We have been on the move a bit over the last week and have decided to use that as a valid excuse for chilling out a little (code for staying in an air conditioned room) and spending the afternoon catching up on a little house keeping and avoiding the heat.

Don't always judge on looks. To get to our hotel in Hue we had to walk down an interesting alleyway. It looks far worse than it is, the Hotel is very nice and the little resturant in the foyer is the top rated restaurant eatery in Hue if you use Trip Advisor.
Don’t always judge on looks. To get to our hotel in Hue we had to walk down an interesting alleyway. It looks far worse than it is, the Hotel is very nice and the little restaurant in the foyer is the top rated restaurant \ eatery in Hue, if you use Trip Advisor.

The heat here has not been of the “blast furnace” variety that we struck in Greece, it just seems to wrap itself around you making you feel as though you are walking along with a heavy coat on. However, we are probably coping with it better than we would have a couple of months ago. Apart from anything else, it also seems to kill the appetite which is of course good for helping us to shed a few of those unwanted kg we were carrying when we left New Zealand (every cloud has a silver lining).

A wander around the outside of the old Imperial city in Hue was a pleasant and interesting stroll.
A wander around the outside of the old Imperial city in Hue was a pleasant and interesting stroll.
Like Santorini, Halong is one of those places that guarantees "no fail" photos.
Like Santorini, Halong is one of those places that guarantees “no fail” photos.
The beach at Ti Top Island in Halong Bay
The beach at Ti Top Island in Halong Bay

While we have been staying in self catering airbnbs, the travel experience has been in sourcing local foods and putting together simple meals. Here in Asia we are staying in hotels so we are now seeking out local eateries and try the foods the locals eat. It has been a pleasant change and our chop stick skills are improving in leaps and bounds. I reckon that in a few more days we will be able to eat pho (soup) using chop sticks. Here in Vietnam we have enjoyed the food very much and especially in Hue where we are currently based.

Despite the cunning disguise we were still identified as visitors and not locals.
Despite the cunning disguise we were still identified as visitors and not locals.

The hospitality has also been amazing. The service can be a little over-the-top for DIY kiwis but there have been times when we have been happy to accept the fuss.

When we returned to Hanoi from our two nights in Halong Bay, we needed to collect our bags (we took overnight gear) which the hotel had kindly agreed to look after. Even though we were not staying the night, on arrival at the hotel, they had welcome drinks, told us to go and have a shower and get changed, arranged for transport to the station (we did not pay) and the porter at the hotel even came to the station by bike to help us with our luggage and ensure that we got on the right train (there was only one in the station) and into the right sleeper berth. As we left they came out with a food parcel for each of us so that we did not have to eat train food. If you are ever in Hanoi try the Calypso Grand Hotel, tell them Mr Cliff and Mrs Ruth recommended it.

Part of the team at our hotel in Hanoi.
Part of the team at our hotel in Hanoi.

During our two nights Halong Bay we were again impressed by the service. We were pampered from the time we arrived at the marina until we left it and upon leaving, as we had a short wait, we were served an impressive lunch.

A sister ship to the one we stayed on for two nights, the small boat was one of many vendors who would ply between boats each time you anchored trying to sell anything from pearls to fanta. If you happened to be on the lower level with a window open they would pop their head in to give the up close and personal sales pitch.
A sister ship to the one we stayed on for two nights, the small boat was one of many vendors who would ply between boats, each time you anchored, trying to sell anything from pearls to Fanta. If you happened to be on the lower level with a window open they would pop their head in to give the up close and personal sales pitch.

Most of our fellow visitors to Halong Bay only stayed for a night and that is probably all that you need. However we had booked two and, on day two were transferred to a “day boat” along with five other people. It was a pleasant day that took us away from the tourist congestion of the main bay, we visited a floating village, did some kayaking, swam at a tourist free beach and also struggled through a five course lunch which, for non-lunch eaters, was a battle. Ruth waved the white flag after two courses even though the food was excellent.

One of the "streets" in Vong Vieng a floating fishing village in Halong Bay
One of the “streets” in Vong Vieng a floating fishing village in Halong Bay
The parks in Hue are full of artwork, this one was along side the "perfumed river" which runs through the city.
The parks in Hue are full of artwork, this one was alongside the “perfumed river” which runs through the city.
There were four bushes shaped as turtles that formed part of this garden in the Purple Forbidden City in Hue, the imperial residence modelled on the Forbidden City in Beijing
There were four bushes shaped as turtles that formed part of this garden in the Purple Forbidden City in Hue, the imperial residence modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing

We caught the train from Hanoi to Hue, a distance of just under 700km. It was an overnight trip and we shared our sleeper berth, which they call “soft” sleepers, with a couple from the UK. For me, taking out the hearing aids eliminates the noise issue, but it did not make the sleep any more comfortable. At times it felt as though the train was going along a badly pot-holed road. However, despite all of that, it was still more comfortable than long-haul flying. The rest of our trip South to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is also by train but they are all during daylight hours.

These people appeared to be fishing by beating the water, presumably to stun any fish, this was on one of the old imperial city canals in Hue
These people appeared to be fishing by beating the water, presumably to stun any fish, this was on one of the old imperial city canals in Hue

Hue has been a contrast to Hanoi, more open space in the city, not as many cars and the biggest surprise has been the weather, not a drop of rain, despite this being the wettest month of the year. It was a point of concern when I planned the trip as central Vietnam would be in the midst of its rainy season while further north and south were going to be ok. Maybe we are getting some payback for the rainy start to our travels back in July and August.

A selection of images from Halong Bay. It was a four hour drive from Hanoi, the distance was not great but the pace was slow.
A selection of images from Halong Bay. It was a four hour drive from Hanoi, the distance was not great but the pace was slow.
Images from Hue. We learnt that monarchies are the same the world over, lavish spending on image, the Emperor in Vietnam was considered to be the living embodiment of Heaven on Earth.
Images from Hue. We learned that monarchies are the same the world over, lavish spending on image, the Emperor in Vietnam was considered to be the living embodiment of Heaven on Earth.

2 comments

  1. We so enjoyed reading your accounts of Hanoi (crazy traffic and ever bustling), gorgeous Ha Long Bay (one enormous photo op), the overnight jostling train ride with bunk mates, and Hue which was new to us. We’ll be sorry to see this trip end as it’s been an exciting adventure to follow!

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