Vietnam has been good to us, very pleasant so far. As we have decided not to travel all the way north to Hanoi, Halong Bay and to Sapa back by the Chinese border, our last stop is Hue. There we have spent 2 nights before heading to Vinh for a stopover to catch a bus towards Luang Prabang in Laos. I have big hopes for Laos as all I hear about its people and culture is praise. We will be entering the landlocked country on 20.November, that will be an exact 3 months mark from the start of our journey. But before, I will tell you about our days in Hue and the 'luxurious' sleepover in Vinh.
Hue, we have learned to correctly pronounce as 'Hwey', has caught our attention as a reasonable last stop in Vietnam because of it's history. Used to be the ancient capital of Vietnam, with walls, citadel and a palace complex all with an obvious Chinese influence. Many Royal thumbs can be found within this city split by Perfume river, although it baffles me why the river is known so. On our arrival we had hoped for a quick check in, instead a mixture of fuck ups greeted us, but we still managed to 'move in' relatively quick and were out on the streets just after 7. Our first walk in Hue took us to the river, where we've crossed the bridge, and knowing that we will return by daylight, we've bumped into the city walls and the citadel. When we have returned the next day to tour the palace complex, Majka and myself agreed that this city definitely looks better under sunlight. Scorching heat made the experience a bit unpleasant, thank God is winter and there is plenty of shady little cafes with that million times mentioned, delicious Vietnamese ice coffee. Exhausted from the heat and hungry we have sat down for some drinks and a delicious bowl of Hue style beef Pho, which I only mention thanks to a very well kept, middle aged German lady, who kept flashing me with her white panties, making the Pho unforgettable. Before you start, Mariola said she was beautiful and admitted she's been flashed too. God bless German tourists!
The late afternoon we have spent by looking at yet more beautiful ladies behind Dong Ba market, where they sell fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs, meat and fish at extremely favourable price. For them. We are already used to 'tourist tax', which means that after negotiation we only pay double what a native would, but that is still pretty cheap. It's hard to say no to those huge smiles and pretty faces, anyway this must be the price for those half decent portraits I took. I think I've made Majka circle this market about 3-4 times before we have decided to slowly head back and find us a dinner.
Next day we had until 5pm before heading to Vinh, so a decision was made to take a boat trip about 5km down Perfume river to Thien Mu Pagoda. Interesting thing about this pagoda and monastery is that in 1963 a monk drove from here to Saigon, where he set himself on fire and burned himself to death as a protest against government regulations to suppress Buddhism. There is an iconic photo of this event that I'm sure you have seen before. On our return trip with our dragon boat Majka has decided that is still too early and we should explore the small streets around our hostel and grab a lunch. What a call it was! We have stumbled upon Mandarin Cafe, a venture owned by Mr Phan Cu and also a local photographer who's been documenting the poorest people of Hue and surrounding villages. He's photos feel iconic, like I should know them from somewhere. He's cafe is like a gallery, filled with photos bottom to top. Short of the real thing you can check a nice portfolio on his website: www.mrcumandarin.com. Be sure to visit him if you're in Hue, well worth it not just for the permanent exhibition, food is delicious too and his banana pancake is famous.
We got picked up from our hostel at 5pm and been told three different arrival times for Vinh. 10pm, 1am and 6.30am, so we have spent the road uneasy, thinking where and when we are going to be chucked out of the bus. It was 1am. Middle of the night. Thankfully we were allowed to check in early, for the price of an extra night of course, but that meant we have a whole day in Vinh. A quick search revealed that there is literally nothing to do for a good tourist, so in the morning we've set out to get our tickets to Prabang. On the way back we have found a pretty rustic market and that was the highlight of this city, which in the Vietnam war has been bombed back to the stone age, hence the missing history. Dinner, sleep and at 5am we are out the door to catch our bus to Laos...