoid scams only to nearly get done but a western run bar! Everywhere you go everyone is working hard to provide a good clean service, open kitchen so you can see your food being cooked and until now we hadn’t even given it a thought that they always open your beer bottles at the table, until that day that they don’t! Our beer came not only already open but in a beer cooler, nice touch we thought. Steve has a taste and said this is not Saigon beer? We pull the bottle out and it has no labels. When challenged the waiter laughs with one of those, yes you caught us moments, the owner does the, I told you not to take beer from there and we don’t pay for the beer and wave goodbye.

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Next day, time to go find a Banh Mi. Everyone raves about them and there is a shop in Hoi An that are supposed to do the best one ever! Off we trott, you won’t miss it they said, you will see the queue. We find the queue, see that it’s only 70p if you sit in to eat it, find a table and beat the queues. Not sure what was in the baguettes but they tasted ok.

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Finally on the last day in Hoi An the sun comes out and we get to see the place looking beautiful. Amazing just how different it looks.

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Time to pack and off we go again. This time by car to Hue.

Live Happy
Debs and Steve

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Where’s the Traffic Gone? Ho Chi Minh City During Vietnam New Year.

Careful in Ho Chi Minh everyone said.

It’s so busy, hang on to your stuff. Everyone you meet has had something stolen there. So we are ready for this place that even the Vietnamese seem to be afraid of this big sprawling metropolis.

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We get on the very empty Qatar flight. Steve looks like billy no mates again and off we go. We couldn’t go by land as we didn’t have a visa to cross the border.

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There are so few people on the flight that when we go to collect our luggage we can’t find the carousel until we realise they didn’t bother and had just chucked the luggage on the floor. Good Morning Vietnam!!

20170203_144613The free hotel transfer was waiting and off we went through the empty streets. We knew that some things would be closed and some people leave the city for Vietnamese New Year or as it’s called here Tet but really weren’t expecting it to be so quite?

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The hotel is in a good location in District 1 and the things we came to see are within easy reach. After a bit of a “negotiation” with the hotel we get an up grade. We had made double sure that we had a room with a window as Deb and her hotel claustrophobia would not have coped without a window out. This is where we learnt our next lesson. Don’t think just because you have double checked your room has a window, as many hotels in Asia don’t, that this “window” may just be a pane of glass that looks into the hotel air vent!

From now on it’s another special request on the booking form. Special requests followed by emailing the hotel to confirm go something like this.

  • Window with view to the outside.
  • Whether you want a city, beach, mountain or garden view. Quiet room, not near stairs, lifts, next to fire doors or near the hotel entrance/exit or over conference/ballrooms.
  • High floor, especially if in a city.
  • Something else we have found handy in Asia is to make sure that on arrival you have a screen shot of the photo of the room you booked online. This is how we got our upgrade as the room was not the room in the description. Naughty Naughty!

Our new room even has a jacuzzi bath, or as it later became known as, the washing machine!

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We enjoy the evening on the roof top bar of the hotel we had booked as we were concerned about just how busy it was going to be down on the street. The hotel was better than we expected for the price we paid.

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Next day after a very asian breakfast of chicken and chips? We go off to find the war museum and find it closed until 13:30, luckily for us we decided to do it today as the next day is a bank holiday and all goverment buildings are closed but the Cu Chi Tunnels will still be open. It’s an interesting place, a lot of words and some very graphic photos. Bit of an information overload on agent orange and after so many upsetting graphic pictures and some very upset locals it’s time to leave and go wander.

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As it’s Tet, the streets are full of bright lights and as it’s the year of the rooster, a lot of large rooster statues. We even come across some chinese dragon performances in the streets and find a flower festival that we will visit next day. As not much was open we wander through the huge mall near our hotel to find something to eat before heading back up to the bar in the hotel to watch the city lights.

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Bright and early we hop into the minibus to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels with a bunch of middle aged Lithuanians, one who just can’t seem to live without a beer in his hand! We are with Kim travel on a small tour of only 8 people and our guide for the day is a war veteran who can tell you 1st hand as he was there and at 69 years old you can still see the emotion in his eyes. He was by far the best guide so far, funny, interesting, engaging and not to forget rather cheeky! And yes, Deb did want to climb in the hole but would the butt fit? Nope!

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Whilst at the tunnels you realise that althoughย we paid about 10% over the average tour price, what we got was so much better service. Our guide knew everyone, understood when to hang back and wait for the big coach tours and young tour guides to rush past. He would then give us a really personal account of the area we were in, unlike the young guides who just repeated the daily words to a group of about 30.

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Worth every extra penny. He even managed to get Steve trying the local snake rice wine.

After we return it’s off to the flower festival that stays open until 23:00. It was a beautiful display of orchids, dragons made from vegetables, the most amazing bonsai trees we had ever seen and more people taking selfies than you can imagine.

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Soon we have had enough of flowers and fighting off selfie sticks in our path and we head back to get ready for our next flight to Hoi An. If there’s a time to go to Ho Chi Minh City it must be Tet as we found the city completely comfortable, no crowds and no traffic and it appeared the pickpockets had gone home to the countryside to show off their new found wealth.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve