44 days away
50 km / 31 miles since last post
24,512 km / 15,231 miles total
We had breakfast included at our hotel, and saw most people from our group there in the morning. We also saw our tour guide Thanh who appeared to be a bit hungover from last night. He told us that he could not remember the whole night - so funny! I think we'd worked out that staff at the bar kept bringing him drinks - perhaps as an incentive for him to keep all of us there later.
We met everyone in the lobby after breakfast and met up with our motorbike drivers outside for our tour. Today we would be seeing Hue by motorbike, and I think we were all really excited, if a little apprehensive too, knowing how some people drive over here.
It actually turned out to be great fun. We all kept in the same order, and nobody rode too fast. Our drivers were very good, and it felt quite safe.
We rode through some small villages and in between huge open rice paddy fields. We even spotted some farmers at work, some with water buffalo too. It was such a great way to see the country. There is the thrill of being on a motorbike, so you can go down small little roads and pathways which would be inaccessible to cars and buses - but having the benefit of someone else driving so you can take in all the beautiful scenery. However, I think Stu and I were both in agreement that it would be amazing fun to ride the motorbikes ourselves too. But being on the back of one made sense for the journey we took today.
We made a stop at a local village. Here we could wander around quite freely. The local people seemed very nice and said hello as we walked through. We headed up to a building where they had some farming tools on display. There were a couple of women there to explain what they were for. The old lady there even gave demonstrations of how to operate some of the tools, like the tools to remove rice from it's husk and then the tools for grinding the rice into flour. They also displayed ploughs, water pumps and various tools used for catching fish. It was quite interesting because whilst these tools appeared primitive by our standards, these are the tools which they still use today. The old woman demonstrated the use of the tools with some humour making it even more entertaining.
We had been told by Thanh that there is a fortune teller in the village. She doesn't charge for her services but it is recommended to give her a tip after getting a reading. We spotted her on the footbridge over the river, and could already see that some in our group were there already and queuing up for their readings. Scott, Mia and Natalie had already had their readings, and I decided to join the queue behind Fran, Pat and Andy. I don't believe in this kind of thing for one second, but just thought it would be a laugh. Besides, the recommended amount to tip is 20,000 (about 60p) so it's hardly breaking the bank.
After hearing bits and pieces of what some others had been told about their future lives, I sat down next to the old lady and gave her my hand. First of all she asked me my age and Stu's age (so some key information to get her off to a good start), then she tells me my future. According to her I will get married next year, then have two children. I'll have a boy first, and then a girl when I'm 35. Apparently we both work hard but we are very happy, and Stu loves me very much and buys us a big house. We have a happy life and I live until I'm 83! Sounds amazing! Although, it also sounds suspiciously similar to a few others in our group too... And amazingly, nobody in our group has a bad life and we are all perfectly happy.
As we walked back over the footbridge after our readings we watched as some children were playing marbles on the floor - they looked very content and having great fun.
We met back up with Thanh and he took us to another part of the village where some kids were going to perform some Kung Fu for us. The performance was great. They did some solo routines and also some mock fighting. The highlight of the show had to be the tile smashing and also one of the kids took a sharp spear to his throat and then bent it against himself into the floor - really impressive. We and seen this done before at the Kung Fu show in China, but these were local kids which made it even more impressive.
We got back on the motorbikes and rode a bit further through some small roads, some big roads, until we reached the tomb of the third emperor of Vietnam. This place has been left fairly untouched since it was built, apart from a few steel rods added to help hold the roof together of the small structure in the middle. It does look old and run down, but it is still nice to see that it is authentic and untouched. Thanh explained however, that there is a worry that in a few years this site would be developed. The actual area containing the emperors body is not open for the public and is kept behind locked doors. They do not want to allow modern equipment into the tomb, as they have done in other parts of the world, as there is a fear that they may not find a body and the tomb would no longer be of interest.
