Two ancient cities: Hue and Hoi An

Hue is the ancient capital of Vietnam. Today it is home to some relics of the past as numerous of royal tombs and Imperial Palace also known as Citadel. Hue reminded me of Xian, an ancient city in the central China, which I visited last November. However, unlike Xian Hue actually has an old feeling about it. While Xian is all new and modern and would easily pass as an European megapolis, Hue is much smaller, not as polished and has its own character. Plus antic relics actually look old and not as if they were built in the last decade. The Citadel is somewhat similar to Forbidden Palace in Beijing, but is not as boring and is in fact a nice place to spend a day in. It s not very well preserved, nature takes its hold forming a fascinating combination of ruins of the past grandeur, canals, lakes and tropical nature. It is very green and very decayed, and the end result is just lovely. Hue has got a cultural touch with its galleries, open door photography exhibitions and a fascinating outdoor collection of bonsai trees. There are probably more things to discover, but that’s how much I saw during my short stay there. I made it to Hue on 1st of May and there was some kind of festival going on with food, live music and acrobatics performance (Labour Day? End Of American War Day?). Not bad for the first day in Vietnam. Beach is some 15km from the city center and is easily reachable by ubiquitous motorbike taxis. I spent only one day in Hue, so did not have a chance to visit any tombs or visit the beach, but I would not mind visit Hue again. All in all, it was a very enjoyable beginning of adventures in Vietnam.

Hoi An was next on the agenda. Another ancient city, a three hours drive away from Hue, just 25km away from Da Nang. The town is even smaller than Hue and is very boutique. Pretty architecture, stylish restaurants with excellent food, art galleries, inexpensive boutique hotels, souvenir shops everywhere, tailors and shoemakers, who will make your order ready the next day, fresh beer for 4000 dongs (that is around 15 cents) and all kind of sights around the area. Scenic green rice fields are just outside the city and en excellent beach is only 4km away. Oh, the joy of swimming in the sea (China Sea nonetheless!) after one and half months spent traveling inland and swimming in waterfalls and in the muddy Mekong. China Beach stretches all the way from Hoi An and Da Nang making some 30km long of rather undeveloped strip of sand and palms. No resorts, no bars and no restaurants. A personal highlight was making a motorbike trip to Da Nang with Tigen from Australia to see Monkey Mountain and Hai Van Pass. Monkey Mountain is a green peninsula just next to Da Nang. Again very undeveloped at this point, but the early signs of the birth of tourist infrastructure are there. A road to circumvent the peninsula and several resorts are being built, but nonetheless it is still pretty much mountains and jungle, just a walk away from the the third largest city in Vietnam! Hai Van Pass is amazing with its sharp curves and “foggy streets” Plus it features one of the most breathtaking sceneries I have ever seen. I keep saying that a lot, but landscape views seem to get better and better along my travels. Taking a futuristic glass elevator to Marble Mountain was awesome too. The mountain itself is not bad either, but souvenir shops selling all things marble around the mountain spoil the impression. In a nutshell Hoi An has got everything for a quality holiday. It is very touristy, but I did not mind it all. Somehow all the mass-tourism does not spoil the lovely atmosphere of Hoi An. I would have loved to spend more time in Hoi An, but the tight schedule made me to continue my progress further south. The next time I will be more prepared and order a pair of shoes and fancy clothes.