Here we are in Chan May which is none too inspiring – little more than a dock surrounded by hills of very verdant rainforest, with no discernible township to visit, and it was raining. Mind you warm rain is not as bad as cold rain but the dismal light does make everything look drab.
We were up at the crack of dawn to be transported off to Hue – once the capital of Vietnam. It was two hours away so there was a bit of travelling if we were to see anything. After a hurried breakfast we were whisked through countryside resplendent with bright green paddy fields, regaled with water buffalo, shrines and cemeteries and dotted with very slight individuals wearing their conical bamboo hats. There were the customary bicycles, scooters and a few cars and towns but no time to investigate. The rain persisted – I know – rain! Well more an annoying gusty drizzle really. But at least, even with the breeze, it was warm.
Arriving in Hue we headed for the Royal Palace – or at least what was left of the Royal Palace after it had been bombed in the Indo-Chino Wars, Second World War and Vietnamese War. It is a wonder any of it is left, but there was. They were busily restoring it to its former glory. You could hardly see the joins. If we come again I am sure there will be heaps more ancient historical sites to visit – some are nearing completion and many haven’t even been designed yet. But the Royal Palace with its huge citadel walls was very interesting. In the throne room we were instructed not to take photos of the gold throne – so if anyone wants to see my collection of photos of the throne let me know – they are a little hazy but I understand they are rare.
One of the highlights was an extremely ornate gateway with beautiful inlay. It was a hit with the locals who use it as a background for wedding photos. A young couple were indulging.
We then visited a great ancient Buddhist pagoda where there were willowy girls in silk gowns and conical hats as well as a car that had been the property of a Buddhist Monk who had set himself on fire as a protest.
We headed for a hotel and had a brilliant lunch and were aurally stimulated by a great little band playing the most amazing Vietnamese instruments, many of which I did not know the names of. Food was great too.
Then it was off to the Mausoleum which was dead impressive. There were more intricate designs and colourful inlays. I’m sure the dead emperors appreciated it.
Hue was quite something with its old French architecture. There wasn’t too much traffic compared to Ho Chi Min City and despite the drizzle we had a great day.
When we got back to the boat the weather had deteriorated into a full-blown storm with real rain lashing us and we set off crashing through the breakers pitching, rolling and yawing. Liz took a precautionary pill but we were fine. I think we’ve got our sea-legs.
We woke late to find the ship stationary and an announcement over the PA asking if anyone spoke Vietnamese. This immediately sparked a series of thoughts: perhaps the Captain had woken with an overpowering urge to learn Vietnamese and hoped one of the passengers might assist him in this new venture? Perhaps we had broken down and were adrift at the mercy of the sea and desperately needed to get help from shore but were unable to explain? Perhaps the Vietnamese wanted the names of any passengers who had illicitly taken photos of the King’s throne and so required executing and the Captain was trying to negotiate on their behalf? Or perhaps the Chinese wished to torture anyone who had photo’d their fog in the Straits of Hainan and we were engaged in a diplomatic stand-off in which the Vietnamese were interceding?
Turned out a fishing boat was in need of assistance and we’d stopped to help. So disappointing. Still – off to breakfast and the bed will be made when we get back. Next stop Ho Chi Min City (Saigon). Instead of stopping at Phu My we are now stopping at Saigon Container port! Lots of containers to check out!! It sounds really appetising. But at least it is closer to the city!
Ho my – it is tough on this journey – never lets up! One thing after another! Day 33 already – we’ll soon be halfway