Thursday, August 02, 2007

Vietnam - Hue

We arrive in Hue after a very scenic bus ride along the coast from Hoi An. After a relaxing evening we get up very early to go and see the sights around this unique and very cultural city on the Perfume River. Our first stop is the citadel and the Imperial city and Forbidden Purple City within its walls. The buildings are stunning and we walk around discovering it in the heat and humidity of the early morning. Our next stop is the Royal Mausoleums of the 19th century Emperors Tu Duc, Gia Long and Minh Mang. An impressive array of buildings, lakes, gardens, sculptures, statues, tombs and temples. Another quick bus ride and we hop off at some old well kept gardens and then have lunch. Our last stop is the Thien Mu Padoga where we observe monks chanting and feel like we are trespassing in a holy place. The last part of the trip takes us back to Hue on a dragon boat along the Perfume River. This name is certainly not apt for the state of the river nowadays.

That night, although tired from all the sight seeing we manage to make it for a night out on the town, visiting some of Hue's bars and clubs (one called the DMZ). The next day is a late start and we hire a moped to get around the city like the locals. The traffic is hectic but it's all good fun if you just keep honking the horn and drive agressively. We visit the citadel at night and it is even more stunning than during the day, as it is lit up beautifully. On the way back we run out of petrol for the moped and the only petrol station we have seen was on the other side of the city. We look around desperately and wonder what we should do. A Vietnamese guy selling stuff on the pavement beside us starts laughing and we look around. He produces a litre of gasoline from under his table and asks if we would like to purchase it. We look at each other in disbelief as he saves us from pushing the moped across town. Incredible good luck!

On our final day in Hue we visit the Dong Ba market, a hectic place full of any type of food and junk you could possibly want to buy. The smells are intense at every turn and the locals heckle for your business. Afterwards we drive to the other end of the city to pay a quick visit to the Ho Chi Minh museum. It seemed fitting to do that here as he went to school here in his early days. It's a small museum, but very interesting.

After a lot of trouble trying to get bus or train tickets out of Hue, we manage to secure places on a sleeper bus heading to Hanoi that night. The journey should take about 12 hours. Of course the bus is delayed as every journey in Asia so far and we get away about 4 hours later than scheduled. The bus is an actual "sleeping bus" with beds for about 40 people. They are designed for local people though, and I don't really fit into the bed, making for an uncomfortable night's sleep. As I lie awake listening to music, I see Nuria is fast asleep. It's about 2am and I wish I could fall asleep too... Suddenly there is a huge thud as the bus impacts with something, then another one almost immediately afterwards. I sit up and know something bad is happening. The bus veers left and then right and Nuria sits upright and we grab on to each other. After carreering down the road and swerving all over the place, the bus comes to rest about 100m after the initial impact. The driver was incredibly lucky to maintain control over the vehicle. We are at the back of the bus and look out the window to see two dead water buffalo lying in the road bwhind us. People start to descend from the bus onto the dark road outside. The front of the bus is wrecked and the bumper is hanging off. There is a hole in one side and some of the lights are missing. As we wait for the police to come, we walk back to where the buffalo are lying. It is complete carnage, so we don't stay to look at it for long. At least they died instantly and did not suffer too much. The police arrive and tell the driver he is not to continue the journey, so we pull in to spend the night. After a while the police leave and the driver starts the engine and drives on with one light. After an epic journey we eventually arrive in Hanoi around 15h, only 9 hours later than scheduled.