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Hué - Heading South

Vietnam (Hue, Hoi An and Nah Trang) 2006-08-16

The trip down to Central Vietnam and Hue' went well *smile* except for a stupid taxi driver who wanted us to pay $10/person instead of $10/car....He didn't succeed!!! We also had to change plane (a brand new Boeing 737) due to technical problems. Well, glad they found out that when we where still on the ground....But, when we finally, a few hours late, reach the Hotel in Hue' they treated us like royalties!!
Tung to the left gave us so much help in Hué and we had a lot fun together. Click to enlarge.
Have we paid to much for the room!?! Quy in Hanoi booked our stay at Hotel Phong Nha into their best room, high up and with a big balcony. Really friendly, especially Tung (left on the picture, that seems to have "service' in his blood.

During our first day we went walking around Hue', had lunch at an old restaurant, Lac Thanh, with traditional Vietnamese food, Yummie!! As we mentioned earlier there are a lot of restaurants with the same or very close to the same name. This is the way it works here in Vietnam - if a place is good there are always copies - and it always fools someone. This means there are a lot of fake restaurants, travel agents and hotels. Restaurant Lac Thanh is popular and run by a depth man and of course also this is copied - crazy!

We are attacked all day from merchants, cyclo drivers, and motorbike drivers. Buy, Buy. Hello, how are you? Where are you from my friends? After a while it gets annoying as a "No, Thank You" means nothing. However we accept it and get used to it and after some time in Vietnam we realize that many people are very poor and the income they get are so low and it's also a fact that there are still many wounds and lost souls from the war.

On our way home we pass the newly opened five star Hotel Imperial. Very impressive. We went to the restaurant where they serve a buffet' with 53 different courses made by a very well known chef every night for $16 per person, including as much good Italian wine as you want. We order a table for tomorrow and have a simple noodle salad on the street for dinner.

We have booked two tours for the next coming two days. City Tour and DMZ Tour. During the City Tour we visit Hue' and its surroundings. Hue' is a very interesting town both culturally and historically. The former capital also saw some very heavy fighting during the Vietnam War and many military and civilians where killed or wounded here. (Read the book: Dispatcher by Michael Herr).

New colorful incense sticks for sale. Click to enlargeWe visited the Citadel, different Thombs made by the former Kings and Pagodas'. We also watch how they make the Conical Hats. Despite the hard work it is to make them they only costs $1. It's a pity we can not take them into our rucksacks. We end the tour by dragon boat back to Hue' on the Perfume River.

After a shower (Yes, it is very, very hot and humid here!!) we dress up for the visit to Hotel Imperial. The view of the sunset in the bar at 16:th floor is magnificent and life treats us very well as the Margaritas that they are serving is 10 out of 10 points! When we pay our drinks we meet Tung - he is working as bartender and he is the one who has made us these wonderful drinks!! He has two works - one here and one at the hotel where we are staying - something we realize is relatively common here in Vietnam.

The buffet'? Tremendous - the best we have had for a long time and the staff is very, very nice as well. When we meet the Sri Lankan Hotel Manager later and talks to him we understand why the staff seems to love their jobs and their customers - he is a really good Manager. A typical example of Management by walking around. We end this luxury evening with an espresso and a glass of Sambucca in the bar together with Tung.
It's relatively tuff to go up at 05.30 the next day to do the DMZ Tour but that is the price you have to pay when you are a Professional Tourist. We have a tuff bus journey ahead of us in an old, very uncomfortable bus with a guide who doesn't say that much so we are glad we brought the Lonely Planet book with us. It's chilly, depressing and exciting at the same time to visit some of the places where the American War (well, that is what it is called in Vietnam) took place. OK - we only visit one region - the war was all over Vietnam (and some places in Cambodia). It's ironic that the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) experienced some of the heaviest bombing (100 thousands tons of bombs) and fighting’s during the War.

We visit the Vinh Moc on the north side of DMZ. They are intact from when they where built by the villages in 1966 to protect themselves from all the bombs that fell over the village. Here they lived during a couple of years and we are told that 17 babies where born here inside the tunnel system. In the museum they show picture of the total devastation from the B52 bombs and artillery.

