Hanoi to Hue and Hoi An
The overnight train to Hue was lots of fun but not a great night for sleeping. We all thought the soothing rhythm of the train would rock us gently to sleep but the sudden unexpected jarring stops and the flood lit platforms we passed through put paid to that. When dawn broke we found we were travelling though the families scenes of rice paddies, lotus ponds and duck farms.
We arrived in Hue around ten and were ‘introduced to our bikes’ – a baptism of fire ducking and weaving though the Hue traffic. We had yet another banquet lunch and rode on to the old palace which was a simply stunning complex of palaces and temples sadly badly damaged by the French in the 40s and the Americans during the Tet offensive. However, echoes of their magnificence remained and they were among the most evocative palaces I have ever visited. We all agreed we could sense a feel the presence of the kings and mandarins. Back on our bikes we headed to the king’s tombs and equally beautiful complex of temples and gardens. Our ride back to the hotel was an adventure through the main streets of Hue in peak hour. We crossed main roads, negotiated roundabouts, faced down bikes, cars, buses and a truck and found ourselves back at the hotel in one piece.
We had a free night which appears to mean the guide chooses the restaurant and we pay. His suggestion was a royal banquet where we all get to dress up. We all firmly turned this down – not wanting to dress up and only wanting one banquet per day. He took us to an allegedly different place where we had a ‘King’s dinner’ instead but we noticed another tour group in the next pavilion all dressed up. Coincidently – the group we meet everywhere, led by our guide’s best mate John. There was no escaping from his planned evening out.
Our first full day of riding stared with another crazy ride through peak hour traffic to get out of the city of Hue and onto the back roads. Once out of town we rode along narrow paths between the rice paddies. Although narrow the ubiquitous beeping, honking motor bikes raced past us and on one occasion a truck. However, the paths are paved and reasonably smooth and esy to ride on. We stopped at a local market filled with ladies in traditional conical hats squatting behind their stall selling everything from veggies to fresh meat and fish. More riding through the fields and the we met our bus which was taking us over the mountain pass. As it was an hours bus ride we were glad not to be on our bikes. The morning ride was 45 kms but we stopped regularly for cold drinks and fruit at roadside stalls.
Today’s banquet lunch was at a beachside resort and we had about 20 minutes for a swim. I couldn’t really be bothered. Back on the bus to a marble statue selling factory ( none of us where quite sure why and then back on the bikes for the last 25km into Hoi An. We rode for a while along a main road which was less than exciting although fast and then headed off on a tiny sandy path by the river.
Hoi An is a heritage city and we had a rushed look at the old town before hitting the tailor shop for made to measure clothes. Banquet dinner, then hotel, then bed.