One of the main ways to travel round Vietnam for backpackers is to buy an open bus ticket. You choose when you want to go and how long you want to be there for. I bought one that would take me to 5 places around Vietnam.
First stop was Hue, the first major town south of Hanoi. I had already decided due to my short time in Vietnam that I would spend a day here and get the bus straight on to the next place. I therefore had to see all the sights of city very quickly. Luckily a cracking Irish girl also decided to have the same mad plan as me so we were able to join forces. The most sensible way to see Hue, was hiring a motorbike (and driver) to whizz us off to the sites and bring us back in time to make our bus.
Perched behind an ancient driver we went to visit King Tu Duc Tomb. This is one of the most beautiful examples of royal architecture of the Nguyen dynasty. Set within 8 acres of lovely parkland it was a stunning to see. However, very little was explained in English making it hard to appreciate what was being seen.
Next we were taken to the Thien Mu Pagoda. According to the royal annals, Hoang was on a sightseeing trip and holiday to see the seas and mountains of the local area when he passed by the hill which is now the site of the Thien Mu Pagoda. He heard of a local legend, in which an old lady, known as Thiên Mụ (literally "fairy woman"), wearing a red shirt and blue trousers, sat at the site, rubbing her cheeks. She said that a lord would come to the hill and erect a pagoda to pray for the country's prosperity. According to the local legend, the lady vanished after making her prophecy. When Hoang heard this, he ordered the construction of a temple at the site and it was called Thiên Mụ Tự. It is also a sight where Thick Quang Duc to Saigon where he burnt himself to death in protest against the policies of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Again we only picked up this information from our guide book, not from any information displayed around the site.
Finally the motorcycle took us to the Citadel. This is one of the most famous sights in Hue. It is a huge complex covering an area of 520ha and comprising three circles of ramparts, Kinh Thanh Hue (Hue Capital Citadel), Hoang Thanh (Royal Citadel) and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Citadel). Wandering around it was easy to miss things, as very little was signposted or in English. We therefore only spent a short time in some stunning temples before having to meet our motorbike guides.
Elaine and I had also been accompanied by another gentleman who we think was Vietnamese, although said he lived in the States. At first he was just a bit rude interrupting our conversations and talking about something entirely different. I thought he just wanted to be included. However, Elaine happened to be taking a picture of him using his phone as he asked, when she hit the wrong button which took her to his screensaver- of a western woman in a rather interesting position with little clothing! Later on he asked us if we were looking for work and said he could get us a job as a 'receptionist' in Vietnam at his business. Hmm I wonder what type of duties would have been included. Lets say we 'accidentally' lost his email and number and tried to avoid him as much as possible. Unfortunately for us he followed us on the bus to our next destination of Hoi An.
Hue was interesting but I am glad I took a whistle stop tour of the city. On to Hoi An, the land of clothes and shoes!!