23/10/2013 - 26/10/2013
Hue's in central Vietnam. As a city it's kinda like a smaller and less chaotic Hanoi, which was nice.
We stayed at Jade Hotel, which was my favourite of all the places we stayed in Vietnam. When we first arrived, plus every time we'd return to the hotel during the day, they'd sit us down and bring us some fresh juice. They'd be really attentive as well - hanging around and chatting to us - it was sometimes a little too attentive and felt a bit awkward, but still, it was sweet. Our room was really nice too, plus the breakfast was my favourite of all the places we stayed in Vietnam. There were lots of options, cooked to order, and you could have as many items as you liked. It was also the only place that had coffee I could drink. I think most places served Vietnamese style coffee, which was really sweet and just not to my personal taste. Plus they had decent banana pancakes - properly cooked and everything - yay!
The weather wasn't great while we were there, we had quite a bit of rain, but we still had a good time and saw a decent amount. There's not a huge amount you can see by foot, aside from the citadel, so it's best to do a tour or two. There's one that goes out to the former DMZ, which would have been cool to do, but it was quite expensive. The city tour was cheaper and took in a lot of sites, so we went for that. We booked it for our second full day there. This meant there wasn't much to do on our first day, but we had a good walk around, trying to avoid the rain.
In the evening we went for a curry and then went to a bar that we'd been handed a flyer for (which I've forgotten the name of). The fliers entitled us to cheap cocktails - I think it was buy one get one free, though they were pretty cheap anyway, so we both had a cocktail for about £2 - maybe less! It was a while ago now, so I can't remember exactly. We also got a free welcome shot, then another free shot was brought around 15 minutes later. The tag line of the bar is that they stay open until the last person passes out, so I guess the free booze is to help ensure the staff get home at a reasonable-ish hour!
Not only did we get an impressive amount of free and cheap alcohol, but one of the bar staff came and sat with us and chatted to us for ages - we learned all about her. Plus she got us to play some games, which were finger dexterity things. It was a slightly surreal night.
The next day was our city tour. It started with visits to 3 different tombs, while our tour guide explained the history of them. Despite being Vietnamese, Jamie noticed how he sounded quite like Henning Wehn, which provided some added entertainment. We were also taken to watch a kung fu display, which was fun. The part where a guy smashed through some brick with his hand was the most impressive. I got it on video, but managed to accidentally delete it afterwards, which was annoying. There was also one routine where a guy demonstrated how to fight with a fan. It was quite difficult to take that one seriously.
One of the tombs:
We had a buffet lunch included, which has been a standard thing. It was alright, though not great. It had started raining by this point. I was hopeful that it might ease off while we were having lunch, but sadly it didn't. Our next destination was the citadel, which contains the forbidden city and covers quite a large area. In nice weather it would have been a highlight, but in the rain it was somewhat miserable. At least we were able to easily buy an umbrella - women crowded around the bus as we exited, desperate to sell us all umbrellas and ponchos.
After the rainy citadel we went to the rainy pagoda! The rain started to ease off a bit though, thankfully. The tour then ended with a boat ride along the river. All in all it was a really good tour, it was just a shame about the weather.
From Hue we went to Hoi An. We'd originally thought that we'd travel most of Vietnam by train, but as you can't get a train to Hoi An, you have to get off in Da Nang and get a bus from there anyway, it seemed easier to just take a bus direct. We did some research into the best bus companies and decided to use Sinh Tourist. We caught the bus from their office, which wasn't far from our hotel, and set off to Hoi An.