Last known location: London, England

Pagodas and The Perfume River

We left Hanoi early on Thursday evening and took a taxi to the Mango Hotel where our hotel told us we could get our train tickets.  Seemed a bit of a bizarre set up but we got our tickets easily and then walked through the hotel restaurant and out onto the station platform!  Our train was waiting so we climbed aboard and settled in for the 13 hour journey.  The cabin was fine – 2 bunk beds, relatively comfortable.  We were sharing with a couple of Belgian guys, Wim and Dany, and spent the evening chatting with them about European politics and swapping travelling stories.

The train pulled in at 8am on Friday morning.  There was a big rush to get off – our carriage was full of Westerners so pretty much everyone was headed for Hue, a regular stop on the tourist trail.  We got a taxi to our hotel and luckily managed to check into our room, dump our bags and freshen up before heading out into the sunshine. 

The weather was lovely so we walked over the Perfume River to the Citadel.  We were constantly approached by rickshaw and moped drivers offering us lifts; one guy followed us for about 15 minutes!  We managed to shake them off, though, and headed into the Imperial Enclosure to explore the gardens and ceremonial halls within the walls.  It’s spread over quite a large area, and, thanks to heaving bombing during the war, a lot of the buildings are currently being restored or rebuilt completely so it was sometimes hard to get a really good picture of how it might have looked.  Sometimes, though, we did get a glimpse, and it was evident how impressive the area used to be.  The Forbidden Purple City, particularly, was set in beautiful grounds and had one or two buildings that were quite stunning.

Once we’d finished with the Citadel the rain came, so we took cover in a local restaurant and tried some local specialities for lunch.  The pancake with shrimp and meat was delicious and Dan really enjoyed his crispy beef noodles.  We were given some rice paper to make our own Vietnamese rolls, too, although our technique leaves much to be desired!

The rain shower was, fortunately, brief, so after lunch we got a taxi to the Thien Mu Pagoda which is about 4 km out of town.  It’s set in a really peaceful garden with some lovely views of the city.  The pagoda was the home of Thich Quang Duc who drove into Saigon in 1963 and burned himself to death to protest the policies of the then president.  The pagoda is still home to monks today and we saw some going about their daily business during our visit.

A boat service operates between the Pagoda and Hue centre and we managed to haggle a good price to get back into town.  We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets, shopping and enjoying the warm weather.  That evening we went for dinner with Ruth, a girl we’d met on our Halong Bay tour.  Then it was early to bed in preparation for our bus journey to Hoi An first thing the next day.

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