An advice is to hire a guide of your own and a car when you do this tour instead of taking a group tour. It was very cheap which was reflected in the quality of the Tour! The Tour also brings us to The Rockpile along Highway 9 south of Ben Hai River and to a visit at Khe Sanh Combat Base with its scary museum and old rusty American helicopters and tanks. Not far away lays Hill 881 North and Hill 881 South where MANY people died in the jungle fights and bombings.

When we are back in Hue' we take Tung (he has his day off today) to the bar at Imperial Hotel and buys him a drink. It is the first time he is here as a guest and he enjoys it. After that he takes us to a very good Vietnamese restaurant where we enjoy the Vietnamese cuisine. Tung is serious and we really appreciate to have him as guest this evening. The last day in Hue' we are invited to join a lunch with the manager and his family at the hotel Phong Nha. We are honored and of course we eat too much....

The bus journey from Hue' to Hoi An takes about 4 hours including a 30 minutes stop on the way. The bus is old (and not made for European's) and it hurts in the back after 10 minutes but it's very cheap and as we said before - you get the quality you pay for. No big deal though.

Isn´t this Vietnamese dress beautiful in the Swedish colours. Click to enlarge.We have made a reservation at a hotel in Hoi An that is a little remote so we switch after the first night to a hotel closer to the city. We spend some time at the Taylor shops. There are very many tailors here in Hoi An - they are situated along the street next to each others so we are glad we received a recommendation from Philippa Jacobs on a specific tailor. The place is till there and Anders orders some golf shorts and shirts and Eva orders a Vietnamese dress. We come back later in the day and make some adjustments. We are very pleased with the result so we order some more stuff - its tuff not to order things and it's also very cheap.

Well, we are not shopping all the time - we absorb some culture as well. We hire a car and driver and drives VERY early to My Son. In My Son we get ourselves an English (he speaks very good English!) speaking guide who takes us around the area. We get there when the place is empty and when we leave My Son one and a half hour later we meet the buses with the groups on their way to My Son!!

Some of the old ruins at My Son. Click to enlarge My Son was the religious center in the Kingdom of Champa and is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. The temples where built between 4th century and 13th century and where discovered by the French in the end of 19th century when they excavated the area. At that time the where was totally covered by the jungle. Luckily the French documented and photographed the temples because Guess what - they where almost totally destroyed by American bombs during The American War.

The guided tour is very interesting and even though much is gone one can image how it looked like 1000 years ago. They have some restauration projects but as always there is not money enough and some of the objects have been moved to the museum in Danang.

Do the clothes fit into the rucksacks? No! We sent the things home via the Post.

All aboard! Soon the train from Danang to Nha Trang will leave the station. Click to enlargeWe have now used airplanes and buses on our travel southwards in Vietnam so now it's time to go by train. We use the travel agent we found in Hoi An and she fix a car for us to Danang and two train tickets from Danang to Nha Trang. On our way to the train station our driver takes to the Museum of Cham sculpture where we spend an hour looking at some of collected sculptures from the Cham temples.

The train from Danang to Nha Trang takes 9 hours so we have a lot of time reading and absorbing the atmosphere on the train and when we arrive in Nha Trang it's late and we head for our hotel and falls to sleep pretty quick. Nha Trang is a charming coastal town with a 5 kilometer long beach. The Vietnamese children are here with their parents as there is no school right now and we see some other tourists as well. The atmosphere is more relaxed than other cities we visited and here you only need to say - No Thanks, two times before the sellers move to the next person.

We found this Ghost pipe Fish during on of our dives at Nha Trang. Click to enlarge We find another lovely hotel and moves into 7:th floor with a great big room with a balcony overlooking the beach - price for this luxury - $25 per night. The first night we enjoy a seafood dinner with cocktails and wine and beer for $20 (for two). Some other dinners we eat very good food for $3-5 (for two).

Two days we tried the diving in Nha Trang. It is supposed to be one of the best in Vietnam and we sign up for two diving days with Rainbow Divers. They are very professional and we enjoy 5 nice dives with a great dive master - Hoang. He has been diving these waters for 10 years so he knows every inch of them.

Today we are just relaxing as we move on tomorrow towards the Central Highlands on our move southwards toward Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.

We wish you all a lovely August.

Kisses EvAnders