The ride from Hoi An was rather short and the landscape composed of mountains and beaches, so all in all, very enjoyable. The bus dropped us off at some random place, but we were very close to the ‘backpackers’ district, so we made our way there to search for a place to stay. This time it was Tim’s turn to hang out with the packs while I found us a hotel in a dark alley. The lady that ran it was lovely and spoke a few words of Spanish, Russian and possibly other languages, and her hotel was the cheapest around, so I was happy to secure a room. As I was walking back towards Tim, it started raining, so we quickly made our way to our new room and lazed around for the rest of the day.
The following morning we set out to explore Hue’s ancient city and the old Royal Palace. The first stop after walking on a nice park along the waterfront was the local market, where we marvelled at the noise, products and colours. Tim managed to find a coffee filter system, so that we could give up instant coffee and get into some real Vietnamese stuff. Bargaining came into play straight away, though by the smile on the sellers face, the 1USD we paid for it might have been too much regardless.
Towards the palace, a moat separates the old city from the rest, and the gates and walls still stand tall and proud. We explored the area, the small alleys and crumbling buildings for a while, until we decided to head to the main exhibit. We had to walk around the complex, as thick battlements surround the whole palace complex, and only one entrance is opened to tourists. Once again, crossing the main gate was an experience on its own, and we were able to climb some stairs and get a view from the top.
Further along, a gorgeous bridge adorned with blossomed trees that crosses a carp filled lake took us to the main hall, a perfect reconstruction of the old one, with magnificent red columns strangled by dragons, and a highly pompous throne, where the emperor must have sat in front of his subjects. Attached to this big room was a small expo of golden royal seals and a few other interesting objects.
We exited this area and proceeded to explore the grounds. Though some parts of the original structure are still standing, most of what there is to see has been reconstructed. The architecture is very impressive and unique regardless, and it made for a great day out.
On the way back, we decided to walk a little bit further to check out the train station and possible tickets North bound. Following the river, we stumbled upon a park they were remodelling and pimping up to receive the spring festival, so many flowers were on display. A few metres past the plants, a big collection of bonsai trees stood – more than I have seen together in my whole life. Some where small, some big and complex, with more than one species per mini ecosystem. It was absolutely amazing and we were lucky to have found this place that most would sadly miss as it was not advertised anywhere for tourists to see…
With the Chinese New Year and national holiday’s approaching, finding a ticket out of Hue was not an easy chore. The trains were ridiculously expensive, and we asked at a few tourist agencies around town and were quoted prices inflated 50-70% from their original value. We ended up trusting the nice lady at our ‘hotel’ to get us the tickets as her price was the best, but were not certain it would all work out until the bus finally came for us. Again luck was on our side, and not only was the sleeping bus as comfortable as any other, we also got our favourite seats at the back and were ready for the next adventure in Ninh Binh.