Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Hue is not Hoi An

Wednesday 23rd March 2011

MP3 track of the day: Suite two – Band of Brothers

Weather: The temperatures perfect in Hue, however its raining quite heavily. I wasn't expecting the weather to become so wet considering the time of year and my location. I guessing that, due to Hue being stuck between the sea (on it's eastern coast) and a huge mountain range (on it's western boarder) that these geographical elements have some part to play. The temperature can stay, but I wish the rain would disappear.


My alarm went off at an annoying 6:15am. I was still half asleep and so, getting ready, proved more difficult than normal. I joined Kim for breakfast, around 7:00am, and then we both waited for our 7:30am coach to Hue. Looking at the sky it seemed as though Hoi An was due a shower; I felt quite lucky considering the warm weather I had during my staying here; I hoped that the weather wasn't going to follow me to Hue. 7:30am came and there wasn't any sign of a coach; two Danish girls were also planning on catching a coach to Hue, however they had been told that their coach would pick them up at 8am. We presumed that it was probably the same coach and that we had been told the incorrect time. No worries, we would just wait an extra thirty minutes.

Just after 8am a rather haggled looking Vietnamese guy, came into the hostel, asking for all people heading to 'Hue'. The Danish two, Kim and I all got up and went to follow him out of the hostel. The hostel owners said good bye and see you soon … If I had my way I would be back tomorrow. Our 'pick up at our hostel' wasn't quite the same as other 'pick ups' I've had. The reason it was a little different was because there was no coach and, instead, we had to walk ten minutes to a meeting point where other backpackers were waiting. It wasn't long before a coach came and we jumped on board. It was a sleeper coach, and pretty full too; fortunately I found an empty window seat, pulled the chair into a up-right position, and sat cross legged looking at the view.

It wasn't long before we made our first stop at Da Nang. There isn't anything to see in Da Nang however it's a major transport hub and the closest airport to Hoi An. Many people got off here. As we traveled further north, towards Hue, the scenery became more dramatic and more beautiful. You had the usual rice paddies, leading to the coast on one side of the road, and beautiful tropical mountains on the other side. It was heaven and, with the low clouds, they gave the an 'eery' feel to the view. Those clouds weren't innocent, within them they brought a major down pour that occurred every so often. All the way, up and down the mountainous coast, rain fell from the skies and then stopped, just as suddenly.

Instead of going over the mountains we did eventually end up going through them. We went through a huge tunnel and, once out on the other side, the view became strangely familiar. I hadn't been here before, but Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have. On Top Gear's 'Vietnam special' the fat, short and long haired one stopped to admire a Vietnamese view. Clarkson said the view was a symbol for what Vietnam was; the mountains, the rainforest, the big construction bridge and the little fishing boat. Well, I was traveling on that bridge he mentioned and I could see where Clarkson and Co had stopped. I agreed, the view was pretty good.

We eventually made it to the outskirts of Hue. It was here that the coach stopped and gave us two options. We could stay on the sleeper coach and the termination point would be Hue's bus station, 3km out of the city center. Our second option was switching coaches to one that would take us to the city center. The choice was pretty obvious; I got my things and changed coaches, along with most of the people on-board. It wasn't until we had switched, and set off, that our new bus attendant (who was extremely rude) told us that this service cost an extra 10,000 dong. Now 10,000 dong is only 33p and so I paid it, slightly annoyed that this 'additional fee' hadn't been explained earlier. A Spanish girl would not pay the amount due to the fact that her tourist agency (who she had purchased said coach ticket from) had told her that she would be dropped off at her accommodation, within Hue, for no extra charge. Well, a huge row opened up between the assistant and this girl with the assistant telling the coach driver to headed to the bus station to drop her off. Once there the girl wouldn't move insisting that she was to be dropped off within town, at her accommodation, for no additional fee. The assistant wouldn't budge and was about to call the police … we had a, rather noisy, stalemate. Time went on and eventually another woman paid the 33p so that we could get going. I admire that this Spanish girl had stuck to her guns, however this is South East Asia. Being told one thing, and something else (usually costing you more money) happening, is the norm and you have just got to accept it. I don't like it, however if you don't accept it you'll either end up not getting anywhere, or having the most stressful traveling experience of your life. Also remember it's only 33p. Top Tip: the best thing that I have discovered is that, when booking transport, don't opt for any additional extras at your final destination ... tour agencies will tell you anything to sell you a ticket. Optional extras, that are apart of the purchasing contract within your starting location, usually get fulfilled; however, once you're five / twelve hours away, the tour agencies know your not coming back and so don't care.

