After the hustle and bustle of Hanoi (not to mention Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul before that!), the small towns of central Vietnam signaled a welcome transition into the more relaxed part of our month-long trip. We didn’t have long in either city, but really enjoyed their quieter nature. With that being said, this post will be short, sweet, and picture-heavy!
First, we took a train from Da Nang to Hue. Supposedly this is an incredibly scenic trip along the coast, but we were on the wrong side and only caught glimpses. Hue marked the part of the trip where my planning-ahead had more or less stopped, so the only thing I really wanted to do here was visit the Forbidden Purple City. It was less imposing and imperialistic than the Forbidden City in China, but you could still see a lot of stylistic similarities. It was really interesting to see how royal architectural tradition carries certain traits across countries, but remains distinct due to unique cultural elements (and that is where my nerdy art history commentary will stop, I promise!).
While the huge palace grounds and section after section of buildings were impressive, the atmosphere was more relaxed than the Forbidden City. This was in part due to its lush gardens and ponds, but more significantly because of the ruin that has befallen it. Although the Forbidden City (China) was built in the 1400’s and the Forbidden Purple City (Vietnam) was built in the 1800’s, China’s remains in much better condition. Vietnam’s palatial complex was severely damaged during the Tet Offensive and subsequent events in the war. While some buildings have been restored, they rest amidst crumbling, bullet-ridden walls.
While in Hue, we also found a military vehicle park, enjoyed more banh mi, and rejoiced when we discovered a gas station with Goldfish crackers. Unfortunately, we weren’t there long enough to visit any of the imperial tombs, but I would love to come back someday to see them!
Hoi An, Vietnam
A short-ish bus ride away is Hoi An. As bizarre as it sounds, the bus ride there was AH-MAZING. Somehow we wound up on a bus that had these fully reclined seats (almost like a bed, but slightly upright) with a bottom bunk and top bunk. Everyone had to take off their shoes, you got a blanket, there was plenty of space, and the views out the window weren’t bad either! Best bus trip ever. Anyways… Hoi An was also great! An Australian girl told us she had the best tacos of her life in Hoi An, and while I don’t know if they were the best of my life they were pretty dang tasty so we ate there 3 times in 2 days. We also tried cao lau, a noodle dish that apparently can only be made in Hoi An because it uses special well water. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but it was pretty good. Not to mention there were several restaurants serving freshly brewed beer for $0.10-0.13 per cup, of which we took full advantage!
Okay okay, on to what we actually did. Hoi An is famous for its lanterns, so of course we checked them out. They were pretty (especially at night!), but maybe a little over-hyped. We also scoped out their market and old town shops along the river (lots of tourist-versions of farmer rice hats, tailor shops, and banana shirts). The boats along the river were so colorful and beautiful!
We also rode our bikes out to to An Bang beach, passing some beautiful rice fields. The water was too cold to swim, but we didn’t mind because that meant no people! We chilled on beach chairs, watched the Chinese tourists take a million photos and then leave, and took a long walk down the shore. Perfection!
That concludes the Vietnam portion of our trip! We only have one country left to cover – Thailand – and after that I will be all caught up on our 1 month trip. Then I can start updating you all in life back in Sinan and (maybe) our plans for next year! Lots of love to everyone back home, eat a hamburger or two for us! 💕