Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hue (it's raining)

Someone on a travel forum said that this journal is boring. My response: "Thanks for the comment. It's what happens when you get old, if you're lucky: just happy to be alive, happy to be with your wife, happy to be in Vietnam again ... simple needs, simple pleasures, laying up treasures where moth and rust don't corrupt." Here are the Hue photos. Photo below: Street of dreams (speaking of simple needs)

In the Hanoi airport we talked with a pleasant couple from Germany. At some point the man said he hoped it wouldn't be raining in Hue. I didn't say so, but I thought that I hoped it would be raining in Hue. It's winter and it's Hue and I love the rain in Hue. And of course it was raining when we landed – ahhhh, Hue.

The ride into town from Phu Bai Airport was as always, a panorama of mossy temples, shrines, and other religious structures interspersed

among the usual open-fronted stores selling pretty much the same old stuff, then a few markets, then bigger and bigger buildings, modern ones and the smaller stores and the motos, bicycles and cyclos (more than in Hanoi or Saigon), cars, trucks, but nowhere near the congestion of Hanoi or Saigon. It feels so good being in this place. Then turning left from Hung Vuong on to Nguyen Tri Phuong and pulling up to the alley where the Binh Duong and other budget hotels and cafes are. We're here! Get a room ($18 for triple – none of the doubles working for us). Drop our bags, step across the way to

Cafe on Thu Wheels for some soup, noodles, garlic bread, and beer with U2 on the sound system – a backpacker cafe – banana pancakes for me soon. Photo: An Cuu Market

Back in the room, listening to a live recording of the Wave Farmers album, a psychedelic trio (electronic drums, synth, violincello) playing at Soul Rise. Perfect for Hue. Going to see them, be danced by them again in March at Mannafest.

Email to Jim: Yes, the journey continues well. I was lying on the bed yesterday (a rainy day) with moderate abdominal pain and maybe a little fever, in kind of a daze, staring at the art deco-ish light fixtures and the detailing on the ceiling and windows – happy me (except for the tail end of a sinus infection, a broken off crown, abdominal pain & fever - and

also that I seem to be talking more and more about physical ailments - at least it's not bowel-related – give me a few years). Hue is waaay slower than Hanoi. I love it here. Feeling good today ...

Photo: Our alley - Binh Duong Hotel on right, Thu's on left

We took cyclos to Cho An Cuu, a big market by a small river. This market is very different than the heavily-touristed Dong Ba Market (on the Perfume River) with its aggressive over-charging vendors. Leslie bought some more peppercorns and we furnished some comic relief for several vendors. From there we walked to the Big C department store, checking it out (getting jiggy again), had lunch at a little cafe inside: Banh cuon, salad, nem, and peanuts. I was starting to feel pretty bad by now, so we left, cyclo back to hotel where I lay on the bed for a few hours. Had some yogurt for dinner, feeling better, slept hard that night. Photo: Leslie buying pepper

I fixed coffee in the room (Trung Nguyen #4) and we had our usual leisurely morning, then walked to Nina's Cafe for an excellent omelet and cafe sua da (35,000 dong – about $1.70USD) and comfortable chairs. Then to the Family Home Cafe for Leslie to try their egg sandwich – another good one, but the chairs are uncomfortable (Asia, the land of uncomfortable chairs).

Photo below: Coffee in the room

We walked across the Trang Tien Bridge over the wide Perfume River to

a supermarket to get some yogurt, then back across and southwest for a pretty long walk on Le Loi to Dien Bien Phu Street to a place named Quan Tai Phu that's well known for nem lui (grilled pork on lemon grass). When we got there I went to the toilet – through the kitchen and a short passageway that was (no kidding) 18” wide with loose tiles on the floor and into the squat toilet room about 3.5'x3.5' where all sorts of newly laundered clothes were hanging so that I was peeing with someone's damp clothing on my shoulders. When I got back to the eating area, they'd brought our unordered food (and no idea of the cost). The server showed us what/how to put the various vegetables on the rice paper and then the pork, and then some weird looking and very tasty dark viscous sauce. I think there were 12 pork things, all for 50,000 dong ($2.50USD). Wow! Sooner or later we're going to get over-charged (and needless to say, we bargain firmly with cyclo drivers) but so far, things are working out well for us in Vietnam. Here is the food blog that describes nem lui (page down a few times)

Sunday: After a banana pancake breakfast (with honey and yogurt - see Photo above) and

not forgetting a glass of very strong cafe sua and a few minutes later splitting an omelet/baguette sandwich, we took a riverboat cruise for 100,000VND (Leslie's bargaining acumen) to Thien Mu Pagoda, 45 minutes up the perfume river. This where the monk Thich Quang Duc lived before he went to Saigon in 1966 to immolate himself in protest against the VN government and the war. The pagoda and grounds were quietly beautiful – understated and mossy with just a few people around and a view from the grounds across the wide river, past the plains, to these mist-covered mountains where we fought and bled, where so many from every side fought and bled and died, aching for life – me for a beautiful dark-haired girl whose photo was so washed out from the water that only the shadow of her left eye was left and now, 45 years later, looking across the room from where I write she's sitting on the bed, the love of my life, beautiful, her hair white now and here we are in Hue and I look out through the glass-paned doors toward palm trees and mossy buildings - it's misting in Hue.

Photo above: Random lane; photo below: These mist-covered mountains beyond the Perfume River - photo taken from Thien Mu Pagoda

Aes Dana, Summerlands ... then Vibrasphere, Forest Fuel … Aes Dana, Les Grandes Fonds … Solar Fields, Summer … Hue, misting, humid, green Hue, perfect for psytrance.

We walked along a quiet section of the riverside, then along Le Loi Street and back to the nem lui place, and added a bowl of bun thit nuong – grilled pork with cool noodles, vegetables, peanuts, and nuoc cham with, what else, chillies. Every morning we've marveled at our lack of GI distress. We hope for the same thing tomorrow.

Monday: We had another late start, coffee in bed, talking, and finally to Nina's Cafe for an excellent backpacker's tradition – banana pancake (with honey and yogurt) and more stout

coffee, then we walked along the Perfume River again and over the new bridge to the Citadel side of the river and wandering down side streets through neighborhoods in the soft mist for a little over three hours – more overgrown green, more mossy walls, gates into houses, tin roofs, tile roofs, shrines, incense, women with conical hats, past a school with children playing in the street – “Hello! What your name! Yo-yo-yo!” Bicycles, motos, xyclos, fruit and vegetables for

sale, coffee/tea shops with stools at low tables, cafes, and finally through a gate in the huge wall, across a narrow bridge over the moat, into shops and to the old
bridge in the mist that's a light rain by now. It was really raining by the time we got to Nina's for banh khoai – kind of like a fried pancake folded over pork and shrimp – cut it into strips and wrap them into rice paper with steamed bean sprouts, cucumbers, lettuce and dipped into nuoc mam-based peanut sauce. Back to our room that's been damp the whole time we've been here, and damper now. We're pretty damp too. LOL, our clothes
are damp, our bodies are damp, our books are damp (the pages are kind of wavy, if you know what I mean), our bed is damp – it's damp … it couldn't be better.

Photo: Nina in front of Nina's Cafe


Aaron & Diane Mitschke said...

Charles--Beautiful post. I am so glad you are happy and at peace. The trip sounds incredible, and the pictures are splendid. Give Leslie my love--Diane

CK said...

Too funny - I sent your contact info to someone I knew long ago who is looking for people to work in a hotel! Our best your whole little tribe.

bqd2000 said...

A very nice and real photos of Hue I ever seen before. Love it.

Vietnam tour lover

BlossomFlowerGirl said...

I wouldn't worry about someone on tt saying "boring" - if they don't like it they don't have to read it. I read quite a lot of bits and pieces before my trip and found your blog very interesting.
Regards from Australia

Chi NGUYEN said...

I haven't finished the reading and was on the rain part, but I have to scoll down to comment because I love the way you talked about Hue rain, you surely know Hue so well! Yes I'm from Hue :)
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Other post about Hue

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