After our Cruise around Ha Long Bay we decided that we needed to see more of the city. We went to see the water puppetry (after a very long walk in the wrong direction before realising we'd walked right past the building we needed) which was....interesting. What made the night more amusing was Clare's questioning afterwards..."How did they get the fox from the water up the tree?!"...hard to explain why that question was so silly!
The next morning we were up early to go and see Ho Chi Minh's (Uncle Ho) body at the mausoleum... we just about made it on time, using very excitable taxi man and some cunning queuing techniques (just walk faster than the other people queuing). We were ushered into a giant pyramid tomb by very solemn looking guards (who 'shushed' Clare) and past the body of Uncle Ho. I didn't enjoy it at all, firstly because in his will Uncle Ho asked to be cremated but the government decided this was not what the people wanted, secondly, he didn't look real and thirdly Uncle Ho's museum was a very strange mix of art and propaganda which seemed more about symbolism and less about history. As Clare put it "It made my head hurt!".
We got a taxi back to the guest house and we're going to venture off to more things that afternoon but a trip to the post office to send things home took up practically all of our spare time (due to the copious amounts of paperwork involved in sending anything out of Vietnam!).
We caught our 12 hour night bus to Hue at 6pm... this bus was like nothing we'd seen before, it actually had beds in it and a toilet - which we sat too close to in hindsight! We grabbed to bottom bunks (for fear of falling off the top bunk due to Vietnamese driving skills) and settled into our journey before realising that someone had very stinky feet...
Hue was a very historical city with it's massive citadel and forbidden city (where the king stayed with his harem) which we walked to see on the morning we arrived. It was a very hot day so we spent most of our time trying to get from place to place via any shade that was available. As I said the citadel is huge, and there were even elephants you could go for a ride on, but it's also undergoing some restoration work so it looks a bit like a construction site in places. We also managed to get on TV as there were some people running around being chased by camera crews (it was possibly for a programme called The Greatest Race?!) and we were accosted by one of the girls shouting "Have you seen the check point?" to which we replied "The what?" and she said something about a giant red dot but the look on our faces must have been totally clueless as she darted off seconds later.
We had a late lunch at the Madarin Cafe and had a look down the many streets near our guest house before getting ready to go and try and find another bar we'd heard was a great place for travelers to visit. We failed to find it (this is becoming a recurring problem for us) and ended back in the Madarin Cafe for a beer before heading home.
In the morning we hired two xe oms (motorbike guides) to take us to one of the tombs (of king Tu Duc) and the Buddhist pagoda which was a fun way to see everything when you're in a hurry (the bus we needed to catch to Hoi An left at 1pm).
The bus to Hoi An was a short one (only 4 hours) and our first during the day for a while which made it interesting as we still had to sit/lie on the sleeper bus beds which made it impossible to sit upright. We busied ourselves with finishing off a packet of Ritz crackers and some Pringles and let out a few ooh's and aah's when we saw the South China sea.
Hoi An is a town mostly filled with tailors and shoe shops and as much as we didn't want to get anything made we ended up getting far too much. The protagonists of this shopping spree were the two South African girls we've known since our boat tour of Ha Long Bay who have a toy panda who walks and sings the Lambada as a traveling mascot...they showed us Panda in his coat made by the tailors and we just had to get things made! I got two pairs of light cotton trousers in brown and black and two Chinese style tops (which look fantastic) in red and in silver. And a pair of black flip flops which they actually measured my feet for so that the fit like a glove! Also the ladies from the tailors we used (Phong Cloth Shop) took us all out for dinner (for free) for buying lots of things and telling everyone to go to their shop (they had just opened their shop two days prior to us arriving!).
Around Hoi An are the Marble Mountain and China Beach (where American GI's spent their R and R time during the Vietnamese War...it was a beautiful beach with the most crystal clear water and white sand...we hired scooters with the South Africans from the guest house and took our time driving to see everything (ok, we got lost so we took the long way round!).
We spent two nights in Hoi An before heading off to the beach resort of Nah Trang on another 12 hour night bus... more on Nah Trang in the next blog!