Train runs about an hour late, so by the time we actually run into Hue, I’m climbing up the walls and ready to get out. Thankfully my driver from the Ngoc Binh Hotel is waiting outside the door for me, so fix the bags on the bike and hop on for the five minute drive to the centre of Hue.
The sky is pretty miserable, and I’ve only got 2 1/2 days here to have a proper look round. The one thing I know I want to do is visit the Citadel and Imperial City. However, the staff at Ngoc Binh are pretty determined that you have a good time – when I came down the stairs the gentleman who brought me from the station immediately wanted to know what I wanted to do. My original plan was to just walk around today and see what caught my eye, but he recommended that if I wanted to see the sights of Hue, that I book a motor taxi for the day who can drive me to them, or go on a tour tomorrow and get a guide and bus. Told him I’d think about it, then went for lunch.
Definitely picked a great spot for food options. There are dozens of hotel/hostels in this area, and an equal number of cheap(ish) places to eat. End up picking one at random and ordering Pho Ba again – before heading back to my hostel and deciding to go for the tour tomorrow – on the grounds that it gets me round far more, includes lunch and provides a guide for the same price as just hiring a bike and driver.
With tomorrow planned (and hitting all the big fish), I’m free just to wander around the city. Within a few minutes the differences between here and Hanoi are obvious. For one thing there’s far less bikes on the road, and those that are actually follow the road rules. Think I nearly fainted when I spotted five bikes stopping at a red light. The architecture is also strikingly different – the French influence is far more obvious in Hue than it was in Hanoi, a lot of the buildings in my part of the city have a very European design.
When you get deeper into the city and closer to the City wall, life becomes a little more annoying due to the number of cyclos (bikes with seats, similar to rickshaws) running around. They will not leave you alone, and follow you until you interact and only leave you alone if you go inside somewhere or cross a road. Didn’t help that the rain that has been threatening me since Hanoi finally started to fall, and this only encouraged them.
Still not entirely sure how it happened, but I must have just snapped at the constant requests, because I ended up haggling with one very persistent cyclos driver for an hour tour around the Citadel wall.
To be fair, it was a very good tour. He drove me around the wall and stopped off at various sites along the way, including a watchtower used by Americans during assaults, a river, a garden museum and a few temples. Also got to see some of the old city, which is far less European and far more Vietnamese in style.
Tour ended at the Flag Post, just a stones throw away from the bridge that would take me back to my area of the city, and I tried to pay the driver. And when I say try, we apparently had a misunderstanding. When we agreed on the price, it was for an hour tour around the Citadel. As it happens, we have overrun by half an hour – which was surprising when you realise I never stayed in one place more than 3 minutes, not my fault he was slow about it. However he insisted that he be paid for the extra half hour, and added half of the original price to the cost. A number I couldn’t afford to pay (nor did I feel I should) – and to make things worse, I didn’t have exact change, and by the time he started arguing this, I’d already given him money with expectation of change. Eventually, he had to throw in the towel and accept that I wasn’t giving him any more, and I had to accept that I was losing an additional 30,000 dong.
So yeah, no matter how persistent a cyclos is, ignore them unless you have exact change and really want to do it.
Weather was getting worse, so headed back to the hotel and did some blogging in my room. Also started looking at my options for getting to Hoi An, as I was really interested in doing the trip by motorbike, but the weather was so bad, it might not be the best idea.
Eventually though, I started getting hungry and decided to head towards a market on the map. Along the way though, I came across a supermarket, and popped in. I’ve missed the big conglomorate superstores – I know, bad traveller, but I do. Sadly, much like the rest of Asia, you can’t get good cheese in Vietnam. Honestly thought I would at least be able to get brie, but just Edam, Gouda and president ‘burger’ slices. Instead, 30 minutes later I came out with a packet of oreos, and a huge freshly baked baguette for dinner. I love that I can finally get good bread again.
Weather has gotten even worse – very heavy rain that keeps me locked inside the hotel again, so I take to blogging and watching random clips on Youtube. Discovered Frozen songs have made their way there so I can spoil myself with that since there’s no way I’ll get to a cinema in time to see them, and when the battery on my nexus died, had an early night. Lots to see tomorrow.