While we would have loved to stay in Hoi An a little bit longer, it was our last full-day in Vietnam and we were keen to see more of the country so we caught motorbikes to Da Nang and a return train trip to the ancient city of Hue. The train ride follows the coast line. On one side you have cove upon cove of empty blue beaches and on the other side, dense green jungle canopy occasionally opening up to a flowing creek.
It is hard to believe that such a beautiful place was once a war zone. The jungles, a place to fear as potential camouflage for a deadly assault. The beaches a vulnerable exposed place to avoid. However, in amongst the beauty, there are reminders of the war. Bunkers for old turrets sit looking over open areas and the shell of an old chopper actually sits in courtyard of a primary school in Hue.
The train was also as good a place as any to give the Scrubba wash bag a go. It only takes two to three minute, there was running water and the clothes were dirty so why not? The whole process caught the interest of everyone else on the train, though we mostly received bewildered looks. A video of us using the Scrubba Wash Bag on the train will be posted on YouTube shortly.
Hue itself was the location of one of the most significant battles during the war, leading to 1000's of casualties. This fact is far from apparent when walking along the lush streets.Perhaps the main attraction is the Citadel, an area also seriously bombed. A large old city protected by an impressive wall. We'd fill you in on what was behind those walls but if the truth be told, we were too busy enjoying walking about the town beforehand and got there just in time to be told it was closing.
Hue also includes a couple of strips dedicated to the tourist population with restaurants providing local food but also attempting to cater to the more boring palates craving a hamburger, etc. But you just take a couple of streets any direction from the main strips and it's another insight into Vietnamese life. Countless restaurants play slow Vietnamese pop ballads with baby-sized plastic chairs out the front. Moving deeper into the city, you reach suburbia with front doors opening out to the view of the canals. Most houses leave their front doors wide open allowing us to peer into Vietnamese family life. Interestingly, there were a lot of families sitting around the table watching TV whilst eating dinner. A global phenomenon!
A sleeper train back to De Nang and we booked in for the night at the closest hotel to the train station. Once again, there was a lot of time wasted trying to cross the translation barrier. This time, it was explaining that we wanted another room, not another key to the same room. It became a long game the Parker Brothers would be proud of. Pictures were drawn, charades were played and finally everything became clear; 'Ah two rooms. Ok I show you.' All part of the fun!