Hue (Vietnam), 01.08.2013
Happy to have survived the train ride, yesterday afternoon I dropped my bags in the Green Hotel and chilled for a while. It was terribly hot outside. Later in the early evening I walked for a first reconnaissance trip through the southern town over the central bridge into the northern part. A massive gate behind a bridge appeared in front of me and I entered the old citadel, surrounded by thick walls. I couldn’t find any restaurants, just roadside eateries and none appealed to me. It was dark by now and there was very little light on the streets, I couldn’t spot any monuments or noteworthy buildings, but I knew they must have been somewhere around me. I had left all technology in the hotel and had no map, so I just walked through the night, crossing shopping streets, a painter’s workshop in a courtyard and a residential area along the old city walls. Out of the citadel, I finally found a simple restaurant on a corner run by deaf and dumb people and ate some cuttlefish, vegetables and rice. I was starving. A ricksha drove me back to the hotel, video here.
This morning in the heat and sunshine I walked the same road as yesterday night on the southern side of town, but took the eastern bridge across the river. Sweating, I was looking for a cafe to have breakfast, but had no luck. I started to appreciate the many restaurants and bars in Hoi An the day before. In the citadel I walked past the Museum of the Revolution, US and Vietnamese military equipment was on display in front of it: tanks, Huey’s and planes used by “American Imperialists” (as the signs read) along MIG jets and other weapons.
Shortly after I finally reached the imperial palace, a Unesco listed site and the major attraction in Hue. It had also been the principal reason I came to see Hue, and I must say it was a disappointment. The legacy of the monarchy doesn’t seem to be a treasure worth preserving in Vietnam. There is little reconstruction and renovation work currently under way, and what has been finished so far isn’t done well, it looks cheesy and the quality of the works is low. This is really pitiful, because the imperial palace must have been very beautiful. The whole site, surrounded by a water lily covered moat, has many buildings, courtyards and gardens within its walls. The size is impressive, and under the crumbling walls and portals you can guess the splendor of the past. Interesting to see were the differences in Vietnamese buildings of this type compared to the ones I had of Cambodia or Thailand. Styles, decoration and building materials vary quite significantly.
As I hadn’t eaten yet and the sweat kept flowing, I went for lunch and then stopped on the way back to the hotel at a coffee bar. Vietnam is a great coffee nation, and in this heat an iced cold one is a true delight. At the hotel, I was so desperate due to the heat and scared of the 13h train ride ahead of me that I jumped into the pool, hoping for some refreshment. The water was warm… Well, at least I tried. Shortly afterwards I left for the train station, just a few meters down the road. Here the nice part of the day came to an end. The train was late, and I had to wait in one of those nice, run down, hot, barely ventilated, cheesy decorated, overcrowded, closed windows train station waiting rooms. When the doors were finally opened a mass flight of sweating and tired travelers took place. At least on the platform there was a little wind. The train rolled into the station shortly afterwards and I got my trolley in. The moment I boarded, I froze. As much as the aircon in the first train had not worked, as much it did on this one. In preparation of the filthy train I had to sleep in, I had put on long trousers and a long shirt, that were both soaking wet with sweat by now. In here the wet clothes made the cold even worse. I fell asleep shortly afterwards on my berth, hoping to not wake up until Hanoi.