24/12/2017 – 27/12/2017
We set off from Hoi An on our bus that we had booked from our hotel the day before. It was a sleeper bus which had little beds which were actually pretty comfortable, but I imagine not so comfortable if you’re tall. We had booked this bus specifically because it went over the Hai Van Pass, a particularly beautiful mountainous stretch of road made famous by Top Gear. When we were coming up to it I saw the sign for it and got excited.. then we went straight past it and through the newly built tunnel that skips it all. Of course. The journey wasn’t all bad though, we did still see some interesting and beautiful sights along the way; we will just have to make sure we go back another time to see the Hai Van Pass I guess!
So we made it to Hue a couple of hours earlier than we thought because the bus took the shorter route through the tunnel. As soon as we got off the bus we were swarmed by taxi drivers trying to overcharge us to take us to a hotel. Up until this trip I never felt like I had been that massively ripped off in Vietnam but here it was something else. Luckily we had booked an Airbnb so we rang our host and he ordered a taxi to come and pick us up to avoid overpaying.
Our Airbnb was a beautiful place a bit out of the way in the countryside. It was so quiet and by the water; we couldn’t wait to get in the hammocks. The room was decorated beautifully but was lacking in the windows and doors department. Our host was really sweet and offered us lunch, but we saw it was the usual dish of bony chicken and we have had enough bony chicken in Vietnam so politely declined and headed out.
The weather was horrendous as we headed to Tu Duc Tomb, a tomb constructed in the 1800s that Emperor Tu Duc designed for use before and after his death. Side note – I’ve just found out that he was never buried there, instead was buried in an unknown location. To prevent grave robbers finding out where he was buried, all two hundred servants that buried him were beheaded. The weather was so bad I had to buy an overpriced umbrella even though I was wearing a rain jacket. That tropical weather, eh? The tomb was very eerie, peaceful but sombre. It was also a bit of a maze, but nice to walk around.
When we left we were bombarded by the same people that got us before we went in the tomb, pestering us to get on their bikes. They even followed us for a while as we went to Vong Canh Hill. We got to the top of the hill and were greeted by the most amazing view of the Perfume River. It would have been even more amazing if it wasn’t raining so much! Regardless, we made the most of it by having a picnic sat in the mud.
We didn’t wan to go back yet but we were out in the sticks a little bit. Without Uber or Grab, we decided walk into the main part of town. I think at this point we had gone mad, as the rain was torrential. After a while we finally saw a taxi and got it to take us to the centre where we went to a French bakery.
We were so cold and wet and a bit miserable; it was raining so much my phone broke! After a long deliberation we decided we did not want to go back to our Airbnb because it would be so cold and damp, and we booked a hotel nearby. We had an even longer debate about how we were going to tell our Airbnb host because he was so lovely, but in the end we managed to tell him and check into our new hotel.
Christmas Day! The hotel we booked was just around the corner from the French bakery so we went there for breakfast, which we ended up doing everyday we were there (if you’re ever in Hue the place is called La Boulangerie Francaise and it’s the best). We had some kind of Christmas miracle, because it was actually warm and not raining!
We went to the Imperial City, a walled palace within the citadel of Hue (and the third UNSECO World Heritage Site of the trip!). This is where the Nguyen dynasty lived and ruled until 1945. We were thinking of booking a tour but ended up going ourselves, as we had such a hit and miss time with the tours. I think tours are great because I like to know what I’m looking at, but most of the time they’re overpriced and not so great. It was nice to walk around nonetheless, the complex was vast but again it had been heavily bombed during the war.
In true British spirit we were after a Christmas dinner, but after lots of googling we were unable to find somewhere that served one so we settled on Italian and cocktails, very Christmassy.
We stated off the day in our usual way, by having waffles and ice cream for breakfast, then headed to somewhere I’d been pretty excited to go to. We’d previously read about an abandoned water park in Hue. The park has some mystery surrounding it; internet research brings some discrepancies. It either opened in 2004 and closed shortly after, or never opened at all. It cost 3 million USD to build so it’s pretty weird that they closed it and left it how it is.
The park is built around Thuy Tien Lake, and despite what some blogs say, it’s super easy to find. After a taxi there we came to a creepy entrance with a no visitors allowed sign, and a cheeky little guard asking for 10k to enter. We knew it wasn’t legit. He knew we knew it wasn’t legit. I admired his entrepreneurial spirit.
We walked down this road unsure of where we were going until we came to this amazing spot. The location is actually incredible and it’s such a shame they closed it down. It is the spookiest place, the drizzly weather we had probably added to it. Also, there were quite a few cows there, I don’t know how they got there. We saw an aquarium with loads of smashed up glass around. Apparently until recently there were crocodiles in there that were left there after the park was closed down. There was also an algae filled swimming pool with rusty old slides – creepy!
The main attraction was a massive dragon at the head of the lake. We walked up to the top where you can see the lake from the mouth of the dragon. Everything is covered in graffiti and has been overtaken by nature.
After we went for coffee at One Coffee, where you can sit in tea cups! So cosy. We did yet more shopping and then ate the best pizza I’ve had since being in Vietnam.
On our last day in Hue we had breakfast at our regular spot (I’ll miss you French bakery!). Then sadly to the airport headed for Hanoi. I really enjoyed Hue and I think I would have enjoyed it even more if it wasn’t for the weather. It has got a weird vibe to it though. It’s eerie and a bit spooky and I even had bad sleeps and bad dreams there. I saw a quote somewhere about Hue, that it’s a city of ghosts where the dead support the living.
Overall, I had a great time in Central Vietnam. I’m even more grateful we got time off work to see more of the country we live in. It’s just a shame about the weather!
Have you ever been to central Vietnam? Or been somewhere that gave you a weird feeling?
If you want to see more photos of my travels you can go look at my Flickr where I upload them all