For 10,000 dong, being dropped off at my hostel was pretty good value, even thought I couldn't stand the bloke. The big yellow ' Hue Backpackers' sign wasn't hard to miss and so I went in. The reception staff were lovely and checking in was a breeze (plus I got to keep my passport). One lady showed me to my dorm, which was called 'Carnival'. As I walked in it was very clean with the usual bunk beds. That was until we turned the corner and I found that, my bed, was a huge double-bed just for me. What I had done to deserve this big, conformable, bed I don't know; however the Vietnamese lady saw my look of amazement and said ' maybe you get lucky tonight' and laughed. I don't think so love; over the last week I've slept in an over crowed dorm, a coach and a guesthouse with an annoying mosquito … all of this bed was for me.

I dumped my stuff, got out my coat, and went downstairs. I picked up a map and ate lunch within the hostel's restaurant. Lunch was a little expensive, however the portions were huge; I ordered a 'noodles with chicken and vegetables' and just managed to eat it all. While chucking my lunch down my throat I met a girl from London and we chatted about our traveling experiences. I also inquired into how much the train, from Hue, to Hanoi would cost. For a soft sleeper it cost $38.00 whereas the coach was only half that price. I did fancy taking the train for the next leg of my journey, as the scenery is supposed to be fantastic; however as the latest train leaves at 5:00pm (getting into Hanoi at 9:00am the following day) I would only get three hours of daylight viewing time (DVT). Also 'Highway One', the main road within Vietnam, mirrors the train line and so it's possible I would get the same view, though not the same comfort, for half the price. I would have to think about this.

It was still raining outside, however I was itching to have a wonder. My original plan was to venture out and have a look around the urban area on the southern side of the river, which is where my hostel is located. It soon became apparent that there wasn't much to see around here; the buildings were the usual, concrete looking, structures seen anywhere within South East Asia and miles away from the beauty of Hoi An. I therefore ventured north down to the riverfront, walked through a park, and crossed a bridge into the citadel. Before reaching the ancient part of the citadel I had to pass even more concrete structures and cross another bridge. Finally I made it and, my first impressions, weren't that good at all. The main tourist enclosure, which held all the gates and temples, was for tomorrow. For now my plan was to wonder around the streets within the citadel itself. I found the same concrete structures – though not as high – as I found within the other parts of the city. During the Vietnam War the Americans thought that the ancient city of Hue was a North Vietnamese base … and so they bombed it. They bombed it so well that they left only twenty, of the original 148 buildings, (built within the 17th Century) standing. This I suppose explains why most of the buildings here are, well, dull. I therefore headed to the tourist part.

The ancient, square shaped, citadel of Hue reminded me of the Imperial Japanese palace within Tokyo … only not as well maintained. Four Chinese / Japanese style gates are located on each wall with a moat running around the perimeter. Due to the weather being so awful I decided not to pay the entrance fee in the hope that, tomorrow, the weather might be better. I decided to walk all the way around the ancient walls. Luckily there was a path running between the moat and the walls; this kept me away from the road and provided a little piece. The only problem with this path was that it was tiled, making it quite slippy in the rain. I didn't take my camera as the rain was falling and the skies were white with clouds. I finished my tour and decided, due to the rain and my feet being pretty wet, to head back across the river. Before turning back to my guesthouse I went to the train station to find out that, even though tickets are cheaper if purchased directly, it still didn't match the coach price.

It took me thirty minutes to arrive at my accommodation where I got dry, ate, chilled and checked the weather for the next five days. Heavy rain each day … oh joy. Weather reports are always wrong and so, with that in mind, I decided to head for an early night hoping tomorrow mornings weather will be worth the sacrifice of a missed evening in the bar. Even though the weather is bad here there's no point in moving on too early. I checked Hanoi's weather and it's just as bad. In Sappa, in the far north-western mountains of Vietnam, it's been snowing. Snowing in South East Asia, who would have thought.

Toodle Pip!

No comments:

Post a Comment