Monday, 17 December 2012

Humble Hue

To tell the truth, I didn't much enjoy Hue. I was probably just unlucky, but my experiences of the place weren't the most positive. As I walked to my hotel, backpack in tow, every ten seconds I would hear yet another 'Hallo! You! Where you go?', which became more and more irritating as I pressed on.

Once I finally reached my hotel and had checked in, I walked to the market (passing endless persistent taxi/motorbike/cyclo drivers all shouting at me to purchase their services) and once there was continually dragged by women to their stalls, trying to make me buy Tiger Balm, shoes and scarves, or eat their food. I found what I thought was a quieter place to sit and sample some of the banh specialities of Hue, only to be joined by swathes of women stroking my skin - and then to be charged a ridiculous amount for a meal that should have cost a fraction of the price.

I know I shouldn't be surprised by any of this. But it had been a long day, and my patience had been exhausted already. And the whole point of eating at the market is to sample local food at local prices - if I'd wanted the price tag I was given, I could have found a nice restaurant nearby, and be spared the endless staring and stroking as well.

After a futile attempt to visit the Citadel, involving yet more hassling by drivers, I decided to call it a day and head back to my hotel...which was located next door to a karaoke bar. And believe me, the Vietnamese go for volume and outlandishness over tuneful renditions. I endured three hours of it and then thanked the Lord for the midnight curfew...

Following my lack of success at the Citadel the previous day, I decided to join an organised tour to see it the next morning. Certainly, there were still postcard sellers shouting at every corner, drinks sellers meeting us off the bus, and the obligatory stops at incense stick-making and conical hat-making workshops with yet more hard sellers, but this time I had a group of other tourists to share my frustration this time!

We also went to see three emperors' tombs, which were set in picturesque, peaceful areas - a welcome escape from the chaos of the city, though accompanied by masses of mosquitos, my bite-ridden body can confirm... Towards the end of the trip it was all beginning to merge into one blur of engravings and buildings - a time to be thankful for digital cameras, I suppose.

Having been promised a bus transfer back to the hotel which turned out to be a walking bus transfer, I was extremely grateful to be able to have a shower before boarding a fourteen-hour sleeping bus to Ninh Binh, which I survived...just.

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