We had a good wander around the area of the tomb, and then headed back to our motorbikes once again. Our drivers had some cold refreshing towels waiting for us when we returned - a welcome relief as the weather here is very hot and a bit humid too.
After another ride on the back of our bikes we came to a nunnery where we would be provided with a vegan lunch to enjoy. It may not sound particularly exciting to all those meat eaters out there, but the food was delicious. It tasted really fresh, and there was lots of variety and in big quantities. We had vegetable soup, fried rice, crispy wan tons, noodle salad, fruit, spring rolls, bread, squash, water. It was a real feast and one of my favourite meals in Vietnam so far. It actually made a nice change not to have meat because you can dive straight into the food and not be concerned about what the meat is, if it's too fatty etc.
We were served our food by the nuns, most of whom have completely shaved heads - something I thought only the monks would have done. Many of the nuns were also quite young too. We also had to ensure that our knees and shoulders were covered once inside the nunnery, as a sign of respect. This is where our convertible shorts/trousers came in very handy.
After a delicious lunch we took a walk through the nunnery and had a look at the place where they worship, and then headed back out into the heat to get back on our motorbikes once again.
We made a brief stop at a place where we watched how the women make incense sticks. Incredibly, one woman can made around 4,000 of then in an hour! They make it from sawdust, and use a substance which is derived from a tree to make it a jelly-like mixture, and then perhaps a spice like cinnamon. Then add some to a sticks and smooth it down over the stick until you have a stick coated in a thin layer of incense. These are then left in the sun to dry out. We were given the opportunity to have a go at making an incense stick ourselves, and as you would expect it is a lot harder than it looks. There was also the opportunity to buy some incense sticks here, which some people did, and then we returned to our motorbikes again.
We rode down towards the river where we left our bikes and boarded a boat to take us further down and over the other side. Here we visited a monastery, which had a pretty pagoda outside. The monastery also houses the Austin car used by the famous Buddhist monk who burned himself in protest against the suppression of Buddhism in South Vietnam. A very famous photograph exists which was taken at the moment his body was on fire, with his car on the background. Many may know this photograph used on the cover of an album by Rage Against The Machine.
The monastery was very pretty and nice to walk through. We saw some of the very young boys of the monastery, and these do not have a fully shaved head, but keep a small bit of hair growing at the front. Thanh explained that a boy who does not have a fully shaved head does not have the complete lifestyle of a monk yet, and will still enjoy a partially regular lifestyle. Only when they have become a fully committed monk will they have their head entirely shaved.
We got back on the boat again to take us further down the river once more, where our motorbikes had moved down too and were waiting for us.
We made our way to the centre of town again on the back of the motorbikes, eventually coming back to some main roads, which was a bit scary weaving though some of the traffic. We also drove right through the market we visited the previous day, which was pretty tight at times. You just had to trust that your driver had it all under control.
We all made it back to the hotel in one piece having enjoyed an amazing day seeing Hue by motorbike - another real highlight of our trip so far.
Some of our group headed back out to look round the markets again, others went for a swim in the pool of the hotel down the road. I decided to rest up for a bit in the hotel room and write up the blog.
Later in the evening we headed out with the rest of the group and found a restaurant to have dinner, which was fairly good. Although after having boasted that I hadn't yet had a mosquito bite in Hue, I managed to get bitten about three times in the restaurant. It was a nice place with a pretty upstairs balcony, but of course that meant it was open and susceptible to letting in mosquitos.
After dinner we headed to Brown Eyes bar for a drink again, the same place we went to last night. Funnily enough, they were playing almost exactly the same music playlist as they did the previous night. This night however, we were all feeling a bit more tired. Some of the group headed back to the hotel after one drink. Stu, Michelle, Andy and I stayed out for just one more, then called it a night. We wanted to see what music they would play to kick off the dancing. When we found out it was the Grease megamix, we made a swift exit, and wandered back to the hotel.