Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hue, Vietnam

After our long, overnight journey we were happy to arrive in Hue but extremely tired and smelly from the overnight adventure. Instead of roaming the city in search of a place to stay, we decided to turn to the trusty Lonely Planet guidebook. We ended up staying at Thai Binh II which was nice but not spectacular for the price. We spent more then planned ($24 a night) but it did include breakfast and air-conditioning which was a bonus. The staff was extremely nice and the rooms were clean.

After our long, hot showers we decided to go searching for food because it had been over 16 hours since we had eaten. Roaming the streets, we stumbled upon a restaurant called Avocado located on Nguyen Tri Phuong Street. We met the owners, Mr. Tai and his wife, and immediately felt at home. We ordered a traditional Vietnamese dish, Pho, which is a noodle soup. After talking with Mr. Tai for a bit Courtney decided to ask what we should do during our two day stay in Hue. It turns out that Mr. Tai and nine partners also own a motorbike tour company ( and said he could take us on a full city tour for $12 US dollars each including lunch. We could not pass up the price or the company. We were almost set to book for the next day but realized our camera was still broken from the motorbike spill in Tha Khaek. Mr. Tai said he could take us to a shop to see if they could fix it and let us borrow his camera in the meantime. Full Service.

Our motorcycle guys Quan and Tai
Our tour started at 9 AM the next day at Avocado Restaurant. Mr, Tai and one of his partner Quan were our drivers for the day. We felt safe in their hands even though the roads in Hue are a bit chaotic. Our first stop was a set of American bunkers overlooking the Huong River where soldiers were stationed to look out for invasion from the north. Today, the bunkers overlook beautiful landscape to the north and the south. There was even a wedding celebration along the river.

 American bunker overlooking the Huong River

We also got to check out several pagodas around the city with Monks chanting their morning rituals. The architecture is modest in Vietnam with more intricate designs and less bold color than in Laos and Thailand.

One of our favorite places to walk around was Tu Duc Tomb which was constructed in 1867, This area is where the Emperor worked and relaxed during his life and now where he and his family are buried. There were tons of tourists because this is one of the most popular historical sites to visit. Admission to the site was 60,000 Dong (about $3).

Lunch was one of the best parts of the day. Mr. Tai and Quan took us to a great restaurant filled with locals. It was nice to get away from the tourists and we would have never been able to find this place on our own! We ate a delicious local noodle dish and fresh spring rolls which are the only two items on the menu. The food was so fresh and Lee's Beer was cold!

From there we took a few more pictures of historical sites in the city and then headed 20 km out of town to a small village. The drive out was really interesting passing all the women working in the bright green rice paddys and the little children walking home from school. The kids yell hello and put up peace signs as your drive by on motorbikes which Courtney absolutely loves. Even when we are with the local drivers people can spot us from miles away!

In the village we visited a small museum funded by the government that demonstrates local customs, farming/fishing techniques, and daily life activities. One of the village elders, who we could tell has worked in the rice fields for many years by her hunched over back, demonstrated the steps of harvesting rice.

After a wonderful day cruising around on the motorbikes we decided to have Mr. Tai and Quan take us all the way to our next stop Hoi An. The trip would take about 5-6 hours and stop off along the way for swimming and exploring. We figured it would be a nice way to see some of the Vietnam countryside. We booked our trip for the following day!

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