When I left Hoi An, I was partly happy to leave behind the overly touristy town and prices, but partly anxious cause I felt like this really was the start to my solo backpacking adventure. From now on, I was gonna stay in dorms, book the cheapest means of transport and (hopefully) meet lots of interesting people from other countries.
To begin with, I got picked up by motorbike taxi and dropped at a travel agency, where I waited shortly for the bus to arrive. To my surprise it was a sleeper bus and there were only 5 other passengers on it! And we didn’t even pick up anyone anymore either. So it was a comfy and quick journey (only about 2.5 h) to Hue where the bus dropped me in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I have the app Maps.Me which has saved me many times on this trip already and again did so. I could see that my hostel was a 15 min walk away from where I was – doable especially if the taxi drivers only tell you tourist rip off prices. Backpacking life!
Since check-in was not until later, I went for a walk to the citadel to see the Royal Purple City. It was a long walk and I was tired from not sleeping well for 2 nights in a row, so when I finally arrived I didn’t find it too stunning. Maybe in a better mood I would have appreciated it more, but like this it felt more like something to tick off!
Oh well, there’s also such days when travelling. I also booked my night bus to Hanoi and further on to Sapa for the next day, as well as a tour to see the sights in the wider Hue area. This is also something I usually would have preferred to do by motorbike but since weather was again so-so and the tour was actually cheaper than renting a motorbike by myself, it was impossible to resist.
So next day I got picked up at 8.30am and driven to the pier where a typical dragon boat was waiting for me and my group to take us down the perfume river. To be honest… it’s a broad river and the boat has dragon’s heads in the front, but it’s basically a normal boat taking you down a broad river super slowly with not much to see along the way. It was cheaper than the bus-only tour so that’s why I opted for it.
Our first stop was a garden house – basically a similarly old house like the ones I visited in Hoi An, but surrounded by more green. So the house was not too special but the guide told us some interesting stories about Feng Shui, Ying and Yang, why you love someone (according to Vietnamese belief) and how you can ensure eternal life (by making babies who carry your DNA. That’s why former kings sometimes had around 300 wives and over 100 kids…).
Next, the boat stopped at the Thien Mu pagoda – finally a pagoda which had a nice tower! And then we visited a very odd temple, the „lady temple“ as our guide told us, where usually no other tours go. Well, we struggled to see the extra benefit of us going there too 😉 It was an odd, eerie place – very dusty and cluttered.
The afternoon was the more interesting and wow-ing program: we visited 3 tombs of former emperors, which of course are not just simple tombs but rather building complexes often including pagodas, lakes, sculptures and more. The Minh Mang tomb as well as the Khai Dinh tomb were both very pretty and worth a visit, swallowing hard on the 100,000 VND entry fee for each tomb. The tomb of Tu Duc looked nice as well – on the poster which was hanging in front of the restoration site!
The tour also included a stop at a „conical hat and incense making village“ – of course just a shop where they would briefly show the process hoping for you to buy something at inflated tourist prices.
Overall, the tour was ok and our guide gave us some interesting information. But it probably would have been enough to see the first 2 tombs and the Thien Mu pagoda.
As mentioned, after the tour I was already headed for the night bus to Hanoi and further on to Sapa. Usually, I probably would have stayed one more day in Hue, maybe visiting the DMZ or so. But since weather in Sapa looked nice only for the next few days, I decided to bite the bullet and take the looong bus trip to catch the sun!