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Contiki Big Indochina Adventure – Days 22 & 23: Hue, Vietnam

We departed our hotel in Hoi An shortly after 8:15 AM for a four hour bus ride to the ancient capital of Vietnam, Hue. The ride was so picturesque as our bus driver skillfully took us over a mountain with his manual bus. Apparently, the drive was featured on an episode of Top Gear a few years ago when they visited Vietnam.

We arrived to our hotel shortly after 12:15 PM and ran to grab a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant. I had honey chicken skewers – just like the rest of the food in Vietnam, it was amazing.

We then met up at our hotel for a sightseeing tour of Hue. Contiki arranged for cyclos to pick us up and take us to our first stop. Cyclos are bicycles with individual bucket seats in the front. It felt so touristy, but still was a lot of fun!  I have never ridden a bike before on a main street, so it was something like I’ve never experienced.  Motorbikes were coming from every direction and we kept crossing into a lane with oncoming traffic.  After talking with a few people that ride bikes often, it is not something they’ve experienced either, so the chaos of Vietnam added an extra flair to the adventure!

After a 20 minute ride, we arrived at the Imperial Palace of Hue. In Hoi An, our group all had a custom piece of clothing made out of the same fabric, so we all wore it for a group photo in front of a giant Vietnamese flag.

After our group photo, we ventured inside the Imperial Palace and saw the King’s throne and other open areas before going to the men’s temple. The women had their own temple, but we did not visit it. The grounds were beautiful – I particularly liked the amount of greenery throughout the palace.

We then boarded our coach to go to the Thien Mu Pagoda which was home to the monk who famously drove all the way down to Saigon before the elections between North and South Vietnam to protest the democratic candidate that South Vietnam was proposing because he was anti-Buddhist. The monk drove his car into a busy intersection, sat down in the middle of the street and set himself on fire. He sat in the lotus position the entire time, despite the pain. The amazing thing is that his entire body charred and burned except for his heart which remained unburnt.

We then headed back to the hotel for about an hour before meeting back up with our group for a two and a half hour street food tour. This was a great tour because we stopped at random restaurants and food carts along the way that we never would have the courage to go in on our own and ate food that we would never know to order or feel comfortable ordering. We even learned how they make some of the food. We started out pretty calm with vegetable spring rolls and other vegetable dishes before escalating to what looked like a pork dumpling. We also ate things like fish soup, BBQ pork, quail eggs which tasted like boiled eggs, yogurt, flan, beef soup, pork satay. In total, we stopped at seven restaurants and tried at least twenty different foods – the most bizarre food we ate was a fertilized duck egg. The egg looked a bit like a brain, but tasted fine.

After the tour, our group went to a few bars on our hotel’s street before heading to bed.  The following morning, we got to sleep in because our 11 AM flight got delayed until 2 PM, so we just relaxed for the first time in a while. It felt good to have no agenda or to do list!  We left our hotel at about 11:30 AM to head to the airport.

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