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Vietnam travel has been on the top of our list for many years. We have visited several times and keep going back. I can’t explain why but it is a real mix of things – the people, food, weather, value for money, energy, food – oh and did I mention the food? Although Hue was the site of our ‘mystery meat’ experience, Vietnam travel is a must do. More on that later.
I was going to do one blog on Vietnam. But our experiences have been really diverse across Vietnam, so have decided to focus on different areas and places. So we’ll start with Hue. We visited in December, and it was cold, so be prepared to wear a few extra layers.
Where Hue, Vietnam (145 Km from Hanoi)
Getting There Hue is easily accessible – you can fly, bus, train, private car
Accommodation Try and find accommodation near the River
What to do Visit the Imperial City (UNESCO Heritage Site), eat local delicacies, walk & explore
Hue tickled our fancy as it has a large UNESCO World Heritage Site which we had heard was well worth checking out, and this description sealed the deal:
Established as the capital of unified Viet Nam in 1802, Hué was not only the political but also the cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. The Perfume River winds its way through the Capital City, the Imperial City, the Forbidden Purple City and the Inner City, giving this unique feudal capital a setting of great natural beauty (UNESCO).
We flew into Hue from Hanoi on Vietnam Airlines. A quick flight that saves time. We initially explored catching the train but decided against it – primarily due to how long it would take. It was our first time in Vietnam so we weren’t yet confident enough to not book everything before we left – Vietnam travel is now not such a scarey thing.
There are plenty of hotels in Hue. I had booked a hotel via Booking.com. The hotel itself was fine. But it was big, felt empty and was in the wrong part of town – it was very quiet – maybe I had chosen a business hotel. So while the hotel itself was ok, the other things detracted from it. It was also our first encounter with some unusual bathroom/toilet arrangements in Vietnam. In this hotel, the toilet and shower were essentially frosted glass cubicles off the main room. And the doors were not full length – so there was no escaping any of the accompanying noises etc one hears when undertaking ablutions (a very delicate matter). So instructions were being provided to ‘turn up the television/radio/music’ for the next wee while (excuse the pun).
We were also travelling in the days running up to Christmas – and it was cold. Bone chillingly so. So no using the swimming pool.
We also like to walk most places when in cities – you get to see a whole different side of a city on foot than you would in a car or bus. The hotel had us about 30 – 40 minutes walk from the main attraction in town – the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Imperial City.
The Imperial City and surrounds are impressive, beautiful and sad. They are easy to get to and get around. They are well worth spending quiet a bit of time wandering around. There isn’t a lot of interpretation across the site, so it may be useful to hire a guide or join a tour to get more information about what you are looking at. We prefer not to do this, but I think we missed out this time, especially given the size of the site.
The site is large and can take some time to get around. The upside of this though is that you don’t feel crammed in with all the other tourists. Here are some of our photos from Hue.
Really lovely and amazing. Along with the grandeur I always manage to find a few little bits of beautiful detail – even if one is a picture of drain. Can you pick which one?
We loved our short few days in Hue. I think we would go back but we would stay somewhere central!
Our ‘mystery meat’ experience is one we often refer to and have a good laugh – mostly at me I have to say. We make a point of eating street food where ever we travel – and have yet to be ill from doing so. Some of our tastiest meals have been street food – and the added bonus is they are usually much less expensive than eating in a hotel or restaurant. We always look for places that are busy or have loads of paper towels on the ground – a sure sign that the food is being cooked and served quickly. We found an old woman whipping up what looked like an amazing noodle salad. We were the only foreigners around and getting plenty of looks.
After parking up on the teeny tiny plastic seats (not designed for ladies with large bottoms like me) we proceeded to point and order what our neighbours were inhaling. And it was delicious. Very delicious. Although we couldn’t quite put our finger on what the meat in the dish was. Even Andy, who is a chef, couldn’t quite figure it out. We scoffed it nevertheless.
Then as we were walking back to the hotel, we noticed a woman plucking a pigeon behind one the food carts. I immediately put two and two together and got 5 – and solved our mystery meat meal. Andy was convinced that couldn’t be right. A wee vodka was inhaled to calm my nerves. It then dawned on my glorious Chef Husband that we had actually been eating frog! So not pigeon, but frog. I still don’t know if I am happy about that! But mystery meat was no longer a mystery. Sometimes it is just best not to know – that salad was blooming delicious!!!! And the sad thing is – if I had known it was frog I probably wouldn’t have eaten it, and missed out on one of the best meals we have had in Vietnam.
Overall Vietnam, and Vietnam travel, are easy to do. It is a great country to visit – easy to get around, great food, friendly people. Give it a go. Hue is well worth exploring – and you get quite a different view of Vietnam than in other places. Our Hoi An adventures were next – so will post about Hue to Hoi An at a latter date.
Have you had any experiences like ours?