Hue and the road to Hoi An

I arrived in Hue around noon, after a long sleep-deprived bus journey from Haiphong. The bunk on the bus was right at the back in a row of five, and I spent the night being kneed in the back by a Vietnamese guy on one side, and elbowed in the ribs by a local woman on the other - I was a bit haggard when I got to the hostel, and grabbed a couple of hours sleep to try to rejuvenate myself. I awoke to the sound of rain - always a pleasant sound for me these days - and got up and sat watching it fall with a beer in hand. And yes, I realise that I was sort-of drinking beer for breakfast, but normal rules don't apply any more šŸ˜‰ I decided to spend the rest of the day just relaxing around the hostel, and very fortunately met Magali and Trev (Heather) who had just arrived from a farmstay together. I ended up chatting for about seven hours - it's very nice when you meet people while travelling who you can talk with for ages, without it feeling like the standard backpacker chat. It was a bit sad that Trev was leaving the next day, but once again it's the traveller's lot - here today, gone the next.
Colourful incense sticks

Colourful incense sticks

Tinh Minh Residence in the Citadel

Truong Sanh Residence in the Citadel

Strange table leg in the Citadel

Strange table leg in the Citadel

Flowering lily pad in the moat

Flowering lily pad in the moat

After waving Trev off in the morning, Magali and I decided to walk together through the Citadel and old town areas. The Citadel is a 200 year old walled area on the banks of the Huong River, surrounded by a moat, and containing various imperial buildings. The buildings inside the walls were in various states of repair, due to fighting during the Vietnam war, but several have been restored, and we spent a nice slow morning gently wandering about. The Truong Sanh Residence was particularly nice, as we both decided that it would be a perfect party house, and we wandered around it deciding how it should be laid out inside - never mind that it is a UNESCO world heritage site, it would make a fantastic house. A long lily-pad filled lake, and an extensive bonsai garden were further down the route, and while walking I practised my French with Mag (she's French-Swiss) - I've forgotten a lot, but can make myself understood, which is nice. After the Citadel, we continued to wander round the old city which surrounds the Citadel walls. Long lanes of old and new buildings, chickens and dogs rambling everywhere, the karaoke street (I lost count of how many signs there were down this lane), paddy fields, fishermen... it was incredibly peaceful and picturesque, even with the almost compulsory mass of scooters everywhere. We were heading back towards the hostel, when we passed a bandstand with musicians playing traditional Vietnamese music, so we stopped there to sit on the grass, rest our aching legs, and listen. Within five minutes, two Vietnamese girls came and sat with us, saying they wanted to practice their English. This was quite nice, until the girl talking to me started telling me that I should be married, and that she wanted to go to England and have children - while I'm sure that she wasn't angling for me to take her away, I was a bit unnerved and scarpered as soon as a polite opportunity presented itself. I spent the evening watching Aussie Rules football, which is remarkably fun to watch, and learning the rules from an Australian who was in the same dorm as me. Beer, sport and an Aussie - it did make me want to pop back to Australia for a bit, until I remembered how expensive it was, and helped myself to another 70p beer šŸ˜‰
Karaoke Street - there were more bar signs, hidden from view

Karaoke Street - there were more bar signs, hidden from view

The citadel moat, looking like Vietnam should look

The citadel moat, looking like Vietnam should look

I decided to try an Easy Rider tour to my next destination, Hoi An. This is basically a bike taxi with sightseeing rolled in, and I hoped it would be infinitely more interesting than yet another excessively long bus trip. My driver arrived early in the morning, and after my bags were securely strapped to the back, we set off. This was the first time I'd been on the back of a proper-sized motorbike, but it was pretty comfortable, and the driver was very slow and cautious, so I was pretty relaxed. Most of the journey followed the main highway towards Danang, with two diversions - one to a waterfall, and the other over the Hai Van pass. The waterfall, located about 2km off the main road and up a rough track, was one of a series - and not really a waterfall in my book, more of a steep set of rapids. Alongside the river were wooden shelters and platforms, and there were several groups of Vietnamese camped out on them eating lunch and occasionally swimming. After taking a dip myself, one of the groups gestured me over with the universal sign of friendship - beer šŸ™‚ Despite them knowing no English, and me knowing no Vietnamese, we shared beer, barbecued fish, and they even persuaded me to jump off some high rocks into the pool below - it was a very enjoyable way to spend and hour or two. After bidding them farewell, we headed down the highway a little more before stopping at a roadside restaurant for lunch. It was a fairly nondescript place, but had a very peculiar menu (pictured below) - I dread to think what 'Pork Rim Germ' is. The main highway heads under mountains to Danang, and is prohibited to bikes, so we took the old road around the coast to the Hai Van Pass. This pass is the summit of a particularly winding road which cuts back and forth as it heads up the mountainside. The view from the top was obscured by haze (as seems to always be the case when I'm somewhere picturesque in Asia) but it was delightfully cool and there were some interesting remains of French fortifications to wander around. The last leg of the trip headed down to sea-level again, and into Danang - a city that seems to be completely surrounded by building work, none of it pleasant to look at. There was a brief stop at a marble showroom, where it would seem that you can buy statues of anything you want - from laughing Buddhas to unicorns, and even a statue that looked uncannily like Xena Warrior Princess. The breast-feeding statue was the one that seemed most odd, and although I've discovered that the Vietnamese don't have any taboo about it, I wonder who would buy an expensive marble statue showing it. Dusk was falling as we came towards Hoi An, through rice fields being harvested and stubble burned. I won't deny that my bum was aching when I got off the bike, though I had definitely enjoyed the experience.
I have no idea what you'd get if you ordered any of these things

I have no idea what you'd get if you ordered any of these things

Jumping off a rock with my new friend

Jumping off a rock with my new friend

My waterfall buddies

My waterfall buddies

A statue, breast-feeding. I did a double-take at this...

A statue, breast-feeding. I did a double-take at this...

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