The Imperial City

Hue (ha-way) was the Imperial Capital of Vietnam. It is a 14 hour ride from Hanoi.
We got the open tour bus ticket which is popular not with backpackers, but almost all tourists since the monopolized airline industry doesn’t leave tourists with much other choice.
For $35 dollars its the cheapest and easiest way to get to all of Vietnam’s major attractions.

pho bo for breakfast

So it sounds like too good of a deal right? Well, it is!
The sleeper bus is definitely an experience, one I wouldn’t do again ever! There are really no other bus options either since all the buses travel at night. How bad can it be to sleep on a 14 hour bus ride? Extremely when you can’t sit up for the entire duration, the entire bus reeks with flies everywhere, dirty blankets, the air con hitting you directly, and the bus stops only once for a bathroom break. The buses are equipped with toilets, but this is Asia which means its broken or dirty. In my case it meant the door wouldn’t lock so on this bumpy ride you have to try to manoeuvre yourself so you are holding the door with one hand and not trying to touch anything in this germ infested hole that they call a bathroom. Tricky indeed!
On top of that I ended up in the bottom bunk of the bus, where I was up against the window with 4 other  strangers to the right of me. Next to me was an older Dutch man and his wife. Of course I had to curl into a ball and just hope he wouldn’t hit me while he turned in his sleep. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink and the bumpy, unpaved roads didn’t help either.

citadel
 

Sounds like a nightmare? Thinking about it still makes me wanna still pull my hair out. It’s not an experience I’m grateful for. The sleeper trains in India were much more comfortable!
So yes, getting there was half the battle and knowing that this was just the first of these sleeper bus journeys really did sour us out. We’re going to have to endure about 3 more!

pagoda

Once we arrived in Hue the sleeper bus dropped us off at a hostel that they are affiliated with. It was cold and rainy and all I was craving was sleep in a warm place. The dingy hostel for $2 a night would have to do.
Hue is a walkable city but it poured the entire day, so we had no choice but to hire a driver to take us to all the main sites since we couldn’t waste a day doing nothing.
It felt like being on a personal tour with my guide book leading the way.

The Imperial Citadel is at the center of the city, preserved well with what’s left of the war and stating the Chinese influence of this city loud and clear. It is very similar to the Forbidden City of Beijing since this is where the Royal family lived in its heydays. It’s pretty big and takes a few hours to really explore. The Chinese architecture has become somewhat of  bore after so many years of Asian influence. I’m afraid I’ve lost the appreciation.

The Perfume River runs through the city, to the north of it is the Citadel and to the south is the newer city  that has developed over the past few years. Thien Mu Pagoda overlooks the Perfume River and is quite a peaceful city, a little removed from the main area of the city.

Tu Duc’s tomb

There are numerous tombs of emperors located just a drive away from the main city. We were able to visit just one due to the vast area of each tomb and the unfortunate weather. We went to Tu Duc’s tomb which was built while the emperor was alive. It actually served as his second home, and even had a home for his concubines. It’s set around a beautiful lake with wooden pavillions, tombs and temples dedicated to wives and favoured courtesans (Tu Duc had 104 of them!). The entire area was green and mossy, with moss growing between all the old stones which created the paths. It was amorous.

tomb guards

After catching the main sites we were toursit-ed out. Being warm and dry suddenly became our priority.
24 hours in Hue felt like enough. I’m disappointed that I didn’t have a chance to really experience this small city but when it rains, it really does pour here. Our feet weren’t just drenched but also covered in dirt. Stepping out was a mission, plus the streets are not properly lit so it also felt unsafe.

The city is much smaller than Hanoi and the people were much friendlier. We came across locals who were willing to stop and have conversations with us, to help us and were happy to meet foreigners.
Things are also much cheaper than Hanoi, even if Hue is a tourist spot.

Bottom line:
rain can really ruin a vacation.

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