Hue was my least favourite place in Vietnam during my travels, but I think that would have been completely different had events played out differently during the day!
The plane trip to Hue was fine, security was quick and short, we were swiftly shuttled out to the plane (the plane next to us had engine propellors that looked like they belonged on a desk fan – I was glad that it wasn’t our plane!), and I ended up having a whole row to myself! Mistakenly, I didn’t even lie down, so, I certainly didn’t take advantage of that situation!
One of the guys from the hostel in Hanoi was on the same plane as me, so we took the shuttle straight form the airport (50,000 dong) in to Hue centre and sat for a coffee as we contemplated our next move. We ended booking a place relatively close to everything, Homeland Hotel, but it was too early to check in so they put our bags away so that we could explore Hue.
Getting around, or lack of it….
We decided to rent bikes so that we could see everything in one day (Hue is known for it´s vast amount of beautiful temples and pagodas, and the stunning Imperial City). This was the beginning of our misfortune. It took a while for my new pal to be happy with the bike he was given, and after a few changes we were finally off to fill up petrol. Once our tanks were full, we picked up a few friends I had met during my Halong Bay tour. This was the beginning of our misfortune….
It soon became clear that, every time my friend sat on the back of my bike, the engine would cut out! We therefore had to figure out a way of revving the engine slightly, hand firmly on the brake, as he sat on the back of the bike and hoped it wouldn’t turn off! This wasn’t too much of a problem though, and it was easy to get the hang of. We had got half way through a long road towards the Imperial City (Old City/Citadel), and I could just feel it. My tyre was flat! I know that if you carry on driving with a flat tyre, even for a short distance, it can cause havoc, and even cause you to come off your bike. I wasn’t going to take the risk, and stopped the bike to call the hotel**.
**The hotel used an external bike company, and I completely realise that everything that happened wasn’t the hotel´s fault!
They said someone from the bike company would be with us in 5 minutes to see if they could fix it. After a while of insisting it couldn’t be fixed (unless they changed the tyre on the side of the road!) they brought a bike so I could swap with them as they took it in to repair.
This was my only day in Hue, and I really didn’t want to waste it. Met friends didn’t want to leave me alone either, so we ended up waiting 50 minutes for someone to arrive. When they arrived, they asked for money to get it fixed (they gave me a bike with a flat tyre, why should I pay?!), but it ended up only 20,000 dong, around 60p, so I gave in and gave them the money. They said it was in the contract that any repairs are the travellers responsibility…it would have been great to receive a contract, or even a verbal agreement that we would be responsible to fix their already broken bikes….! It was more the principle than the cost!
She tried to swap my bike for hers, but I insisted we had a full tank of gas (hers was empty, and we had JUST filled ours up). Eventually she agreed to take us to their mechanics so that we could siphon the petrol from old to new, and on our way she definitely tried to lose us, as she weaved in and out of traffic! Little did she know, we knew how to ride bikes, so kept up with her the majority of the way! Finally, we got going again.
By this time it was around 2pm and we were really fed up. We set off to the citadel and….GUESS WHAT!!!! Slavo´s bike got a flat tyre as we went over the bridge!!! At this point we were at the end of our tether. We called the hotel and they said someone would be there in 5 minutes. Last time they said this it was an hour, so we said we would find someone to fix it. There was no-one around to fix it, and we decided to walk to the old city and park up the bikes.
Old City/Citadel/Imperial City
This place was absolutely beautiful. Hue was originally the capital of Vietnam, and the Citadel was home to the King and powerful people of Vietnam. Many parts were worn down to ruins, and others stood in all their glory. We wondered through the Citadel, and visited the gardens – it was absolutely stunning. The entrance fee is 150,000, but I would certainly say it is worth it as the place is so big and there is so much to see.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to see anywhere else in Hue, as we had spent most of the days trying to sort the bikes. When we got back to the bikes, a handful of locals helped fix their bike for 50,000, and I popped back to the hotel to get showered and ready for dinner.
Dine like a local:
We originally walked through walking street, but decided to go somewhere a little less touristy for dinner. We headed to a market under the busy bridge, and ate dinner there! Literally sat underneath a bridge!!
In the morning, we were told we had to pay for the bike rent in full – 200,000 for 2 bikes. We´d spent 140,000 on petrol and 70,000 on repair! Personally, I felt filling the bikes with petrol and repairing their bikes should have been payment enough, but no matter how much I argued it, I only managed to get the price down by 80,000 between us. I certainly wouldn’t rent a bike through Homeland Hotel again; the company they use is unprofessional, providing tourists with broken bikes because they know we can’t notice flat tyres during a quick inspection, and thereafter it is too late. I only agreed to the costs as I wanted to get out there as soon as possible, and booked a bus to Hoi An. It was a real shame that all of this happened, as many of my friends have commented on how beautiful Hue was….it is just such a shame that I didn’t really see it!