After we got food poisoning and missed our train :(, we hopped on a flight from Hanoi to Hue.
Hue is an interesting city. It feels quite small compared to Hanoi (because it is). We arrived in the rain, and wandered around the area on our way to the palace.
The castle complex is pretty amazing even though it was destroyed by the Americans during the American War. It’s a much newer palace than what I am accustomed to in Europe, but it still has some pretty remarkable parts.
The roofs have these colorful and elaborate carvings of dragons and faces. It certainly feels a little neglected, but it’s still quite nice considering the bombing and the relative poverty of the country post-war.
The next day we walked across the bridge and checked out a market.
The market started as a vegetable market then morphed, as most do, into a market of everything. Being obviously foreign, we were pressured by sales people to buy clothes. My usual technique of giving everybody (outside of Russia) “не нода, спосибо!” has only failed me twice. Once in Pisa for a guy raising money for some charity, and strangely enough, in this market. The guy had lived with Russians for a few years and after about a minute of back-and-forth, he could clearly tell I wasn’t Russian. So, for his hustle, I went to his shop. We ended up getting a friendly fleecing, but hey, whatever. I’m glad I made some dude’s day.
After a couple days in Hue, we had a driver take us to Hoi An. The total cost was only $30 or $40 for a pretty long drive. The driver stopped a few places which were obviously his friends’ stores, but he was nice and didn’t push us to buy anything. We toured a massive marble carving factory, checked out the Marble Mountain for a few hours, and then went onward to Hoi An.
I would have liked to take a train along the winding coastline, but given we wanted to see the Marble Mountains, it wasn’t really convenient. Next time, way more trains.
The Marble Mountains were very cool. There were tons of little shrines spread throughout the caves. It’s obviously hard to get good pictures deep inside, but I highly recommend it, even if it is quite tourist focused.
The landscape between Hue and Hoi An was just so pretty. I feel like I could have spent months just driving through Vietnam. We didn’t even get a chance to go inland into the mountains, which judging from the coastlines, must be pretty impressive.
Hoi An definitely seems to be a tourist hub. The whole city seems to be centered around tailors and restaurants. But, much like Venice, it’s still worth a trip. We had some very nice meals (including one where there was an entire Rebirth Brass Band album playing on the speakers!). I also had two suits made!
I never sweat getting bamboozled overseas. Obviously nobody likes feeling like they got taken advantage of, but I look at it two ways: First, even though I’m far from rich, paying a “tourist tax” is a very little bit of money, but can be a boon for somebody making significantly less. If I pay $20 for a $2 shirt, I’m out a mid-priced lunch whereas the “bamboozler” may be able to take his family out for a whole special meal. It’s a privilege to travel so it’s important not to forget that even as a “victim,” we’re not really harmed. Second, you can’t hate the hustle. Being a bad negotiator or easily convinced of something is *my* weakness, not theirs. You can always say no.
In any case, I spent probably $3 for five old bananas. At least I got a nice picture out of it!
It really wasn’t enough time in Hoi An. I would have loved to wander around and eat in more restaurants, spend more time casually wandering. But it was off to Da Nang!
Da Nang is fantastic. Our hotel had a beautiful balcony view and access to the beach. There is a very nice resort in front of us taking up a lot of the beach, and having known that, I might have tried to get a place actually on the beach, but we were very happy.
My favorite thing about Da Nang was probably the outdoor fish market. You simply grabbed a basket, picked the seafood you wanted, gave them your table number, and they brought you cooked food. It was crazy fresh, crazy tasty, and overall, just an amazing experience. It’s very easy to imagine such a thing in New Orleans. Or maybe Lafitte.
They had girls in Heineken dresses selling beers. It was one of my favorite restaurant experiences ever. Even if the beaches weren’t so beautiful, I’d make a trip to Da Nang just for these restaurants.