Update from Hue
Well pick up the story in Hue.
Our driver Bill showed up right on time for our ride to Hue. We were quite happy to leave the Greenfield Hotel, but sad to be leaving Hoi An, where we’d enjoyed our stay immensely. We ended up taking the tunnel because the day was all foggy, which was kind of annoying because the whole reason I had booked a private car instead of taking the bus or train was so that we could see the spectacular views from the top of the old pass. Oh well, no point going hours out of the way just to see some fog! I wish we had taken the time to drive to the marble mountains the previous day, because even though we’d asked the driver to stop on the way there he just sort of pulled over to the side of the road for a long-distance view of them. But, the day being foggy and blah, I wasnt too terribly interested in sight-seeing anyway. We did stop for a quick look at the infamous China Beach!
Of course, I didnt remember to get the address of the hotel so our driver had to pull over and ask a friend of his. Luckily we found it right away. Let me tell you, the Orchid Hotel in Hue is an absolute gem! We only paid $36 for the three of us, and I can’t believe it’s listed as a hostel. We had a lovely, decent-sized, spotlessly clean, nicely decorated, comfortable room. The hotel was quiet, and the room had air-con, a free dvd player, an electronic safe, comfortable beds, fantastic shower, a bathtub, and a lovely balcony with a wonderful view. They even had FREE broadband access in the room, and VOIP installed so we could make super cheap calls back home from the comfort of our room! The service was spectacular and the only minor complaints we could have was the power outage that took out the air-con for most of a day, and the breakfast was only average. Other than that, we’d highly recommend this wonderful hotel to anyone!
The hotel recommended a GREAT massage place. It was only $4 for an hour long massage, and just under that for an hour long foot massage that ends up massaging everything but your bum and your face! I think we each got one every day while we were there. It wasnt the loveliest of settings, given that the tables for the body massage were made by pushing all the foot stools from the foot massages together and throwing a chunk of foam and a towel on top, but it was reasonably clean, the massage was nice, and you can’t beat the price!
The food in Hue was pretty pathetic. The first night, we tried to go with a floating restaurant that was recommended on the Thorn Tree, but it was pretty crappy and, once again, they never brought me any food. This time it was a language thing because when I said I’d have the same thing Grant was having . I meant bring me one too not I will eat half of his. So, we were both pretty tired and grumpy the first night. Jess didn’t eat anything at all and threw a big spaz just outside the restaurant. Couldnt blame her, it was late, she was hungry and frustrated, and it’s almost exactly what I felt like doing! It’s getting frustrating having to eat at restaurants all the time. While we generally love Vietnamese food, we don’t necessarily want to eat it three meals a day for three weeks.
The second day, we trekked all over hell’s half acre looking for a grocery store. Grant hated the cyclo guys that hound you to take a ride so he refused to get on one – so we walked around in full mid day sun in 33 degree heat and 99.999999% humidity until I finally stopped politely suggesting we get a ride and demanded a taxi. NOW! The taxi guy tactfully told us off for having Jessica out in the heat. She was at that point passed out cold in my lap. Did a bit of shopping with a sweaty sleeping child slung over my shoulder found some more peanut butter and yet another brand of children’s toothpaste to try out. (still no go with finding a toothpaste that our picky little bean will tolerate!) Back to the hotel for some well-deserved air-con and then out to Little Italy for lunch … where we had one of the most disgusting meals yet.
The third, and last, day in Hue we took a tour of the local area recommended by the hotel. We wanted to see some of the tombs and the Citadel, etc. and the receptionist convinced us that we were better off not taking the boat tour with Jessica because of how long it took and all the walking we’d have to do in the heat. We were pretty disappointed with what we ended up getting for our money! The driver spoke zero English so our private tour guide turned out to be nothing but a $30 taxi, and one that was hard to direct at that. I had hoped to stop along the way and take some pictures in the countryside. But he had no idea what I was talking about so I couldn’t be bothered with the sign language required. Truth be told, we didn’t even ask if we were to be provided with a guide or just a driver live and learn. But, given that the taxi driver we had lucked into the previous day had been speaking very good English and pointing out sights left & right on the way to the grocery store, we had made the - very wrong - assumption that most drivers would speak some functional level of English - especially one that we’d hired for the express purpose of this tour. Ooops. We’ve been too spoiled by the fact that English is so prevalent across Asia.
We went to two tombs, the pagoda, and the citadel. It was a long day of sightseeing, but the tombs were truly amazing, and Jessica liked poking around the old buildings and checking out the statues. We discovered some dog footprints that had been in the paving stones of a courtyard for centuries. Not much left of the citadel and the Forbidden City as the Americans bombed the hell out of it, and there wasn’t much to see and do there. We fed some fish, which was the highlight of Jessica’s day! At about 4pm we called it a day and headed to a restaurant recommended by the hotel and actually had our very first decent meal in Hue. Of course, there was nothing on the menu that Jessica would eat, so we walked for 15 minutes down by the river until I found a vendor that had some bread available. Turns out I bought her dinner from her, but at that point I didn’t care, and - hey - she sold it to me! Neither of us spoke each other’s language, but we had a good laugh over the pickiness of small children anyway.
When we got back to the hotel, the place was lit by candles. The power had been out when we left, and remained out all day. Their generators were overheating and they’d decided to give them an hour break before firing them up again. So, we had a long hike up the stairs and then twenty minutes or so of candle light before the power was mercifully restored and we could turn the air-con back on! How fortunate that we’d been out all day and it hadn’t happened the day before when we spent most of the day hiding out in our air-conditioned room watching movies!
That evening I went for my last $4 massage in Hue. I’d been to this place two or three times now and kind of knew the drill. It’s a body massage with oil and you strip down to bra and panties, and they close the door for privacy. Then they proceed to pound the hell out of you and twist you into various forms of pretzel. No towel because they move you around too much. Only, this time I ended up with a guy. OK - no big deal, I have a male therapist at home. But, then he starts in with the massage and its TOTALLY completely different from the others I’ve had. Nothing therapeutic about this at all - more like the kind of massage you give your new girlfriend when youre trying to get a little better acquainted. Eeep, maybe he thinks because I arrived so late in the evening I was interested in something additional in terms of service? I spent the whole hour laying there COMPLETELY freaked out and uncomfortable, when in reality he didn’t do anything inappropriate whatsoever. My kingdom for a towel!!
We were really sad to leave the Orchid Hotel - it was so lovely and relaxing. But, we had an overnight train booked for Hanoi. We kept the room for an extra half a day so Jessica could relax and watch a movie and Mommy could have some more quality internet time to get some pics uploaded.
We took a cab to the train station and we were a bit confused about what to do and where to go, but a nice guy helped us poor lost white folks out so we found the right place to sit. He noticed our confusion, came over, grabbed our tickets and pointed to where we should wait. Not even sure he worked there! Just before we were ready to board the doorman from the Orchid ran in with my tripod that must have fallen out of my suitcase and behind a bed. The thing is probably worth at LEAST a month’s salary to him, and he goes above and beyond to bring it to me at the train station, and then left so fast I didn’t even have time to tip him. Again HIGHLY recommend the Orchid!!
I’ll leave the story of our train ride for next time .