Everyone said we needed to go to Hoi An, even though most people do not make the journey. We’re glad we came, but we know why many people don’t make the trek. It is difficult to get in and out of the city. The only way to or from is by car, and since most people don’t travel with their vehicles to foreign countries, we find ourselves needing a driver to take us more than 3 hours north to our next stop. Through a little bit of research, we found a car service to make the drive. For $69 usd we booked a 7 seater car (which is necessary due to large suitcases) that included a driver who spoke some English, 2 bottles of water, and free wifi.
Last walk through Hoi An before our drive.
When on vacation, we try to offer people photos of their group. Often, someone in the group understands the culture and offers a photo in return. Here we saw a couple standing on the bridge taking photos of each other. By offering to take a photo for them, the man politely offered to take one for us.
On the road! Here is Da Nang Bay.
The driver was nice enough to take photos for us along the way. When you hand a camera to someone else, you don’t know what you’ll get. Above you see the driver’s photo. This was only after Cat notified him that he had taken the first few photos with his finger over the lens. Below, you can see the framing of the photo that we wish we had for the two of us. Oh well. Just nice to have photos of both of us on vacation.
Lăng Cô Beach. This is where our guide would take us for lunch. Even for seasoned travelers you sometimes get taken to the tourist traps.
This is our lunch spot.
The squid was terrible, the fish sauce almost inedible, but the clams were pretty good (or at least good in comparison). The food was insanely overpriced, and we were sort of dragged here by the tour company, but we wanted a nice beach view at some point on the trip, so we figured that justifies the bad food and extra price.
Here is a good example of framing. Above you can see the nice ocean scene of fishing boats in the water. Below you get the zoomed out version including the dirty old tires lining the beach. The tires are repurposed for oyster and clam fishing. They throw the tires into the ocean on sticks and allow the various mollusks to attach themselves as the tires become part of the ocean environment. Once enough residents have made their homes in the tires, and they’ve grown to an edible size, the fisherman retrieve the tires and remove their inhabitants.
We’ve arrived in Hue! Another city another river. The Perfume River.
Almost to the Imperial City.
But before we can get there, we have to cross this bridge…with no sidewalk and traffic going both directions. Cars, buses, scooters, bicycles, and we’re the only pedestrians. As you can see, I’ve lived to write about it!
I will later deskew this photo, but for now, it’s what you get! The Imperial City is a walled city with construction beginning in 1804 upon China’s recognition of Gia Long as emperor. The first emperor of the Nguyễn Ánh Dynasty, Gia Long would rule Vietnam from 1802-1820, and united what is now the unified country of Vietnam.
Construction would continue into the 1900’s. The Nguyễn Dynasty would rule Vietnam for 143 years, eventually relinquishing power to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The country became known as Vietnam under Gia Long’s rule.
I told Cat this would be my new apartment. I would just move in and hopefully no one would notice. Seems like a cozy studio right? It’s certainly ornate!
We came to Hue for 2 reasons. First, they have an airport and we need to get to Hanoi. It’s either a 2 day bus ride or come to Hue and catch an hour and a half flight. Two, to get Bún bò Huế of course!
We tried to go to Anthony Bourdain’s Bún Bò Huế spot, but it was in yet another crowded market where hustlers are screaming at you all the way through. Just to make things worse, in this market all of the women are calling Cat “baby”, which is a sign of disrespect in the Vietnamese language. Frustrated, hot, and hungry, we gave up on the market and instead went to the Imperial City. I know, I know… If we’re hungry why didn’t we find another place to eat? I think our appetites were lost by racing through the market and smelling the awful smells. This is much dirtier than the market in Saigon, and the people were much more aggressive. After the Imperial City we needed to eat, and we were still on the hunt for good Bún bò Huế so we turned to TripAdvisor, Google, and Foody.vn for reviews. We found Bún Bò Huế Mỹ Tâm. It was in the vicinity of our hotel, the price was right, and Bún Bò Huế was right in the name. The soup was good and it came with all of the weird meat that it should have; it even came with the blood cubes that Cat likes. Not my thing, but I do like the soup! The broth came out looking clear, so we thought they must not have added the spice. We were wrong. We found out we were wrong only after adding enough spice from the table to make the soup the correct color. It ended up being just right. Heat, citrus, and a nice meat broth. I could have drank the whole bowl of soup. If there had been about twice as many noodles and half as much meat, it would have been perfect.
After exploring a bit of the city, Cat and I just wanted to try the local beer and relax. We talked about finding a bar before remembering the hotel had a bar of its own on the top floor.
At the start of every big city, there is a boom of construction that happens to accommodate the influx of new residents and visitors. Saigon built out their city in the early 90’s as more people came to the city for work. Hue is undergoing its construction now. Unfortunately that means the streets are a mess. It’s difficult to walk anywhere due to broken up sidewalks, tractors and construction machines blocking the way, dirt and dust everywhere, and loud noises of grinding and sawing throughout the city. To make things worse, they do not have good public transportation, and right now, the app based driving services are not allowed in Hue. So you’re stuck with either taxis that will absolutely scam you if you don’t keep a close eye, or using bicycle taxis that are here almost entirely to prey on tourists. With that, we chose to stay in for the rest of the night rather than explore. The good news is the Eldora Hotel has been very likely the nicest hotel we’ve had so far in Vietnam. I think we’re getting a good idea of which cities we would like to return and those that we’ve sufficiently seen. I don’t think Hue would be on the list for a second trip. That said, if you need an airport in the middle of the country it’s not a bad place to grab a bowl of local soup, explore a walled city built for a Vietnamese emperor, and watch a movie in a nice hotel.