Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hue To Go

Day 361
After a bit of a sleep in we headed down the street to a restaurant that both of our guidebooks had highly recommended called Cafe on Thu Wheels. The food was great and the owner, Thu, was really funny. She told us that if we came back for happy hour she would find boyfriends for both of us.

We didn't end up with boyfriends but we did book an afternoon motorbike tour of Hue with her. It was just the two of us so we were able to move at any pace that we wanted.

Our first stop was the Empirial Enclosure. Much of it was in ruins or in a semi delapidated state. There were lots of plastic dragons everywhere, I don't know why. Hidden within the walls was a beautiful theater. Part of the palace was called the purple palace, only the tennis courts remained and they weren't purple. Towards the end we began to run out of time and had to hurry through the last big. Overall it was nice, but really not all that interesting.

Next up was the wedding cake like Thien mu Pagoda. It was in a beautiful place right next to the river. Behind the main building there were some really creepy looking statues and a fat Buddha. They also had the car that monk Thich Quang Duc used to get to an intersection in Saigon in 1963. When he got out of the car he sat in the middle of the road in the lotis position and set himself on fire to protest some anti Buddist legislation.

Our next stop was some military fortifications built by the French and then used by the Americans during the Vietnam war. The Vietcong used the surronding hills to hide. There wasn't much left of the fortifications but the best part was really the scenery anyway. The mountains were just stunning.

Just a few minutes down the road we arrived at Tu Duc's tomb. He was the emporer during the last half of the 19th century. There were several tombs in the complex and we started with the lesser visited ones of his wives to get away from the package tours. These were a bit shabbier, but looked much more peaceful to me. Tu Duc's tomb was so covered in tourists I wonder if he ever actually got any rest! We had to rush around here a bit as well as we were once again a bit short on time to see it all.

Close by was another temple. I can't remember the name of it and it was quite small. We did learn here that unlike in Thailand wehre most men spend a few years of their lives as monks either as a child or after retirment, in Vietnam being a monk is for life. Most of the monks come from poor families who had very few other options. There was some sort of ceremony going on but the over aggressive tout made me want to skip it and I sat while Nicole went to take a picture.

To get to our next destination we had to go over a very skinny motorbike only bridge. I kept my eyes shut the whole time. I'll definitly be glad when the need to go on motorbikes is just a memory of this trip. At the Japanese bridge there was a local man shamlessly taking a video on his phone of us. Even when I kept my cammera over my face and then pulled my hood all the way over my head he kept going. It was really rude. I think I understand why movie stars are always hiding from the paperazzi. I was going to go up and start filming in his face so that he could see how it felt but I couldn't remember who it had been when we walked past the bridge. Later on Nicole and I realized that we had him in a picture of me.

This was the end of the tour and it took us about 30 minutes to drive back to Thu's. After a small snack and a beer we walked the few doors down to our hotel to relax for a bit. For dinner we went to a local place and I had my asian staple of fried noodles with veggies. I don't care for the way all the bits of animals are used here and I stick to the veggie dishes most of the time.

After dinner we went to The bar in Hue called the DMZ. It really wasn't nearly as great as we had heard and we left just after one game of pool and a couple of drinks.

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