June 22, 2010

my short lived love affair with Vietnam has ended in Hue.  every day i wake up and say today is a new day and i must give Vietnam a good chance but here is the first time i feel like i really want to go back to the US.  it is a wildly huge pendulum swing between the people who are interested in westerners and the indifference and offensiveness of others.   i take an early bus to Hue and spend a very hot.. 98 degrees afternoon visiting the Imperial City.  it is huge - like 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers - i walk the whole city and end up 'off the beaten track'.  i am clearly not in a good area and there are no taxis because they are only outside the imperial city.  no one speaks English but asking for a taxi works and along the way they keep pointing me in the direction that i need to go.  after the 1000 year old ruins of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia the imperial city is unimpressive.  mostly it has been bombed to bits [that is quite the theme here] and not so lovingly restored if at all.   when i do get to a taxi i ask to go to one of the best hotels in Hue the Saigon Hotel so i can get a salad and a glass of wine.  i find 5 star prices but poorly executed western food.
the tombs outside the city are good and i get an early motorbike hoping to miss the crowds but they have the same idea.  in Cambodia the ruins rise from the forest in a majestic way that takes your breath away when you see them.  here in Hue i keep looking for some elegant remnantt of the Nhgyen dynasty but find only a shadow of some former glory.  if you have been to asia or seen video of the aggressive motocyclists then you can imagine what my day was like.   this is the only motorcycle i have hired so far that i did not like - i guess i should have known when he put on the gloves.  travelers are polarized on Hue and i vote this is a good spot to skip.

i plan to take the night bus to Hanoi and two younger europeans girls at my hotel are planning the same so we share a taxi which drops us at the side of the road and we wait with a bunch of locals.  we are travel chatting and they are trying to get quickly to Laos.  i tell them it's quite different and they perk up immediately.  they also have not enjoyed Vietnam and i am relieved to hear i am not the only one.  when the bus pulls up i get on because i just have a daypack but the girls wait to store their packs underneath and don't get a seat!!  so again i am sitting on bus waving goodbye to fellow travelers screwed by the bus agents.  such is SE Asia but DON'T feel sorry for me because i could easily travel by plane between the locations here.  it costs a tiny bit more to fly, is faster and more comfortable, but i choose to do Vietnam overland. 

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