Have just spent three days in Hue in Northern Vietnam, not far fom the border between Northern and Southern Vietnam.
We crash landed in Hue about 10 in the morning (having enjoyed a 15 hour bus journey from Hanoi!) and from there we could either sleep the day away or go out adventuring, we chose the latter! We decided to stroll around and see where it took us and crossing the river we saw a number of beautiful temples and the cities very own citadel. We, of course, got lost in the process of trying to find these places! With the temperature very much warmer than Hanoi we decided to stop off for a drink at a local bar and made the mistake of trying to use the language, thus ordering something we never intended! Out came a beef dish which actually turned out to be delicious but the green vegetable that came with it turned out to be one of the most disgusting things I have ever tasted! The initial taste isn't too bad and lures you in but from there it goes down hill very rapidly, the sourest, most bitter thing ever!
Later in the day, having walked around for a good while we stopped by the riverside for a drink and a local lady who brought her produce to the restaurant to sell, offered us the opportunity to take a boat trip in her tiny and very unsteady boat. It turned out to be a major highlight of my travels so far because she took us where other travellers don't go, through the boat villages. The people were so friendly and everyone waved and smiled, it was amazing to see that some people lived like this and appeared far happier than many people with far more in material terms.
By our guesthouse there was a lovely little bar restaurant owned by a lady called Thu and her 10(!) brothers. They ran a number of excursions and we decided to ride on motorbikes to see some of the sites in the surrounding area. The thing that stood out for me was a particular temple complex where they kept a car which was famously used by one of their monks. He drove down to Saigon to set himself on fire in protest against the governments persecution of both the buddhist religion and others. Later that day we went to a temple where we saw buddhist monks chanting, there was a number of tourists there which somewhat lessened the experience, but it was fascinating all the same. It was also interesting to learn that young buddhist monks at this particular temple were forbidden from doing any form of physical activity with the exception of football!
That evening we went into Hue and took a cyclo taxi with a difference. The difference being that we cycled for the taxi drivers, it was great fun!
On our final day in Hue we hired a car to drive us to the demilitarized zone in Vietnam where the Vietcong army advanced on the South of Vietnam and were heavily bombed by the US, there are areas where vegetation still doesn't grow. Our first port of call was the Vinh Doc tunnels. They are situated by the sea and consist of a number of levels and rooms where Vietnamese lived underground for some six years. It is amazing to learn about how they survived undiscovered for this many years and where apparently 17 babies were born and grew up, one of whom is apparently now a famous Vietnamese lawyer. There we got a chance to go down into the tunnel for a 500m stretch but within about 20m I had to turn back as I found it so claustrophobic, it was less than a metre wide and less than six feet high! I cant imagine living there, quite awe inspiring endeavour and resolve.
Our final destination of the day was a visit to the Vietnamese war cemetery where there were literally tens of thousands of graves, it was a harrowing sight and a good number of those dead were no more than about 20 years old.
I am currently in Hoi An where we will be spending the next few days, there is a beach here and the old town is a World Heritage Site so I am looking forward to giving the place a look and chilling out on the beach.
Take care of yourselves,
P.S. It seems that the Vietnamese agree with my grandma that my ginger hair is beautiul, I always knew it!