Leaving Hoi An, we arranged for a car to take us to Da Nang, to the train station (took about 45 minutes). We were early, and had to hang out in the train station, where the TV seemed to only show one episode of Mr Bean on a loop, with ad breaks at very inappropriate moments. (Same ads over and over, too.) Finally the train, and the journey itself was slow and pretty uneventful. The view of the coast out the window was pretty fantastic, though - the train snaked around the side of mountains, just above where they met the sea.
|Alley to our hotel.|
|About 2 people and no luggage fit in the friendly lift...|
We had dinner at a place near our hotel called La Carambole, and saw ads for a charity shop called 'The Healing of the Wounded Heart', which we decided to check out after dinner. It turned out to be a pretty amazing store; all profits go to a charity for victims of Agent Orange, and most of the goods are made by those victims. Not only that, but the goods were actually really nice and good quality - we both bought some jewelry and bits and pieces, to give as gifts.
On our way back to the hotel, I talked B into going to the DMZ bar - awesomely backpackery, with good beer and nikko signatures all over the walls from various travellers. We met a couple who were actually from Brisbane - I swear, you can't go anywhere in the world without running into people from Brisbane - and they recommended lots of stuff for Sapa, including a guide we could email.
Hue - The Imperial City
|The Noon Gate: Main entrance into the Imperial City.|
We'd arrived by 8.30, but it was already baking hot. Thankfully we'd each bought an umbrella in Bangkok, so we took a lesson from the Japanese girls we saw and used them as sunshades - best idea ever. There was quite a bit of shade, but also extensive courtyards without trees, and in other spots, the buildings themselves had been bombed out, leaving nothing but grass. Actually, the whole city except one or two buildings was totally flattened in 1968, during the Vietnam War, so many of the buildings were restorations rather than the originals. They've done an amazing job, though, and there are plans to gradually rebuild the whole complex - I'd love to come back in 10 years and see what progress has been made. I think it'll be an amazing historical site, once the restoration is complete.
As we circled away from the bombed-out centre to some of the reconstructed temples around the edges, we could see the effort that's been put into restoration - the details, the paintwork and carving, down to the painted blinds. Everything was painted bright colours, beautiful golds and reds. There were also lovely, tree-lined walkways, with beautiful gates - marked, of course, by remnants of the war.
In another part of the grounds, there were also elephants!
|The ruined centre of the Imperial City.|
|Lovely avenues around the sides of the complex...|
|...where the gates still bear bullet holes from the war.|
|The restored buildings are impressive.|
|Details of the restoration, including beautiful gold tiling and brightly coloured blinds.|
Continued in Hue: Part 2