A lesson we always fail to learn is writing down where our next accommodation is located, its address or a quick screen shot of a map. It was the case again as we arrived into the ancient city of Hue. We pulled up on the side of a busy road and grabbed our bags before the obligatory three minutes of staring at each other, wondering which way to go. Of course, in these situations are the annoying touts trying to jostle each other out of the way to get your business. One timid fellow caught our eye and asked if we had somewhere to stay. We replied yes so didn’t need a room. He said okay, where are you staying. We said Hung Thein Ruby Hotel. His eyes lit up, looked at his badge and yelled “I work at Hung Thein Ruby Hotel!, he he he”
Before we knew it, he had Sarah’s bag on his shoulder leading us down a small alley across from where the bus dropped us off. Two minutes later we were in the foyer with a fresh fruit juice in hand, while the owners little kids in pyjamas came to inspect us. Something’s just happen to work out.
It was early evening so we decided to wander out towards the Imperial Citadel to take a look across the river. At this moment the skies darkened and the rain poured down. This was the case for the remainder of our time in Hue.
We donned our waterproofs and ventured out. We discovered after a few minutes that Hue (pronounced H-way) may not be our favourite city. The main part of the town is filled with restaurants catering for western tour groups with terrible food. We wandered back to the hotel to see if they had a restaurant they could recommend. With their advice we wandered a few streets out of the main grid to find the restaurant completely full. We decided to wait a while and head back when it may be quieter and chose a small little bar on the corner that was fitted out with teeny tiny wooden tables and chairs, to waist our time. After one beer we wandered back down to the restaurant. Fortunately for us, a couple walked out as we walked in, so we grabbed a table. Unfortunately for us, the main dishes that were recommended to us had sold out, so we ended up with the remaining dishes that were unable to float our boat. Dejected, we sauntered to the hotel.
We had the full day in Hue before jumping on an overnight train to Hanoi. We had one thing to do, and that was to head to the Imerial Citadel. We grabbed our tickets from the slightly dodgy looking booth beneath the fortified archways and strolled in.
Why, oh why, do all the monument in the world that you travel to see, happen to be covered in scaffolding when you get there?
The main gate looked like it would have been quite spectacular, but in this case was blocked by metal pipes and shade cloth. Thankfully, the first area you encounter after the main gate would have to be the most beautiful. Symmetrical ponds filled with large orange fish front the old stone square leading up to huge wooden building. We stood there for a little while both admiring it, as well as waiting for the tour groups to leave. A feat that would normally be impossible, but as we mentioned earlier it was raining heavily so the normal hordes were somewhere else doing something else.
After walking through the beautiful big building we watched a small presentation of the different areas of the royal palace. It showed an array of beautiful buildings not too dissimilar, if not grander, then the building we were in. Once it finished, we turned to see the scale model depicting the size and grandeur of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then we turned and walked outside to find – nothing left. Okay, a slight exaggeration, there were a few surrounding buildings that housed some of the royal artefacts, but what was shown in the scale model and the presentation had made us think a lot more was still visible. But, the results of war do take their toll.
We spent a little wile wandering through the remaining structures and the building works, making the best of the terrible weather, but not long in, we decided to head off in search of a meal. We ate a lukewarm noodle dish and went in search of a bookshop. This proved fruitless as everyone suggested the Book Café. This was an enormous building that had a café, a lot of souvenirs and two racks of books.
Hue was still not winning any awards. As we strolled back towards our hotel to get our bags, the skies gave up raining and showed a break in the clouds. From this gap shone the sun, directly onto the street corner opposite us. Against a corrugated iron fence stood two benches with two ladies cooking. We edged closer and closer, anticipating what it was, but trying not to get our hopes up. We were right – BAHN MI!!!
Before this moment, if we were asked if we would ever come back, our response would be – No Hue (See what we did there). But this little lady served up a pretty bloody good Banh Mi. And her cheery smile could just tempt us into stopping in for a quick sandwich before boarding a train to Hanoi.