After reading some of the hand written reviews that were dotted all over the Hue Four Seasons hotel we was really exited about breakfast. Nearly every one was saying how it was the best breakfast they have had in Vietnam. But it was not up to the hype, the menu only offered simple dishes, egg on toast, single banana pancake etc. Where was the full English, the croissants, Pain au Chocolate? Trying to cut out sugary food we opted for scrambled eggs and toast, it was nice, but not worth a mention in a hand written letter. Anyway we had an action packed day today and had hired a private driver for the day (costing only £20!) that was taking us to four popular sites in Hue.
First on the list was the Tomb of Khai Dhin. This was the attraction that I was most looking forward to seeing because it was built from steel and concrete, a very modern building technique for a tomb. Construction was finished in 1931, taking 11 years, and it was the last tomb to be built in Vietnam. There was much controversy surrounding the tomb when it was being built because taxes were raised by 30% to pay for the exotic interiors. It’s also the only tomb in Hue that it built on a hill which makes it great to visit if you can tackle the 127 steps. Once you are at the top you can have a lovely view over the grounds. The tomb is very small but is one of the most decorative things we have seen in Asia.
The Tomb of Minh Mang was next on the list which was built in 1830 and was much larger. One thing you notice here is how colourful traditional Vietnamese building methods are. The tops of building are very intricate with every colour on display, a total contrast to what can be found in nearby China or Japan and the opposite end of the spectrum to the concrete Khai Dhin tomb that we came from. The grounds were very beautiful with lakes and canals everywhere and decorative bridges. The tomb itself was quite plain but for the grounds alone it’s worth a visit and is todays blog image.
The Mu Pagoda is free and if you are in a rush could be skipped, we didn’t find it very interesting and the pagoda is very small. There are much more spectacular pagodas in Asia. I think we spend about 20 minutes here having a slow walk around the park but we may have taken our time as to not offend our driving by coming back after 5 minutes.
This final stop, Hue Imperial City. This place is huge and well worth the time. A lot was destroyed in the war but what remains and what has been restored is fantastic. The below photo shows one of the restored corridors.
If the heat is getting a bit too much you can sit in one of the cool buildings and watch a 10 minute video that shows the Imperial City recreated with computers giving commentary on what life for the emperor was like and how the city was sectioned into quarters. Did I mention this place was huge? The wall running around the perimeter is 10KM long, 3 meter high and 2 meters thick. You can also find yourself somewhat lost, there are no signs or maps available and you are just left to wander around as you see fit. We found ourselves down a number of dead ends and definately didn’t manage to see everything!
On the way back we headed to the large supermarket to try and find some reasonably priced sun cream, however it was just as insanely priced as everywhere else. I guess only tourists buy it so the prices are elevated. Not being able to find anything decent to eat either we decided to head back to the Serene Hotel Restaurant so I could have the best dish in Asia again (we went there yesterday), sesame seed chicken with chilli and rice. After being seated we heard a big cry of excitement and it was our waitress from last night, “I told you we would be back” I said. I also told her I would like exactly the same as yesterday and even Hayley was swayed to try it, but replacing the chilies with cashew nuts. Shortly after we ordered the whole hotel was plunged into darkness from a power cut. I hope they cook with gas or we are not getting any food! Luckily the power came back and the food was better than yesterday and I even treated myself to an extra can of coke. I asked for the bill and she brought out a large plate of fruit including our new favourite, dragon fruit.
It was now a waiting game, we had 4 hours until we needed to leave to catch the 19:55 train to Da Nang where we will then get a taxi to our next stop, Hoi An. We went back to the hotel and setup the laptop to use the time productively but we did sneak out for a pizza just before we left.
The train stations in Vietnam are somewhat scary. The platforms are not raised, you are standing right next to the tracks as the train comes in to the station, not very safe at all and one of the staff members was having to shoo some people off the track. We stood well back until it had stopped and then hoisted ourselves up into the train. 2.5 hours later and we was in Da Nang stepping off the train on to three rows on tracks, scary, I hope there are no other trains due in. Finding a taxi was easy but they all wanted 400k dong but I knew 350k was the going rate, and managed to get it for 300, that was until we stopped and the driver wanted more. I gave him an extra 50k because I had told him to go the wrong way when we was trying to find our hotel! Our hotel was very nice and right on the river near Hoi An’s ancient town, it’s amazing what you get for £10 a night over here!