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Searching for better weather in Vietnam

The weather in Vietnam changes significantly as we move south along the coast. Between the towns of Hue and Hoi An, a mountain range marks the border of two climate zones. The beautiful and quiet town of Hoi An, the cultural tour to the Champa temples of My Son, and the improved weather give our mood a boost.

Bridge over the Perfume River in Hue, Vietnam

We are leaving cold Hanoi to travel along the coast to the hopefully warmer south of Vietnam. For our first stage south we are taking the train to Hue in Central Vietnam. Despite the long distances, the train doesn't move much faster than the bus in Vietnam. Because of the single railway track, trains driving in opposite directions can pass each other at the train stations only. Consequently, the train schedule cannot be too tight, and a delay of one train leads to a delay of all trains.

On Hanoi Railway station, "helpful" boys offer to lead us to the right carriage. We decline since it seems pretty straightforward and we are not too keen on the Vietnamese offering their services. A "F*** you" is the answer we get, assuring us we made the right choice. Luckily, personnel in the train is more friendly, they give us complementary water, breakfast, and lunch. We took a soft sleeper this time, so we enjoy some more comfort as well. On the downside, there is an hour delay, but who cares?

Imperial Hue

Early in the afternoon we arrive in Hue. We are checking in in a hotel near the train station, and go out to explore the city. The perfume river divides Hue in two parts. West of the river is the walled old city, once the imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty. It was damaged by the different wars, and what is present today is built after these wars. Only the wall itself (the citadel) remains. Within it is a smaller citadel, containing Hue's own forbidden city, or what is left from it.

Gate to the Forbidden City of Hue, VietnamEast of the river lies the rest of the city. Here are a lot of motor bikes, too. Still, it is less hectic than Hanoi. We walk around as we try to gather some information about what we can do here. Actually, it boils down to only two options: a tour along the citadel and the royal tombs and pagodas, and a tour to the de-militarized zone (DMZ). The DMZ is the area between North and South Vietnam where a lot of fighting took place in the Vietnamese, aka American war. Although we are interested, especially in the tunnels in this area, we do not fancy a complete day tour there.

The temperature in Hue is a lot better than in Hanoi. But it is cloudy, and because of its geographic position it receives the most rain of whole Vietnam. In the middle of the afternoon, it starts raining slowly. Everywhere, people start wearing their ponchos, but we can still do without. We continue our walk over the bridge to the citadel. We visit the walls and gates of the wall and the forbidden city. Nice, but not much more than that.

At night, we meet Daud, an Pakistani Australian guy we met on our Halong Bay tour. We drink a beer with him and eat at an Indian restaurant. We complain about the weather in Vietnam, and agree to let the weather decide about the activities for the next day.

Well, that's clear. When we wake up, it pours. Everything looks a bit sad, so we decide to take the bus to Hoi An, instead of booking a tour in Hue.

Hoi An

The river bank in Hoi An, VietnamOnly 150 kilometres south of Hue, Hoi an is situated on the other side of a mountain range, giving it a completely different climate. The weather in Vietnam south of this mountain range is warm year-round, while north of it tends to be cold and wet in winter. During the bus ride through the mountains, we cheer each time we see a small piece of blue air. Still, it remains mostly cloudy, but it's dry and the temperature is fine. So after checking in at a hotel, we stay outside to enjoy a beer. Here is where we see our first wild animals as well: first a snake in the garden of our hotel, and later at night as we walk over the market along the river, some bats and rats´┐Ż

Hoi An used to be an important harbor city. The complete river bank is used as anchor place for ships and boats delivering goods for the market. Nowadays, the old city along the river bank is adjusted for tourism. There are just a few motor bikes, which is a huge relief after Hanoi. There are many souvenir shops, mostly selling clothes, tailor made on the spot. And there is also much woodwork, so cheap that transporting it home is more expensive than the purchase itself.

My Son

From Hoi An we make a day tour to My Son. It is the location of an old temple complex from the Champa Kingdom, reigning from the 3rd until the 15th century. Unfortunately, the Vietcong choose this complex as one of their hideaways, thinking the Americans wouldn't bomb the temples. But they did, and it is still dangerous to wander too far from the paths, because of possible landmines.

Temple group A in My SonThe Chams practiced their own form of Hinduism. The temples are made of bricks, without cement. The decorations are in Hindu style, especially depicting the god Shiva in his different appearances. It's a pity that most of these decorations are heavily damaged. Nevertheless, what remains is definitely worth our visit.

From My Son we take the boat back to Hoi An. This trip is a little disappointing; the river is wide and the banks are 2 meters high, so we can see very little of the surroundings.

Beach

Our last day in Hoi An we hire a bike to bring us to the beach. A nice palm beach, with a clear sky and a breeze, making us realize too late that we are sun burned. There are also a little too many Vietnamese women on the beach selling stuff. Still, it doesn't refrain us from enjoying the first day on a beach on our world journey.

On to Nha Trang

Big Buddha in Nha TrangThe bus brings us from Hoi An to Nha Trang, a 12 hour drive. There are only three people, so a minivan suffices. The road is bad and our driver is in a hurry. He overtakes vehicles in impossible places, and especially the motor bikes will have to give way. Where the road meets the coast line the views are pretty, but the "highway" leads through many crowded, dusty villages as well.

Nha Trang is the Vietnamese equivalent of Benidorm, or Cancun if you like. A crowded city with the beach as its main attraction. A lot of snorkeling tours are on offer, also advertised as "booze cruises". Our backs still hurt from our beach day in Hoi An, so we decline those. Instead, we take it slow, and visit the huge Buddha rising over the city. A day later we move on to Dalat in the highlands.



Follow our World Journey!!Next Stop: Dalat and the central highlands of Vietnam


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