43 days away
20 km / 12 miles since last post
24,462 km / 15,200 miles total
After a fairly broken night's sleep, we were woken again around 6am by some women shouting outside our sleeper. Pat went to investigate and ask them to be quiet but they took no notice of her. It turned out that when we made a stop at a station, they were shouting to people at the station to try and get some food. I think by the time they had shut up I was well awake and decided to get up.
Stu laid in bed for as long as possible, but Andy, Pat and I grabbed a Vietnamese coffee from the vendor walking through the train - and it was much needed.
We enjoyed some of the scenery along the way, going past miles of rice paddy fields mainly.
The train was running just under an hour late, so we arrived in at Hue just before 9am. There was a bus ready to pick us up and take us to our hotel.
The hotel we're staying at is really nice. There is free Internet and wifi in the lobby, and the rooms are spacious and clean. We have a double and single bed in our room, and also a bath and shower - Stu is pleased about the bath.
We decided to grab a quick shower then meet everyone else to go for breakfast at a local cafe, recommended in the Lonely Planet. We didn't have to meet up with Thanh until 12pm.
The cafe was good, most of us had pancakes or eggs with strong Vietnamese coffee. It was nice to have a later breakfast and a good start to the day.
Next we headed off to the local markets to look around. It was mainly fresh vegetables for sale, and they looked and smelled very good. It was starting to be a really hot day today so I made sure I had put plenty of sun cream on, otherwise I would burn very easily.
We headed back to the hotel to meet Thanh at 12pm, and took a walk to a local restaurant for lunch. A few of us were not very hungry as we'd had a later breakfast, but it was nice to have a cool drink all the same. Stu and I were starting to feel quite tired though, and couldn't wait to be on the move again to wake us up.
We got a couple of taxis from the restaurant to the citadel. This is an old complex in the centre of the city where the Emperor used to hold court. It was a very large and attractive area and building, and lots to look at.
After walking around the citadel we got a couple of taxis to take us back to the hotel, around 3:30pm.
We didn't have to meet up with Thanh and the whole group until 6:45pm so we had some free time. The staff at the hotel served us some complementary green tea in the lobby, and it was a good time to catch up with emails etc. A few in the group headed out again for a walk, but Stu and I stayed at the hotel and took things easy.
At 6:45pm we met up with Thanh and everyone else to go to our royal banquet. The food sounded good as we would be served food as if we were the royal family, and there would be lots of dishes to try. The only thing that most of us were not looking forward to was the dressing up. Part of the experience is that we all dress up in traditional outfits while eating our meal. First we had to select who would be the king and queen - we chose Scott and Louann - and then when we arrived we had to pick our clothes. The clothes basically consisted of an overdress and a silly hat! The king and queen had to sit at the head of the table, and the rest of us were supposed to represent the concubines and mandarins (ministers), and sat in front of them.
Along with our meal we also had some musicians to play and sing while we ate, which were fairly good.
The food itself which was served looked quite fancy, but I would say that it was fairly average taste wise. They had gone to a lot of trouble carving fancy birds and flowers out of carrots and cucumbers, but less effort on the actual food we were eating. I also didn't especially enjoy the dressing up, and it felt like a very touristy thing to do, but it was a bit of fun I suppose. They took a group photo of us all which they came around to try and sell at the end. There was no way in the world I was buying that!
After our meal we returned to the hotel, and Pat, Monique and Mia decided to call it a night and went to bed. The rest of us, including Thanh, headed out to a bar.
Thanh took us to a place called Brown Eyes a short walk from the hotel. It was quite a nice place playing all western music. They were serving cocktails two for the price of one, so 45,000 dong for two (that's just £1.50!) The waitress did forget our drinks order three times, but you can't complain too much considering the price.
After playing some free pool and jenga, the place suddenly seemed to gather up pace and people began flocking to the dance floor. We were all having a good time and had a bit of a dance too.
Thanh was very sensible though and rounded us all up at about 11:30pm, politely reminding us that we have an early start and a big day tomorrow, and that it was probably wise to return to the hotel so we followed him back and then headed straight to bed.