Umbrellas, Tombs, Emperors and Concubines in Vietnams Ancient Dynasty Capital, Hue

Traveling from Hanoi to Hue we decided to try the overnight train. We booked 2 beds in a coupè for 4 people. The ticket office said there was a restaurant wagon on board, but just in case we stopped by the supermarket to buy some water, nuts, and fruit for the 13-hour train journey. After waiting for young and old, chickens, boxes and plastic bags to get off the train, we boarded and found our cupè. It was clean, there were 4 water bottles and 4 KitKat mini chocolates on the tiny table between the bunk beds. A young Vietnamese boy came in and climbed up in one of the top bunk beds and went to sleep, and the train left. We looked out of the window for 10 minutes watching the train leaving the crazy motorbike traffic, crowded markets, and busy rice hat bike lady’s selling fruit in Hanoi.

We decided to find the restaurant carriage and get some good wine and a nice dinner. In the corridor, we found a uniformed employee and asked him where we could find the restaurant? It was in the first wagon, we were in the back, meaning we would have to go through the entire, bumpy train to get there. We passed people sleeping in cubits under a staircase, families with boxes and plastic bags and crying children in warm hard wooden seated train sets, six persons cupès with 3 bunk high beds with 3 people in every bed, backpackers with computers in soft seated overcrowded sets, and the toilets was a story I’d rather not think about. We arrived the restaurant wagon after jumping over the last train set gap, only to find it was doubling as a storage room selling only soup. After our last 3 liters, of chopped up frogs with skin and bone soup story, we passed, and fought our way through the train sets to our cupè again and laughed all the way. Thank god for fruit and nuts and the possibility to stretch out and close the door. Suddenly we were in luxury heaven.

After a night on the train, we arrived Hue. We arrived in the rain on a dirt strip Peron and made our way through the vendors selling food and snacks at the station and got a taxi to our hotel. What a service. The Hanoi hotel had great service, but this was a 3-star hotel with a 7-star service. They took on the role as transportation consultants, advisors on what to do, what was good and bad, what to watch out for and where to find ATMs and Supermarkets. They gave us a map and told us to call if we needed anything while sightseeing. The room was spacious with complimentary robes, slippers, coffee tea, water. They took care of the luggage, Wi-Fi was super fast and the complimentary breakfast was great.

Our two days in Hue was filled with the history of emperors, kings, and the old dynasty. Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam and this is where you find the citadel where the emperors of the dynasties lived with their hundreds of concubines and children. The tombs outside town, where the emperors are buried, there are beautiful gardens and amazing architecture influenced by the emperor’s own ideas. Going to the tombs we had a driver that knew his history and spoke good English. We paid 35 USD for a day with history lessons and visits to tombs and gardens ending with a visit to the pagoda in the city. this is where you will find the wolks-wagon the monk was driving before he set himself on fire in protest …..

The driver dropped us off in bar street. This is where you will find the themed coffeehouses, bars and restaurants of Hue. We tried several for lunch and dinner while visiting the city and it was all good. We were surprised to be offered drugs twice in bar street in Hue. So, stay away from motorbikes trying to get you to stop. This is not a country where operational jails should be a part of indefinite sightseeing.

The other day we decided to look more closely at the citadel. Before entering we met a persistent cyclo driver offering a one-hour sightseeing in the streets around the citadel. After haggling the price, we decided to take his offer. Two grown western people in front of a bike in the rainy streets of Hue`s old quarters was a great choice. We visited bonsai gardens, the house Ho Chi Minh grew up in, the citadel museum with the most amazing garden and statues of moguls, around ancient preserved beautiful architecture buildings. We cycled through colonial style quarters, saw children in traditional school uniforms, and a war museum that allows you to get into the tanks and planes. The citadel was definitely worth the visit, but the cyclo trip made our day. Wine and dinner in Bar street were a great end to our history lesson to Hue. This service-minded town is really worth a two-day visit.


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