We left Hanoi for the final time on a Thursday night, cozily tucked in to the back of a sleeper bus. Our main mode of transportation throughout all of Vietnam were these buses. The first experience on a sleeper bus was to Sapa and it was not terrible, so we agreed to buy an “open bus” ticket for Vietnam. That meant we could travel between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with stops in Hue, Hoi An and Nha Trang, for $34 each. And we could stay in each stop for as long as we wanted.
The ride between Hanoi and Hue was the longest leg of the journey, with around 12 hours of overnight driving. We departed Hanoi around 8 pm and grabbed what we thought were the ideal seats. There are 3 sleeper seats at the far back of the bus all next to each other and it was just the two of us there… at first. Later the bus stopped and we picked up more folks, which filled the bus, and added a third cuddle buddy to the mix.
And then the AC was nonexistent in our little hot box with said cuddle buddy.
After a few hours of whining, flinging around trying to get comfortable and playing word games, we were finally tired enough to crash. Jenny (who was still feeling sick from Sapa, felt miserable and was coughing) curled up in a ball in the middle seat. Kerry went for the AC and laid down in the aisle of the bus wedged between bags. We each caught a few Z’s before the bus arrived in Hue around 8 am the next day. At least we saved on a night of accommodation expenses!
We then trekked a short ways to our hostel and were able to check in early (jackpot!) so we tossed our bags inside, took quick showers, threw on clean clothes and headed out to do some sight seeing. We had a short stay in Hue as we would be leaving on the bus the next day at 1 pm. Our biggest things we wanted to see in Hue were the Perfume River and the Imperial Enclosure, both of which were within walking distance of our hostel, so we started on our way.
Tons of lovely locals offered us various forms of transportation to get there and avoid the rain, but foot was the way to go! We grabbed breakfast at a nearby cafe and fueled ourselves for the day and continued on. Upon arrival at the Imperial Enclosure we were surprised to run into our airplane friend that we met on our flight to Hanoi, Grasshopper! We met his girlfriend and all paid for a 1 hour guided tour of the grounds.
Some background on Hue: Hue was the capital of Vietnam for many years, until the communist government was established in Hanoi in the mid 1940’s. Our guide provided us with the basics on the sights of the Imperial Enclosure and also a lot of interesting facts that were not available on the English documentation. We learned about the Citadel, Imperial City and Forbidden City as well as the different parts of the imperial enclosure and where the King and Queen lived, the many buildings (many of which have not been rebuilt) and all about the King’s concubines. It was a fact-filled tour for sure! The grounds themselves are still in a partial state of ruin, slowly being rebuilt, but are absolutely beautiful.
After our time with our guide we explored a little on our own, visited the museum and also peeked into the War Museum grounds. Then we headed over to the Dong Ba market to see what that was all about. We were not too impressed (Thailand markets spoiled us) so we left and headed back to our hostel for a much needed nap.
We woke up from our nap, had a free beer at the hostel, devoured some Mexican food and then went right back to sleep! Another bus ride awaited us and at least this time it was only 4 hours to Hoi An… a town we heard amazing things about!
~ Kerry & Jenny