Way Relaxed in
On the grounds of the Citadel.
A Vietnamese woman working.
November 23, 2006
I could have taken the easy way out but I decided not to.
The easy way, of course, would have been flying to Hue from Hanoi for $70. It would have only taken about an hour.
I know exactly why I didn’t choose the easy option. I have beyond blown my trip budget and now I spend my time making little compromises with
myself. I know that I want to do some shopping in Vietnam. I know that I want to do some pampering for myself in Vietnam. Therefore, I have
decided to cut corners with transportation and lodging.
I got here this morning at 7:30 via the overnight bus that picked me up at 6:30 yesterday evening. This cost me a whopping $11 and not having to
spend money for a night at a hotel.
When I got picked up, I was trying to put aside the thoughts of ‘twelve hours on a bus’ and think more along the lines of ‘before I know it, I will be
there’. All I can say is that the experience brought me back to my days in India. I say this because things were going on and all I could think was ‘Am
I really seeing this?’ Luckily, I sat next to a nice Irish guy. These things are important since people are bound to touch a bit while sleeping on a bus.
There were many not-so-clean people on the bus and many nose-pickers and I was just thankful that I didn’t have to squirm in a position to resist
any and all bodily contact. There was, however, the Vietnamese lady across the aisle from me. I had never been on a Vietnamese bus before. Maybe
I’m the one who is clueless to the bus etiquette out here. If this woman was representative of her country, then it is completely acceptable to hack
and spit on the floor of the bus. It is also acceptable to roll out a mat and make a bed for yourself in the aisle of the bus, as she did once the bus
started moving. This was all too bizarre for me.
We had a couple bathroom stops. The first one was male-friendly as it was just on the dirt on the side of the highway. No trees. No bushes. Just dirt.
As I was getting off the bus, all I saw were guys backs facing me. This was my cue to get back in the bus and wait for the next stop. The next stop
had bathrooms. Well, they were calling them bathrooms. For females, there was nothing that would prevent anybody from seeing in as there wasn’t
a door. And there were only stalls; no doors on any of the stalls. And they were squatters. Basically, you’d be saying ‘Here I am in my full glory’ if you
opted to use this. I now got back on the bus and waited for my next option all while keeping myself nice and dehydrated. The third stop. An actual
bathroom. Horribly smelly. But it was a bathroom. It was 2am. All I could think was ‘What I would do right now for a bathroom in an airplane right
now with a toilet and toilet paper and a sink and soap…’ I knew I couldn’t do a bus ride like this again down to Saigon. And I still had 5 ½ hours left.
I managed to get some sleepy time in which I felt incredibly fortunate for. To have insomnia on a night bus ride like that would be a nightmare.
During the times that I couldn’t really sleep, I turned on my ipod and it did the trick. I woke up at 6:30 and I was on song #27 on my playlist which
showed that I had been asleep for approximately 25 songs.
We were left off in Hue before our bus went onwards to Saigon. I went into the first hotel I saw and got a $6 room with bathroom and television with
HBO. I also immediately seemed to put the dread of the bus ride aside and thought ‘Well, it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I can take a bus down to
Saigon…’ I guess I will wait until I get to Hoi An to figure out what I am going to end up doing.
After a quick shower, I was on my way. Before I left the hotel I checked my email really quickly. This was when I found out what today
is…Thanksgiving! I am still blown away that it took an email for me to find this out. But when you’re in Vietnam, finding out information like this isn’t
really going to alter your day.
My first impression of Hue (pronounced ‘Hway’)? A truly Vietnamese city. Things don’t seem to be geared towards Westerners here. Of course
there are a few things. But not many. It is very charming. One of the charming factors is the presence of the ‘cyclo’…which I would take to get to the
city’s main sight – The Citadel.
I wandered around this complex of buildings and temples and gardens. I could pretend to give facts about this. But I am not going to as I really don’t
know much about what I was looking at. What I can say is that this was not a pretty scene during the American (a.k.a. Vietnam) War. In addition to
structural damage, over 10,000 people were killed and they were mostly civilians.
As of 1993 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site and they are actively restoring it.
From here I did what I do best: I wandered. During my wandering I saw a group of Vietnamese kids. With them I saw the back of a girl with a long
blonde ponytail. I found it a bit odd that there was a foreign girl hanging out with the local kids yet she didn’t seem to have any family members
around. Then I walked by the group of kids. It turned out that she was a girl hanging out with her friends. A Vietnamese girl hanging out with her
friends. An albino Vietnamese girl hanging out with her friends. Totally crazy.
The Perfume River runs through this city. No, there was no fragrance in the air but there were boat rides available. I hired a dragon boat to take me
around for an hour. Yes…a private, chauffeured dragon boat ride for $3. At first the river didn’t look like much – just a normal river. But soon things
changed. I felt like I was reliving my boat ride in Kerala (in India) when I was in the backwaters of Alleppey. Many of the boats even looked the same
as the ones in India (with the exception of my dragon boat). Many of the scenes were the same: people washing their dishes in the river, people
fishing, people living out their lives. The Vietnamese twist here was the triangular hats all of the women were wearing. It was impossible to not be
enamored with what I was seeing. I will be the first to admit that I could never do it…but to watch a completely different way of life is fascinating.
After taking a much-needed nap, I celebrated Thanksgiving this evening at a cute French-Vietnamese restaurant. It goes without saying that there
would be no turkey in store for me. Instead I feasted on shrimp in rice pancakes steamed in banana leaves (a local specialty), grilled fish and some
French red wine. All of this for $6. Well, I’ll give thanks for that!
I managed to just escape the rain on my walk home and there is currently a downpour. I am now going to get into bed, watch ‘Honey’ on HBO and
wake up early to catch my bus to Hoi An…