Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hue and the DMZ

The morning bus to Hue was a surprisingly pleasant ride. The bus was comfortable enough, and with my earphones blocking out most of the bus' drone, I was able to just enjoy the view and also get a few minutes kip. The sleep was greatly appreciated as the night before had been a pretty decent one. Beside the pool, I also caught up with some irish and dutch girls I had met earlier in the day then went to a beach party - not getting back to the hotel until 4am.

Again, I was surprised by the completely different dynamics of Hue compared to Hoi An, the towns are relatively close but the physical environment and the people seem quiet different. My first experience of the people was when I got of the bus and was harrassed by one of the hotel owners about staying in his hotel. Again, high pressure sales tactics proved my downfall, and I booked the room for $10 a night. Having secured a bed, I decided that I would then book a tour. I had heard really good things about tours from the 'cafe on thu wheels'. Having no sense for the layout of the town, I jumped into a cyclo, and was very only slightly less lost than the cyclo driver. I then decided that I would be better off walking, but soon discovered that I was more lost than I first thought. I was then pleasantly surpised when a local came up to me and offered his assistance without any strings.
Feeling happy with my new course, I embarked on the trek to the cafe. I was then soon stopped by a guy on scooter - it the hotel manager. He offered to give me a lift to the cafe, but soon stated that I should only book a tour with him - after assuring him that I was just going to the cafe with friends, he then took me there.

At the cafe, I managed to get a cheap feed and book the scooter tour of Hue for the afternoon. The tour itself was fantastic, I visited the citadel and a number of tombs and other interesting pagodas and saw some more budhas (I also ran into my interpid friends again). My scooter driver was really cool, and spoke pretty good english. I highly recomend this tour as you get to see the best bits of Hue in an afternoon, with very little fuss. Having completed the tour, we returned to the cafe, feeling pretty happy with my day. However, those feelings were quickly dashed, as my hotel manager was waiting near the cafe and commenced to tell me that I was a liar as I had promised to do a tour with him. That day seemed to demonstrate the ambiguities of Hue, lots of really friendly people but also a lot of people trying to push their wears pretty shamelessly.

I decided that I should have a quiet night in Hue, and prepare myself for the tour to the DMZ on the monday. Again this tour was a really mixed experience. Much of the tour was underwhelming, it was cool to see the Ho Chi Mihn Trail, but it wasn't a sight to behold. The DMZ itself was just a field for which we were unable to get a very good view. On the flip side, the military museum we were taken to was pretty interesting and the experience greatly enhanced when an American Vet gave a brief overview of his experience of the battle of Khe San.
In addition, I saw the tunnels in Vinh Moc. It was interesting the contrast this complex, which provided a save haven to the locals during the vietnam war to those in cu chi which were only used for fighting. I was able to complete the tour of these tunnels, largely thanks to the greater size of the tunnels and the greater amount of lighting. Seeing Vinh Moc reinforced my respect for the resourcefulness and resilience of the vietnamese people.
Having finished the tour by being stuck in a traffic jam near the citadel, I jumped off the bus early and headed to a resturant mentioned in the LP. The owner is deaf and mute, but boy can he cook, and the prices were so low. It was such a nice way to finish off the tour.

That night I decided to go to one of the bars near the hotel. I met a German guy from berlin (timo), and an irish couple. Played some average pool but managed to take care of a couple of french blokes. For some reason, timo was keen on the vodka shots - these really didn't go down that well but I managed to push through the pain. Having decided it was time to hit another bar, we took to the streets and got thoroughly lost. This was made all the more embarrassing by the fact that a team of young cyclo drivers had been following us the whole way, teasing us about being lost. Eventually, they won and we jumped in for what should have been a very short walk to the bar called brown eyes. As that bar was dead, I decided to retire to the comfort of my bed, safe in the knowledge that I would wake up in time for my flight to Hanoi.

No comments: