Travel day, we were heading to Hue (pronounced “who-A”) from Hoi An, and I was in travel mode. What does that mean? Well, my body basically shuts down and refuses to handle food or liquids until my subconscious is suitably calmed or distracted. I was clearly worried about getting to Hue, despite knowing we had our taxi booked, our luggage ready and our train tickets in hand.
I left Sam to her own devices, she cycled into town to pick up her made to measure clothes. A dress (or two), a couple of tops, some shorts, some trousers and something secret she doesn’t want me to know about. What did I do? A bit of packing, a bit of sleeping, not a lot really. I ran to breakfast and caught the last of the food as they were packing up.
Soon enough it was time to go, a 40 minute taxi ride to Da Nang, a little too hot for comfort, to the train station. Tickets in hand, backpacks slumped on metal seats, we waited an hour or so for the delayed SE4 train to take us north. Outside a large, very cool looking, black train sat upon a pedestal, marked with the golden star on a red circle, sitting beneath the Vietnam and communist flags.
We were in the front carriage of our train, soft seats with air conditioning and a television that played Vietnamese comedy. The train followed the Hai Van peninsula north, along the gorgeous coastline.
The twelve train carriages snaked left and right, up and down the mountainside. Da Nang appearing against the coastline every now and then, the odd tunnel plunging us into darkness.
The trip took a couple of hours, and the train moved rather slowly. But the scenery more than made up for that.
At Hue our four minute walk to our hotel, La Residence, was thwarted by a bridge no longer existing. From the looks of things it had fallen into the river and was being rebuilt. This confused us, and we walked, laden with backpacks and all that heavy newly bought clothing, a short way in the wrong direction.
Passing locals with our backpacks, we were greeted with smiles, the occasional laugh and more often than not a look of bemusement. A taxi driver offered to help, but we knew it wouldn’t be far, and we continued onwards, in the 35C evening heat. Sure enough the hotel was just around the corner, our own little diversion completed. We stumbled into the five star luxury hotel sweaty and panting. “Can we check in please?”
Our room was a little smaller than before, and the wifi a little patchy, but we had a balcony overlooking Perfume River, and at twilight it really was quite beautiful. The enormous flag tower stands proudly in the distance, marking the entrance to both the citadel and the imperial city.
Too exhausted to venture out into the heat, we chose to eat at the hotel’s rather excellent restaurant, Le Parfum. We sat outside and listened to the crickets and frogs play their tunes.
With some white wine and a Festival beer, we enjoyed the four elements of Hue starter, while trying to avoid any Mosquitoes. The starters was comprised of Fire: scrambled egg, scallop and Minh Mang; Earth: Grilled chicken stuffed with truffle; Wind: Green papaya with ginger salad and deep fried rice coated prawns and Water: Exotic fruits gazpacho, mango sorbet and pesto. Yumm-eeee.
And our mains were simply scrumptious too. Pan Fried Mahi Mahi crusted with Vietnamese coffee, chocolate and local spices, with turmeric rice, asia pear salad and spicy lemongrass rougail and garlic emulsion. Grilled calamari with Vietnamese satay and lemongrass, pineapple fried rice, shrimp and sautéed pak choi with garlic. Delicious.
And for dessert, a little risky, Durian ice cream with papaya fruit and star anise. It was sort of like a Vietnamese rhubarb crumble.