While in Da Nang, I decided to extend my Vietnam trip by a week. The Visum was valid for 5 weeks in total and I had used op 2 weeks so far. I liked the relaxed vibe of Da Nang and wanted to see Hué and its Imperial City.
There was a train to Hué and it should take me there in just over an hour. In reality it was much longer than that. Over an hour into the trip, if you looked outside, you could still see Da Nang.
The route was beautiful, but not fast. Meanwhile inside the train I was the sole non-Vietnamese and most of the compartment was filled with Vietnam soldiers on their way somewhere.
After a too expensive Taxi ride, I was finally at my hotel, time for dinner and sleep.
Every book written about being a tourist in a strange country warns you not to travel with a random stranger. I wanted to see a couple of the 12 Royal Tombs, and didn't feel like paying for a day-long guided tour with obligatory stops at random shops.
Instead I walked to the nearest crossing and waited about 2 minutes before someone ona moped stopped and asked me where I wanted to go. A short negotiation later I was on my way to the first Tomb.
Mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang
The first tomb was the Mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang. The upside of not going on a tour is that you can take as much or little time as you want at a place. The downside is that you'll get less information.
The area was super nice and quiet, for a while I was the only one there.
The area stretched in a long line through a couple of buildings, across squares and over water.
The buildings were well maintained and gave beautiful views of the area.
At the very end was the tomb, closed off for us mere mortals.
While it was nice in the shade, the burning sun nudged me back to the exit, where my moped driver was still waiting (huzzah!).
Mausoleum of Emperor Khai Dinh
Time for the next Mausoleum. And this is where my super-non-official tour plans started to break down. The moped of my chauffeur was breaking down, randomly the engine would cut off, usually when the road inclined.
At some point the moped didn't start anymore and the driver was forced to take his moped to a shop to get it fixed. I was left on the side of the road, about 200 meters from the next destination and had to walk. My driver didn't have enough cash on hand for repairs and asked me to pay the negotiated sum up front.
Alarms where blaring in my head, this is the stupidest thin you can do, but I took a gamble and payed him the money and set off on foot to the Mausoleum of Emperor Khai Dinh.
It's built against a steep hill and there are lots of stairs and levels.
I liked the other Mausoleum better, but it's fun to see the wildly different architectural styles being used over time.
Inside was a museum, showing various artefacts.
After a while I headed to the exit, only to find my driver excitedly waving at me, shouting "it's fixed!, it's fixed!". And we headed back to the city, stopping for a couple of drinks and delicious chicken dinner.
Hué Imperial City
It was going to rain for the rest of the week, with only Monday and Tuesday predicted to be dry. I visited the Tombs yesterday, on Monday, so today it was time for the Imperial City.
The place is huge and reminded me a lot of the Forbidden City in Beijing. All the tour groups went clock-wise through the city, so I did the opposite.
A lot of the city was destroyed during the Vietnam war, and they are in the process of restoring parts of it.
There are beautiful (zen) gardens on one side, and the next plot could be a wasteland of rubbish and rubble, but in all it was very pleasant to walk around with beautiful views everywhere.
One of the first buildings I came across was a theatre. Most people didn't enter the building, but inside there was a display of masks used during performances.
The tour groups only visited a few of the many plots in the city. Each plot is surrounded by a wall and it became a game to explore them all.
Every once in a while you'd cross path with a group, but overall it was super quiet.
I spent a lot of hours in the city and it was time for a nice cold Iced Americano, and a sandwich at the only coffee place and head for the exit.
Later in the week, I met a couple who were on a food tour of the city and they asked me to join, which I did and the food that day was amazing!
From breakfast at a little shop down many alleys and no signs anywhere to a high-tea experience at a fancy place next to the river, it was all delicious.