Cycling in the rain...
03.10.2013 - 04.10.2013 28 °C
After a remarkably good nights sleep on the 12 hour night bus from Ha Noi through some amazing thunderstorms, we arrived in Hue at around 07.30. Annoyingly our bags (which had been in the hold under the bus) were soaked through when we collected them! Avoiding the crowd of touts trying to sell their taxis, cyclos, and hotels we walked towards out hotel just as the rain started!
About 20 minutes later we arrived at the Serene Palace Hotel http://www.serenepalacehotel.com soaking wet with mud splashed up us and looking hot and sweaty at this very swanky looking hotel. As we climbed the steps to the lobby two uniformed door men rushed towards us, grabbed our backpacks off us while two of the female staff gave us cold towels simply asking for our passports before inviting us for a complementary breakfast. By the time we were finished we were all checked in and our bags were already in our room - incredible service and all for only £15 a night!! We even paid for them to do our laundry as it was so cheap!
Because of the typhoon we were now a day behind our schedule, meaning we only had 24 hours in Hue, so wanted to make the most of it. After a shower, we decided to rent bicycles from the hotel (£1.20 all day), much to the staffs amusement as it was still throwing it down with rain. As we waited we started chatting to a Swiss lady (who was also renting a bike) who had just come from Cambodia so we swapped stories and tips for a good 20 minutes. Raincoats on we braved the downpour and set off into the thankfully less chaotic and scary traffic of Hue.
After 2km we arrived at the Imperial City (in glorious sunshine?!?), Hue's former Citadel which is a huge complex of former Royal buildings of the Emperor which was still in use as recently as 1956! It's currently being completely restored due to the American War however some parts of the complex have been "over-renovated" and look brand new so it is a little strange to walk around. They don't seem to have found the balance been restoring and rebuilding. Still amazing to walk around though.
From here we stopped for a quick coffee and got talking to the owner who was really nice and gave us loads of tips on where we should go, not only in Hue, but also throughout Vietnam. Back on our bikes and another 3km ride brought us to the Thien Mu Pagoda and Monastery just as the heavens opened with the most amazing monsoon downpour! Luckily these normally only last about 5 minutes so after sheltering with some other tourists we are able to explore. The pagoda and monastery were beautiful and really tranquil to wander around. The monastery was also the home of Thích Quảng Đức, a Buddhist monk who drove to a busy intersection in Saigon and set himself on fire in protest against the way that Buddhists were being treated by the South Vietnamese. They proudly display the car he used outside the monastery.
We cycled back to the hotel (dodging another couple of downpours) to find immaculately clean, ironed laundry waiting for us - it smelt so good! That evening we ate at a really nice restaurant called Golden Rice which the hotel recommended where you had to cross a small bridge with tiny ducklings floating in a small pond! The food was delicious and the staff were so friendly. We got chatting to one of them who was asking about our travel plans and giving us ideas on where to go and what not to miss. We had really enjoyed Hue and it was a shame that we had missed out on another night, but our onward bus and hotel were already confirmed.
Next morning after a fantastic nights sleep in the largest and comfiest bed, we were up early for another great breakfast before being picked up for our 4 hour journey to Hoi An...