Random Statue face to grab your attention.

Unfortunately we had to leave Hoi’an after 2 nights to stay on schedule.  We hired a car and driver to drive us up to Hue to visit for a few days.  The trip took some crazy winding roads, and as usual… the driving is crazy.  The right lane on a two lane road seems like it is primarily motor bikes, if there is a break in them (and there usually isn’t) a car will pull into it to let someone pass, otherwise the faster car passes in the oncoming traffic lane.  The car honking is a way to comunicate to one another, as I don’t think the drivers use the review mirrors all that much.

We made it to Hue late in the evening and checked in to our little hostel, the Cahn Tien guesthouse.  The little lady working at the reception desk was really perky and friendly, she tried to get us to immediately sign up for some tours, almost to the point of being pushy (in a friendly way), but we declined.  It was late, but we hadn’t eatten so we headed out to get some food nearby.  The location of the guesthouse was down a long alley in the central district of town.  We managed to find food nearby, but when we returned to the hostel the gate was drawn and we had to ring the bell to get in.  A little old lady got up off a cot inside and let us in smiling.  This happened before in Hoi’An where we woke up the ‘night porter’ sleeping inside to get in, as it seems the general populace goes to bed fairly early.

Travel Tip: In strange lands, I order french fries to go with a meal, to make sure I get something I can eat.

The next day was a fairly lazy day, I don’t think we got up until 10am.  I was starting to get a cold, and could feel it in my throat.  Our hostel room was pretty large, and I had upgraded us to the deluxe room since it was our honeymoon… all for 20 bucks!  We went outside to venture around the city, as I like to explore a bit on foot to get my bearings.  Jane had another package of goods to ship, so we headed for the FedEx store nearby.  We got there about 11:30 and the place was shut up tight, I guess it was their mid day two hour break.  We didn’t want to wait around, so we hired a cyclo driver to do a little pedalling and drop us off at a place called ‘the Citadel’.  A cyclo is a cheap mode of transportation that is pretty much a three wheeled vehicle with a bucket seat on the front of a bicycle.

The main structure of the Citadel is an enclosed Forbidden City like the one in Beijing, although it had a lot more park focused areas within its walls.  Several buildings were being actively renovated, and new paint and doors were being put in.  The rest of the Citadel is a part of town surrounded by a moat that didn’t seem any different than the rest of town.

I kind of like the old ruins better.

 I wasn’t really not sure what there was to see there, so we grabbed a cyclo to take us to some nearby pagodas.  I have to admit, I went cheap on the cyclo as they were hassling us to give us a ride.  They wanted 100,000 dong ($5) to take us around for an hour, we wanted to travel maybe half a mile which would take 15 minutes.  I decided that I wasn’t paying more than 20,000 dong ($1) for the ride.  The various hounding cyclo drivers found this to be too little, so they started to leave us alone.  This left us with the bargain bin of the cyclo drivers, and this little old man said he would take us for 20,000 dong.  It was the price I had set, so we jumped in, with Jane having to sit in my lap.  The poor little guy struggled with it and we stopped it early because we spotted a place called Lac Thanh thats in the Rough Guide as a good place to eat.  When we got out, I asked the cyclo driver how old he was, and he said…. 75.  I paid him double and a half.

Blurry pic of a cyclo.

Lac Thanh is a little eatery run by a deaf man, named Mr Lac.  He communicates in a type of sign language, much like charades.  His smile is pretty amazing, and he had a really good sense of humor displayed through his gestures.  He really had a ton of enthusiasm in his effort to get our orders, and in his own way told us to write on the walls with a pen.  This seemed fairly customary, as the entire second floor room had various notes from other travellers scribbled about. 

Wall tagging at Lac Thanh.

