Down the coast of Vietnam: Hue, Hoi An & Nha Trang

Dec 14, 2010

Hey all!

Since our last blog post we’ve been travelling South down Vietnam. After a 12 hour train journey (sleeper class) from Hanoi, we arrived in Hue.

Hue was the political capital of Vietnam from 1802 to 1945 and there were loads of historic sights to see. On our first day we ventured in to the Citadel (10km x 10km) which used to be the imperial city. It is now mostly used for farming but back in the day it contained the whole city. Within the Citadel we visited the Imperial Enclosure (a smaller Citadel within the main Citadel) which is where the Emperors (as well as their families, guards, servants, concubines and eunuchs) lived. Within the the Imperial Enclosure we also explored the Forbidden Purple City which only the Emperors (and their eunuchs!) could enter. It was really impressive & interesting but only a few buildings were still standing as the sight was heavily bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam war. The following day we took a boat trip to visit more of the sights. We saw the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is one of Vietnam’s most famous buildings, and then we visited two of the Tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty; Tomb of Tu Duc and Tomb of Ming Mang which were amazing! The tombs are set in extensive grounds with lakes, forests and beautiful buildings. We only had 45 minutes to view each tomb but we could have easily spent a couple of hours at each one as there was so much to see. We were practically running round the Tu Duc tomb as it was so extensive! We also had a bit of luck there as Jimmy found a wad of 385,000 dong notes (just under £13) which helped clear a bit of our previous overspending! The Citadel and all of the tombs are Unesco World Heritage Sites - they must love us as we’re seeing so many! We stayed in Hue for two nights and after that we were ready to move on; it was a nice city with lots of history but it lacked charm.

Our next stop was Hoi An. It only took 4 hours to get there by bus from Hue and as soon as we arrived we knew we were going to love it and want to spend a few days there! Hoi An is set on the Thu Bon River and it is so picturesque; narrow roads, beautiful old buildings, boats docked along the river and an abundance of lovely looking restaurants and cafes. Hoi An was an international trading port in the 17th century and the influence from Japan, China and Europe can still be seen in the town today. After a history overload in Hue, we chilled out for our first two days and just wandered around checking out the cafes, restaurants and bars. It was our 6 year anniversary on our second night (December 9th) so we went to a fantastic restaurant called Morning Glory (number 1 on Trip Advisor) and we had a gorgeous meal with cocktails and our first Gin & Tonics since being away - they were Amazing! On our third day we visited My Son (another Unesco World Heritage Site) which are the most important remains of the ancient Cham empire. Most of it is ruins as the Americans bombed it for 10 days during the war but there was still a lot to see (including all the bomb & mine craters). It reminded us of Angkor Wat in Cambodia but on a smaller scale. The Cham empire lived at My Son from the 4th to 13th century so it is much older than Angkor Wat. Our guide for the day was such a character and he was really animated and passionate, we had to stop ourselves from bursting out laughing a few times! We had glorious weather the next day so we got motorbike taxis to Cua Dai beach which is only 5km from town. We spent the whole day sunbathing as it was our first day of sun since Halong Bay and the sea had the biggest waves we’ve ever seen so we had some fun in the sea too! On our final day we explored Hoi An old town (another Unesco World Heritage Site!) and we saw restored 19th century houses, a Japanese bridge that was built in 1593 and a few temples to continue our religious crusade (as Katy suggested, Ha!). We got picked up at 6pm to start a 12 hour overnight bus journey to Nha Trang.

The bus journey to Nha Trang was our worst journey so far. We had upper beds (built for hobbits) at the back of the bus next to the toilet (nice!). The beds were in threes and Jimmy ended up being next to a very smelly, large French man who invaded his space all night! The bus driver was also a maniac and we were thrown around for the entire journey so we got absolutely no sleep. We arrived in Nha Trang at 6am yesterday and we were both shattered. Nha Trang is a beach town and we had planned to relax on the beach but it rained for the whole day so we plonked ourselves in a cafe and chilled out. We checked the weather for the next five days online whilst we were there and it was scheduled for rain every day so we bought train tickets to Ho Chi Minh City to leave the next day (today). We had an early night last night and we woke up today to glorious sunshine (bloody typical!) although it quickly got very cloudy. We’ve just relaxed in cafes today and we’re catching our train at 9.30pm (in just over an hour). We don’t really feel like we’ve been able to get a feel for Nha Trang due to the short amount of time we’ve been here but I think if we’d had good weather, we would have liked it and stayed for longer.

Anyway, that’s enough from me! Hope everyone’s well and looking forward to Christmas! Pull a cracker, have a mince pie and enjoy a glass of mulled wine for us!