Stage 2, Hue: The overnight train from Hanoi to Hue was quite an experience. There’s something very satisfying about falling asleep in one location and waking up somewhere else, nearly 700 kilometres away from where you started. I actually slept quite well during the journey; the gentle to-and- fro of the locomotive almost rocks you to sleep, and the sound of the rail wheels clicking repeatedly I found rather therapeutic. Upon arrival in Hue, we travelled directly to our hotel where a tasty breakfast was on offer at their rooftop restaurant.
After a short rest at the hotel we took to the streets of Hue on small mopeds, each member of the group we were travelling with had their own bike and driver. It was really exhilarating flying through the streets on the back of a bike as we headed out to the rural countryside that surrounds the city.
Touring the rural areas by bike was one of the most memorable experiences of our time spent in Vietnam. We saw so many people and places all in one day, and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning to visit. Our tour guide initially took us out to a beautiful canal filled with lillypads. The canal could only be traversed via a
small bridge which allowed access to a monastery situated nearby. There was also several canoes moored on the canal that were made from the casings of US bombs, left behind after the Vietnam/ American war. The beauty of these canoes sat in the tranquil water, contrasted against their previous usage as deadly and destructive weapons, has really stayed with me.
Later in the day we ventured out to the Thien Mu Pagoda, a striking historic temple of considerable cultural significance to the local population. The brick tower stands at 21 metres with seven stories, and is of octagonal shape. It stands high above the Perfume River, a vast waterway which winds through the Hue region. The sunlight
reflected off the water, and with a lone barge chugging slowly along it, the river looked extremely picturesque.
Our motorbike tour continued during the afternoon. Following the river, we progressed off-road up a steep hillside, through a wood, eventually emerging from the trees at the crest of hill that once again overlooked the Perfume River. From this vantage point we could see several miles along the river, which again was very pleasing to the eye. It is because of this exceptional view that American troops had fortified the hilltop with a large metal bunker during the US occupation of Vietnam in the 1970s. Standing on the steep bank of the river I was really able to appreciate the uniqueness of the Vietnamese landscape.
All too soon, we had to return to our bikes and descend back into the busy city streets of Hue, leaving behind the serenity of the countryside.