Huế, VietNam

pronounced ‘Way’ with a quick stop on the ‘ay’

DAY 41: 5/22 After my date with Tan;
I arrived to my hotel, a little further away from the main strip of Hue. Although, it was quite a walk, I enjoyed getting away from the noise. Immediately upon entering, I was served mango juice freshly pressed and prepared by my sweet host. There was a little girl doing homework in the reception area and 3 dogs including the tiniest dog I’ve ever seen. This tiny dog made the teacup sized Chihuaua look big! I was checked in and made comfortable; I was told I’d have free breakfast in the morning on the very top floor and from there I could find panoramic views.
The elevator was turned off, I was happy to find out I was only 2 floor up. I wouldn’t need to lug my bags to the top floor for breakfast so that wouldn’t be an issue. I dropped my bags off and checkout my room for a split second before running up to the top floor. The view was spectacular- there were mountains in the distance and the sky was brightly painted with a gorgous sunset. I watched as the sun tucked itself in, behind the mountain peaks, and the sky turned deep pink, to purple and eventually the deepest darkest blue.

The sun sets in Hue, Vietnam

I’d originally intended and was looking forward to seeing the abandoned waterpark; then I read some horrible and disappointing reviews. This alone wouldn’t have stopped me, it was the struggle trying to find a way to get there and return back to my homestay. I wouldn’t be in Hue long anyway. I knew the Imperial City, a UNESCO site, was a must while I was in the area. That became my only plan. That’s what I came to truly see.

DAY 42: 5/23
I decided I would walk to the Imperial city- it was just a little over an hour away. This way I’d get to see the ‘everyday’ city, too- as in the normal, not Imperial, UNESCO city. I walked over the small canal bridge where a couple of men were fishing. Then I went toward the park to see the dragon boats and walk along the edge of the river. They had amazing blood orange colored trees. I later found out (in Hanoi) they’re called, Flamboyant Trees. I decided to cross the furthest bridge from me, it was the one closest to the Imperial City, with no obstruction to the mountain view.
There was a closer bridge in my route my GPS was instructing me to take- it was a truss bridge with direct access to my destination, I was looking for a more scenic route and the cage would’ve taken away from the views. I think I choice a more local route- no tourists were walking on this bridge, just locals. I remember a little boy riding this bicycle. He stopped to wave with a huge smile on his face. Of course I was happy to see him, I wish I could’ve captured the moment, he was so pure. I finally made it to the Imperial City after walking through another park. When I arrived I found lotus fields and began snapping pictures. I accidently wandered the lotus fields in the direction of the exit.

lotus flowers and giant lily pads flll the moats surrounding the Imperial City
A pink lotus open flower

After much confusion, I realized the guard was telling me I had to go all the way around to the other side for entry. I then back track to the ticket booth. I was confused as to which ticket to buy. They sell multiple types including some for temples outside of the Imperial City as well as ones inside the grounds. I decided that morning that I’d opt out of the temples in exchange for shorts- it would be too hot for me to be outside in pants.
I’m still unsure of the exact temples included- I think some were the ones onsite. They may have just been the ones on the typical tour route, the ones the dragon boats take tourists to. Anyhow I had one day and the city was huge. I chose to just do the one day Imperial City pass- with no map or guidance I wandered.

Imperial City, Huế, VietNam

A gate inside Imperial CIty in a beautiful kept garden. Pink and yellow flowers are in bloom with perfectly manicured trees.

I left the crowds of tour guides and their large groups to find the overlooked fancy doors. This place was super colorful. There were lots of intricate carvings and vibrant colors everywhere. The gardens were immaculately landscaped. Everything looked beautiful. And then it rained. The colors were heightened, the people went undercover, and I had the rows of walkways, gardens, arches and doorways all to myself. I was in a photographer’s playground. The problem was the heat was draining my battery. I had less than 20%.
As I looked for the best places and read some signs about the city I stumbled upon tons of garbage. This is one UNESCO site that needs more management. I still thoroughly enjoyed my time away from the crowds. I honestly loved the colors! I was just saddened by the on-site Imperial City dump. This was not truly a dump from the Imperial City era, but definitely a dump now. The bothersome part is it’s right there in the middle, behind a 6 foot wall, still in the gates of Imperial City. I find it hard to believe this was how UNESCO intended to display their protected site.

A blue and yellow sky painted by the sunset glows behind a tunnel road entrance to the roads surrounding the Imperial City, motorbike and headlights oncoming.

After I exhausted myself and my battery I decided to find dinner. I left right before sunset. A regret I had until I reached the road tunnel gate and was able to capture them on my phone. I stood on pointed pillar tops, teetering over a canal and a road to get the height. After I proudly watched the sunset I went to the main strip. I decided on American fare. I needed some comfort. I ordered a BLT with fries. It was a mistake. They served very little fries with mayonnaise and the BLT was measly. Wait until you hear about my Airport Pizza in Hanoi.
After dinner I tried a dessert. While I waited for my dessert I decided I’d finish the day with a massage. It had been awhile since my last one and I’d be going to Phong Nha tomorrow. I stopped at the most reasonably priced spa on the strip. I originally was going to have a foot massage but then decided on a full body massage instead. It was the WORST massage ever.
The flourescent overhead lights were blaring for starters; not dimmed in any way- all of them just as bright as could be! I was in this big room with no spa like ambiance- it was more like a classroom ambiance with no desks, just a few massage beds. I stripped in front of my ‘therapist’ and then she began to beat me.
Ok, exaggerating.. but it about sums it up. I began with a slight headache. And while the lights weren’t helping… the therapist DEFINITELY made it worse. At the end of the massage when she was massaging my temples and head she began karate chopping my face, right on my forehead! It already hurt my head when she did this same action to my shoulders- now she went directly to my head.
I was ready to be done with the whole thing. Then she requested that I tip her. Wow. I gave her a pretty small tip through gritted teeth. Just like dinner I switched my choice at last minute and regretted it. I wish I’d have stuck to the foot massage. I went back to my hotel feeling beaten by the day. I was ready to sleep.

A truss bridge framed by trees at the park. The bridge is lit up- blue as it transitions through the full spectrum of the rainbow.

DAY 43: 5/24;
Upon arriving to my hotel, but after my massage the night before, I found out I would be staying pretty late today. I was taking a sleeper bus to Ninh Binh and forgot to book. Now the early bus was sold out and I’d have to stay practically another day, I’d arrive to my resort in Phong Nha around 7pm. I definitely had nothing else to see.
I wasn’t prepared to wear long pants in the heat, so temples were off the table. I also wasn’t getting a motorbike. I decided it would be a cafe day. A day of planning. This turned out to be useful, sort of. I learned how complicated the islands of the Philippines are going to be to navigate… there’s also so much to see there. I’m more overwhelmed than excited, but better now than when I land. I only have 2 weeks there and unfortunately I’m flying into Manila and not Cebu.  I still have quite a bit left to see in VietNam. Phong Nha, Ninh Binh, Hanoi, and Halong Bay.

my feet, in my handmade leather sandals from Hoi An standing on colorful tile in the Imperial City.

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