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!
Ancient Hue Restaurant
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.
At the Tomb of Khai Dinh
Statues stand guard at Khai Dinh's Tomb
Still at Khai Dinh's Tomb - let's take a vote: ornate or...gaudy?
Statues at the Tomb of Minh Mang - check out the standing rain! I slipped many times but thank God I never actually fell.
Still at Minh Mang's Tomb
The inside of the entry gate to Tu Duc's Tomb
Inside one of the courtyards at the Tomb of Tu Duc
One member of the "grounds crew" at Thien Mu Pagoda
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
Inside the Forbidden City - notice the flooding
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
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
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)
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.
Front view of my Hotel: Thien Thanh Boutique Hotel
Looking through my hotel, from front door to back door, by way of the indoor swimming pool (I haven't used it yet)
My bedroom at Thien Thanh Boutique Hotel, room 301
The back deck/breakfast area
My FAVORITE picture in Vietnam so far - I saw her coming down the street and then "accidentally" let her walk into my shot
I don't know if you can tell, but the road was a bit flooded here
Cyclo operators waiting for a fare
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
Night shot of Hoi An
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...