 We tried several local dishes including Banh Khoai which is a fried pancake like thing, with vegetables, shrimp and sometimes pork in it.  It can be served different ways, such as cut up and put into a bowl, and then mixed with leafy greens, and then some peanut sauce is put in the mix as a dressing.  We also had several self wrapped rolls of different meat types, and banana pancakes with chocolate sauce for dessert.  Several places served these banana pancakes, and each time I ordered them I received a different rendition of it.  One time it was an actual pancake wrapped around a bunch of bananas, another it was a pancake like thing with bananas in it and the other time it was more of a fritter type thing.  The bananas here, although small are amazing if you like sweet bananas, and these ‘pancakes’ from Lac Thanh are divine, just make sure to give some time for the order to go through, as I think they are made from scratch each time.

Thumbs up for Banana Pancakes.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this before, but when you order dishes, they come when they are done being made, and they aren’t necessarily made in the order you ordered them.  Just because something is in the ‘appetizer’ part of the menu, does not mean it will come first.  Several times on this trip, our appetizer item came last.  If the waiter doesn’t specifically ask an order, it could come out in any which way the cook prepares it.

During our meal, our server by the name of Hai(High) let us know that he did Motorcycle tours of the top sites around the city.  I started off being rather skeptical, and a bit turned off of the idea as I didn’t need to receive a sales pitch while I was eatting.  My impression changed, as Hai didn’t bother us during our meal, and only talked with us between dishes while providing a signed book of testimonials to his tours.  After interacting with Mr. Lac and talking with Hai about working for Mr. Lac for the last 13 years, we decided that we didn’t mind giving our money to these people and decided to sign up for a tour with him.  I asked who the other driver would be, and Mr. Lac gave me the impression through sign that he would be.  This worried me a bit, as he is deaf and wouldn’t be able to hear the rather frequent honking horns that they use for spacial navigation of one another.

Jane and Hai take on the elements.

The next day we got off to an 8am start and it was pouring rain.  Hai and another driver named Thrieu (Theo) were there to pick us up, on time even!  I was a bit happy Mr. Lac wasn’t driving me, as Jane was riding behind Hai.  Thrieu didn’t speak english, so I really didn’t get much briefing on what I was seeing on the ride.  we stopped at 2 pagodas, 3 tombs, Bunker Hill and a large Lady Buddah statue.  I will explain a bit more on the highlights after saying the motorbike tour was excellent.  The traffic looks different from the back of a bike, there is some order to what is perceived as chaos when on foot.  While there are a ton of vehicles on the road, they move at no faster than 35 miles per hour, normally slower, so there is time to adjust to the changing scene.  The drivers put tarps/ponchos over themselves while they drive, often times covering large parts of the motorbike or a secondary person.

Made it back safe and sound.

We went to Tu Doc, Mihn Mang, and another Vietnamese Emperor’s tomb.  Tu Doc was interesting because alot of the area hadn’t been restored.  Mihn Mang covered a ton more ground, and had a few lakes within the area.  Jane and I actually preferred Tu Doc as it seemed more ‘real’ and had several different buildings in various states of decay to explore.  Mihn Mang had been pretty much completely restored to the buildings that still existed and while it had very vibrant colors, it felt like almost too much to take in, and alot of ground to cover.  As it was pouring rain off and on, the tiles on the ground were extremely slippery.  I had muscles screaming at me while I maintaine balance that I normally only use for walking on ice.  We saw one guy bite it hard as he hurried around to beat his tour guides mandated 10 minutes to explore.  Jane and I were quite happy we were doing it on our own.

Me behind a window shaped like the double happiness symbol. Creepy.

A building at Tu Doc's tomb.

The first Pagoda we visited, had a really nice buddha to view.  The structure was not a tall Pagoda that I had envisioned in my head.   I do have to say though, my low light photography has really improved on this trip, hope you enjoy the proof below!

Neat Buddah.

 The second pagoda looked big in the pictures, but really wasn’t that big when we came across it.  It was much more like I imagined a pagoda to be like, it just wasn’ that big.  The grounds were nice to walk around, and they had the car of the monk that burnt himself alive to protest the Vietnamese government before the Vietnam War.  He is the one in image for the Rage Against the Machine album.  There was also a pond with Albino Oscars in it, quite strange.

I wonder if it eats the Koi in the pond its in?

Pagoda on the Perfume river.