Awoke to the jerky motion of the carriages crashing together and remembered we were on a sleeper train. Anthony and I had somehow both managed to fall asleep together on the bottom bunk which if you’ve never been on a sleeper train is about two thirds of the width of a single bed! How we had managed it I do not know but trying to untangle myself to go to the toilet was a challenge!
Surprisingly the toilets were still fine to use this morning as having been on sleeper trains before (in China) I was prepared for the worst. Trying to hover over the toilet seat in a crouched position whilst the train swayed randomly is however a greater challenge when you’ve just woken up and have legs akin to Bambi!
It wasn’t long before our train was lurching through the outskirts of Hué and we assembled ourselves and our bags for disembarking. The station we arrived at wasn’t much of a station at all. Only a few of the carriages in the middle of the train could actually be exited into the platform itself – the rest of us had a huge drop down to the grass and rubble on either side of the platform.
Arriving at the hotel we were just in time to have breakfast whilst our rooms were being sorted (Dat had sorted us out with early check in) and then it was a quick shower before dropping our laundry off in the lobby (Dat had organised for someone to come and get it and have it done by early evening). Meeting down in the lobby we were then ready for our Hué tour. Our first stop was the Imperial Citadel containing the Purple Forbidden City. The Imperial Citadel was like a fortress within the city. It was surrounded by a moat and had large gates along with the nine cannons which had to be passed before you even got to the official entry gate. There was a lot of renovation work going on supported by ASEAN countries, repairing and rebuilding this site back to its former glory after damage that occurred during the Vietnam war.
Once inside, I noticed similarities with the Forbidden City in China – the layout, the architecture and the design. It turned out that Confucius had influenced it heavily so this explained it. We walked around the grounds seeing sections which had been almost destroyed by the war as well as those that were/had been restored. We learnt about the emperors that had lived here and their princes, concubines and eunuchs. There were sections that housed temples, gardens and residencies. It was hard to imagine living here as you would be completely cut off from the world outside the walls of this fortress.
On leaving the Imperial Citadel, having consumed an ocean of water and sweated most, if not all, of it back out we headed to lunch. We ate at a restaurant called Ushi where we upped our salt and sugar intake (to replace that which we had lost through swear) with French fries and fizzy drinks. It is surprising how quickly you feel human again after a salt and sugar intake. We were then ready and raring to go however some of our group were a little run down and headed back to the hotel.
Our next stop was the Tu Duc Tomb which had been built by Emperor Tu Duc himself. It was usually customary for a tomb to be built after your death by your successor. However in this case he built it himself and on a very grand scale indeed having its own temple, stelae (tablet containing his autobiography) and gardens. He treated it more as an escape (like a summer house) from the Imperial Citadel.
Following our visit to the tomb we headed to our final stop – the Thien Mu Pagoda. This was a place of worship and we were actually in time to see the end of a Buddhist ceremony. There were mostly novices and there was a lot of chanting involved. Behind the main temple we saw a car which had been the one that a Buddhist monk has driven in before setting fire to himself as a protest. We were also able to glimpse the monks in their everyday chores.
Back at the hotel we cooled off by making use of the pool – one of those infinity pools where it looks like you can swim off the edge. Our laundry was then returned to us and for the first time since leaving the UK we had an almost full bag of clean clothes each. We headed off into the local town to try a restaurant that had been recommended by Dat – Golden Rice. There weren’t many people in there but we had compared Dat’s recommendation with Trip Advisor and were happy to give it a go. Spring rolls to start with Caramelised Pork, Yellow Curry and rice for mains. Really enjoyed it and the staff were very friendly too. Went for a walk round the local streets to soak in some night life and then we headed back to the hotel as we have an early start for cycling tomorrow.
Claire & Anthony