We left Hoi An by car and drove to Hue over the famous Hai Van pass. This is a very mountainous area of Vietnam and just north of Danang a spur from one of the mountain ranges extends down to the coast. There are quite a number of kilometres of windy mountain road over the pass and for much of the time, we drove on the wrong side of the road and around blind corners passing anything that was more than 1 km an hour slower than our driver wanted to go. Driving on the correct side of the road here is about as optional as stopping at red lights! At the top of the pass, we were besieged by people selling souvenirs. This area had been hevily fortified by both the french anmd the Americans and the old fortifications were still visoble. Oh to have had a gun to have dealt with the souvenir vendors.
We reached Hue before lunch and checked into the Century Riverside Hotel – the least Western hotel in which we have stayed so far. To Jill’s dismay, we found that this place was hotter than Hoi An. Before lunch we hired a couple of cyclos – bicycle rickshaws – to take us over to the old Citadel, the walled city of the emperors of the 18th Century. I paid 90,000 Dong ($6.00) for a return ride for two, which was probably way over the top in terms of price, but the cyclo drivers had to peddle for 20 minutes each way, and it was a lot better than walking in the heat. There is not a great deal left of the Citadel – what wasn’t destroyed in WW2 was destroyed when the VC occupied Hue for three weeks in 1968.
After lunch we took a boat ride for about 14 kms up the Perfume River to the burial place of Minh Mang, an even more ancient Vietnamese Emperor. This temple was an Indiana Jones type of place with temples, courtyards, tombs and lakes. On the way back we stopped at a couple of other temples and pagodas, but they were those type of Asian places that you visit without really knowing what you are looking at.
Dinner at night (Valentines Day) was a buffet in the garden of the hotel. The staff had gone to a great deal of trouble to create a gala event but there was almost nobody there. The best sounding wine on the wine list was one from Chile, but I think that it had spent more time in the sun than we had. The entertainment for the night was a trio – two girls scratching romantic songs on violins while another played the keyboard. Unfortunately all of their good attempts were in vain as they were drowned out by the Vietnamese pop music from the hotel next door which was having a similar function. After a while, our trio packed up and went home, as did we