Friday, May 28, 2010

Hue, Hoi An, & Mui Ne, Vietnam

The overnight bus ride from Tom Coc to Hue was long and uneventful. However, I did get to enjoy a stunning sunrise peaking out over the the ocean as the bus drove along Vietnam's coastline. The bad thing about taking overnight buses is that I miss out on the country's pretty countryside. But if I don't want to arrive in an unfamiliar city at 2am, it's best to take an overnighter.

The city of Hue is most notably known for its history, as the city "served as the political capital from 1802 to 1945 under the 13 Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty." I only intended to stay in the city for one day before continuing south, so I hired a motorbike driver for the day, costing $7. Not too shabby.

Our first stop was the Tomb of Tu Duc, one of the main Tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty. There are several sites to view the tombs, but one site was enough for me. I was a bit bored, really. And the steep admission fee turned me off.

Next, my driver took me to see some military sites where U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers fought during the Vietnam War. Most of the sites he took me were... well, not too exciting. I enjoyed the views of the city from the motorbike the most, actually. I did, however, enjoy the Thien Mu Pagoda which was the home pagoda of Thich Quang Due, the Buddhist monk who lit himself on fire in protest of the policies of the President of Vietnam. The car that he drove to reach the intersection where he eventually burned himself alive was present at the pagoda. That was pretty neat.

Eventually we made it to the Citadel, the imperial city during the Nguyen Dynasty. I just walked and viewed it from the outside. I saw it. I got it. I didn't feel the need to pay an admission fee to view it from the inside. Same, same.

Next it was time to hit the beach, which was located about 20 kms outside of the city. The driver, coincidentally, had friends and family at the beach that early evening and asked if I wanted to join them. While impersonating Krammer from the television show "Seinfeld" I responded, "Oh, you better believe it!" The next thing I knew I was under a gazebo being offered a plethora of food and downing an uncountable amount of beers. I saw a few women from Norway looking back at me from their beach chairs, probably thinking, "How in the hell did he get in with THOSE locals?" I mentioned to my new Vietnamese friends how pretty I thought the women were.

"Oh, yeah?" my driver said, as he threw back another glass of beer and walked over to the pretty ladies.

"Oh, gawd," I said, throwing back another glass as well.

The next thing I knew, both of the women were sitting with me sharing drinks and taking pictures with me and the gang.

The next morning I enjoyed a scenic drive from Hue to Hoi An.

When I arrived in Hoi An, I immediately began looking for a hotel. It's definitely difficult to find cheap accommodation in Vietnam if you're traveling solo, something I'm not accustomed to as I rarely travel alone.

I only had time to spend one day in Hoi An so I quickly began walking the streets.

Hoi An is a pleasantly quaint town. And because it had been an international trading port since the early 1600s, much of its architecture has been influenced by China, Japan, and Europe which, I gotta say, makes out for a pleasantly aesthetic stroll through the city's narrow streets. The town is full of charming boutique and taylor-made clothing shops, as well. If I ever come back to Vietnam I'll definitely spend more time in this laid back city.

The next evening I decided to take an overnight sleeper bus to Mui Ne and bypass the city of Nha Trang, as I was cut short on time. I was hoping the sleeper bus was going to be as nice and comfortable as the one I had had in Laos. WRONG! I was way too big for my sleeper. It was frustrating to watch everyone fit O-so-ever-comfortably in theirs. I layed on my back and, without any room for my legs to go, I had to bend them as if I was in position to perform some sit-ups. We stopped in Nha Trang for an hour before transferring buses for Mui Ne, now only 4-5 hours away.

Mui Ne is located in southern Vietnam, about 5 hours east of Ho Chi Minh City. I thought it would be a nice town to lay low and write, which it was...and I did. I did absolutely nothing in Mui Ne for the next few days but write. I devoted my last day, however, for sightseeing and hired a motorbike driver for $6. I checked out the nearby sand dunes, fishing villages, and the Fairy Spring.

Excited to leave for the Philippines in a few days, there was only one thing left I had to do before departing: shave. Yes, shave.

My friend, Sheila, who I'd met in a hostel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, kindly offered me a free place to stay for when I visited the Philippines. But with one tiny caveat: that I shave my burly goatee.

Next Stop: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


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