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Hoi An - made just for tourists?

overcast 72 °F

For dinner of my first full day in Hue, I went to a restaurant called Ancient Hue. Actually, it's technically three restaurants, one in a building of the traditional architectural style of Hue, one in the style of nearby Da Nang and one in the style of Hoi An, the next city on my itinerary. I thought the food was more beautiful than it was tasty, but to be honest, I went there for the architectural beauty and picture opportunities. The restaurant is seemingly in the middle of nowhere and when we got there, I could see lights but no people. My driver asked if I wanted him to wait, so I said yes, for one minute. I didnt want to think about what would happen if the restaurant wasn't open and I had to walk 30 minutes in the dark through the woods in the rain, just to find another taxi and return to the hotel. Shortly, though, a guy came to the gate with an umbrella and led me to one of the restaurants. I told the driver "thank you" and went inside to eat a leisurely dinner. Imagine my surprise after dinner and a tour of the grounds when I got back to the gate and the driver was STILL THERE!!! His English wasn't great, but my Vietnamese is non-existent, so as i understood it, he waited there the whole time - probably between an hour and an hour and a half. Wow!

IMG_0632.jpg Ancient Hue Restaurant

IMG_0656.jpg Reception/Dining Room/Living Room of my hotel in Hue

On the last day, I had no choice but to see Hue in the rain. Although it was raining less than it did the 2 previous days (a little less rain each day), it was by no means dry, as my pictures can attest. I rented a private car with an English-speaking driver and saw as much of Hue as I could in half a day. I first went to the Tomb of Khai Dinh, then the Tomb of Minh Mang, then the tomb of Tu Duc, then Thien Mu Pagoda, then Vietnam's Forbidden City. Truthfully, I didn't really care if I saw the pagoda (I can see plenty in China), but the owner of my hotel told me it was very special. My guide also told me there are more than 100 pagodas in Hue (population about 950,000 people), so it MUST be special if there are that many! But to be honest, it looked like just another pagoda. I did get a couple of cool pics there though, which I've included.

IMG_0669.jpg At the Tomb of Khai Dinh

IMG_0672.jpg Statues stand guard at Khai Dinh's Tomb

IMG_0690.jpg Still at Khai Dinh's Tomb - let's take a vote: ornate or...gaudy?

IMG_0736.jpg Statues at the Tomb of Minh Mang - check out the standing rain! I slipped many times but thank God I never actually fell.

IMG_0757.jpg Still at Minh Mang's Tomb

IMG_0821.jpg The inside of the entry gate to Tu Duc's Tomb

IMG_0817.jpg Inside one of the courtyards at the Tomb of Tu Duc

IMG_0828.jpg One member of the "grounds crew" at Thien Mu Pagoda

IMG_0849.jpg The car of monk Thich Quang Duc. He drove to Saigon in 1963 & burned himself to death in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Roman Catholic government

IMG_0875.jpg Inside the Forbidden City - notice the flooding

IMG_0973.jpg My guide was kind enough to snap a picture of me gazing out to a rough Pacific Ocean from Lang Co Beach, on the road from Hue to Hoi An

IMG_1000.jpg 2 bunkers at the top of Hai Van Pass (literally, "Sea, Cloud Pass") stand as reminders of Vietnam's wars this century. The ugly one is American, the more aesthetically pleasing one on the right is from the French War

IMG_1003.jpg I would have preferred standing in front of the other bunker, but it would have blocked the view of the road and sea below (not that you could see much in such dismal weather)

IMG_1035.jpg Figurines of traditional Vietnamese musicians at a marble-carving shop

Remember I said one of the reasons I wanted to come to Vietnam was because I'd watched the Top Gear episode they made here? And while I was impressed with the whole country, I had an extra-special feeling about Hoi An. That's why I chose to stay here 5 nights out of 20. All of the other places I only stay 2, 3 or 4 nights each.

Well, I'm excited to say that my expectations have been met - this town is beautiful, even...charming (I hesitate to use that word for two reasons - it's not one I normally use, but one that my students over-use! However, it seems to be the most accurate word to use for the location). The flooded roads, blackened and crumbling walls and narrow streets make for some pretty interesting photos, but I'm sure that the locals might not see it as quaint and charming like the visitors here do.

IMG_1124.jpg Front view of my Hotel: Thien Thanh Boutique Hotel

IMG_1125.jpg Looking through my hotel, from front door to back door, by way of the indoor swimming pool (I haven't used it yet)

IMG_1057.jpg My bedroom at Thien Thanh Boutique Hotel, room 301

IMG_1063.jpg The back deck/breakfast area

IMG_1080.jpg My FAVORITE picture in Vietnam so far - I saw her coming down the street and then "accidentally" let her walk into my shot

IMG_1092.jpg I don't know if you can tell, but the road was a bit flooded here

IMG_1116.jpg Cyclo operators waiting for a fare

IMG_1127.jpg I went a little overboard when purchasing lanterns - I hope and pray my cats won't be able to reach them to shred them up. My younger cat single-handedly (single-pawedly?) destroyed two IKEA lamps that the other cat had left undisturbed for 6 months

IMG_1138.jpg Night shot of Hoi An

IMG_1142.jpg Another shot of Hoi An by night

Well, that's enough for now. As you can probably tell, it's getting harder and harder to limit myself when selecting pictures to show you. I'm going on what I hope will be one of the highlights of my trip tomorrow - a sunrise photo tour of the local villages with a French professional photographer living here. Hopefully, you can expect some great photos in my next posting. Assuming I don't oversleep and miss my 5 am pickup. Sunrise is usually in the morning, after all...

Posted by feiheli 01:03 Archived in Vietnam

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enjoying your travelogue. love the pix!

by brad bennett

how do you find these fancy hotels? from LP? that swimming pool looks great~~ oh, it seems that i was most impressed by your hotels, haha ! I am really lazy now...just want to stay at nice hotels when i take a trip. btw, i am planning to take my mom to hongkong after spring festival~ btw again, i want postcards!!!!

by avril zhao

Great shot of the flooded vendor. We are enjoying your posts very much!

by sfoshee

Thank you for sharing I've been looking for the trip to Danang-Hue and Hoi An and your blog very useful :)

by MissSunshine

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