My friend Georgia and I were in Hue no more than 8 hours. Enough said. No, do please read on, but just a quick indication of our opinions of the once magnificent city…
The train ride in from Hanoi was largely uneventful. It was not the worst overnight transport I experienced on the 5-month trip, however, the repetitive clunk-clunk of the train over its tracks was somehow not monotonous enough to become background noise at any point over the 12-hour long journey and thus, unfortunately, it often woke us up throughout the night. A good pair of ear plugs and an eye-mask would not go astray on any overnight transport throughout South East Asia, as often the cabin lights are turned on way before you would like to be woken. Also we were situated at the end of our carriage, near the toilet and near the exit plus we didn’t have enough snacks. So, a few lessons learnt, but otherwise just a situation we had to make the most of. We chatted for a while, then read our books and soon enough the lights were out- we were strategic and booked a 10pm departure to ensure we wouldn’t have to kill too much time before the lights would be out and we’d all be trying to sleep. We both fell asleep around midnight in the end and were awake by 6:30am with light streaming in from the windows. I scored the bottom berth, my friend the top after she was sure we’d prefer to sleep on top of each other rather than both on bottom beds with strangers above us. Yes there wasn’t any risk of falling out 2m to the ground, but the bottom wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – you could feel the train jump beneath you in time with the clunk-clunk noises of it running over the tracks. In hindsight I probably would have brought some sleeping pills in Aus before I left just for all the night transport I took throughout the trip. Nonetheless, we survived the night train ride and soon enough were within 20km of Hue. Unfortunately these last 20km were extremely drawn out and we only became hungrier as the train crawled along much slower than before. It was about 8:30am when we finally rolled into Hue’s train station. We clambered our way into a cab and soon enough arrived at the Canary Hotel which was set to accomodate us for the evening. To our delight a double and a queen bed – gotta love how accomodating the twin rooms through Vietnam are! We lay down for a short nap before midday to rejuvenate ourselves before making the day trip around the Hue Imperial Citadel.
The Imperial Citadel is one of seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Vietnam. From 1802 to 1945 Hue’s Imperial Citadel was the royal capital of the Nguyen dynasty, however, it was badly damaged throughout the Vietnamese War and still continues to be restored in line with its glory days. It is also the only real attraction to draw tourists to the once bubbling town.
Unfortunately, the dreary weather did not help Hue and the citadel’s cause. As the rain continued to pour, we begrudgingly made our way across the river and to the citadel. The one upside of the terrible weather was that there were fewer tourists out and about, that being said the tour groups were most definitely still out in full force with their flag bearing leaders and throngs of intent listeners. Upon entering, we were subjected to a short video which detailed the long history of the once prestigious palace. After this we carried out our own self-guided tour of the grounds, reading the informative plaques dotted around. Unfortunately the weather most definitely put a dampener on the whole experience and we were both very keen to move swiftly, thus our relationship with the historic architectural masterpiece was fleeting.
After feeling content with our efforts at engaging in the centuries old culture, we left and went in search of a snack to rejuvenate ourselves. We stumbled upon a delicious restaurant called Lac Thien with reviews scribbled across all the walls from visitors from across the globe. And rightfully so, the Hanoi spring rolls we decided to tide us over were TO DIE FOR!! Of course they were washed down with a Vietnamese iced coffee also. We then headed back to the hostel for another nap via the main market. The market was like many others in South East Asia- one minute you’re looking at dried fish and turtles for sale, the next you’re buying imitation converse and ray bans; but it was enjoyable nonetheless and one of the first we had come across in Vietnam.
Dinner- pork vermicelli, grilled beef skewers and spring rolls- was at Quan HANH, delicious and cheap. I would highly recommend if you find yourself so unlucky as to be in Hue for a meal. It was then an early night before an early bus out to Hoi An (which couldn’t come soon enough!). We had most definitely had enough of the wet, sleepy, character-less town!