This is a very picture-heavy post – Vietnam, why you so pretty??
I got off the overnight train from Ha Noi at Hue.
Please bear with my love of trains, railway tracks and train stations. This will probably happen in all the countries which I visit in the future.
I lingered a while at the train platform taking pictures and bidding goodbye to the amazing couple from the Netherlands I had met the day before.
When I exited the train station, a slight man of about 40 years old came running up with my name on a piece of paper.
This is Mr Hieu, Boss-Man of the Hue Riders. Mr Hieu has been in this business for 12 years. And that is my backpack (in pink) tied up like some overgrown chicken on the back of his motorcycle. It stayed on the motorcycle for the whole trip.
I took a glance at the wheels of his motorcycle – they were made for stability, not speed. Good. I was relieved that I was not going to be riding with some speed daredevil for the whole day.
Mr Hieu has 3 children: a 21-year-old son who is the Hue Riders with him, an 18-year-old daughter who is going to attend university in Hue, and the youngest son – 11 years old. Mr Hieu works very hard because he needs to pay for his daughter’s education.
The ride from Hue to Hoi An took about 6 hours and cost USD$45. I had an add-on (USD$3) in Hue to visit King Tu Duc’s Tomb before heading to Hoi An. Mr Hieu had another client the next day who requested a trip from Hoi An to Hue.
6 hours on a motorcycle is no joke. I had sore butt muscles for half a day. I can’t imagine doing this for 2 days in a row.
King Tu Duc’s Tomb
This is possibly one of the most beautiful spots in Vietnam. Idyllic and tranquil, this place has 2 main areas – the tomb area and the temple area.
I wandered around the area for about an hour – this is really worth seeing if you are going to swing by Central Vietnam. There were even a small brood of chickens in the back of the area!
However, there were very few signs in the place. If you go without a tour guide (like me – Mr Hieu did not follow me into the tomb compound), you might be lost. Thank goodness for basic archaeology skills.
While wandering through the tomb area, I had one thought in my head:
Why were broken Chinese porcelain pieces used to line the royal symbols at the tomb?
My knowledge of Vietnam is really lacking.
Hue to Hoi An
I was lucky – the sun was fully out and there were no clouds in the sky. It was a beautiful day to be out on a motorcycle ride.
Half an hour into the trip, Mr Hieu stopped beside a small inlet.
It was a houseboat village. Mr Hieu explained that only the poorest live in such houseboats. Their children do not have money to attend school. When asked about the cost of sending a kid to public primary school, Mr Hieu said it cost about USD$100 per year. A kindergarten costs more.
In contrast, maintaining a scooter cost 100,000 VND per year.
Someone up there has got his priorities mixed up.
The highlight of the trip was Hai Van Pass – and a motorcycle ride is the best way to travel between Hoi An and Hue. This is even better than being on the train because the motorcycle goes round and round the mountain. The same sight looks better from higher up.
I whipped my camera out and lost track of the number of pictures I snapped while on the back of the motorcycle.
… And of course, the picture of myself:
Mr Hieu made a pit stop for me to stretch my muscles at an American bunker used during the Vietnam War. This bunker overlooks Da Nang.
We rode into Da Nang and stopped for lunch at a local place Mr Hieu frequents often. I had 2 types of eggs, pork and vegetables. The meal cost me 35,000 VND – one of the cheapest meals I have had in Vietnam. The cheapest meal cost 15,000 VND for a small bowl of noodles in Hoi An.
Mr Hieu had rice… and nothing else. He explained that he becomes a vegetarian twice a month for religious reasons. I offered him some of my vegetables, but he declined. He says that the vegetables in Vietnam are usually stir-fried with fish sauce.
This explains why food is so delicious in Vietnam. I absolutely adore ♥ fish sauce.
Mr Hieu earned my respect in that point in time. It was a hard ride from Hue.
We approach Hoi An, and I am greeted by amazing beaches:
… And the open fields.
This marks the end of my 6-hour motorcycle ride with Mr Hieu. He takes me to my hostel in the centre of town and spends some time neatly rolling up the long elastic and bag he used for my backpack. He then zooms away, probably looking for a place to stay for the night before repeating the cycle the next day.
My butt muscles were very sore when I hauled my bag into my room, which was thankfully on the ground floor.
Temperature of the day: 24 Celsius degrees
Cost of trip: USD$48
Length of time on the motorcycle: About 7 hours, including pit stops
Areas of sunburnt skin: Upper chest, shoulders
Amount of aloe vera used on sunburnt skin: Liberal. Like it was free flow alcohol
Amount of regret for not putting on sun block (SPF 110!) on body: Moderate
Amount of time spent sitting gingerly on chairs after motorcycle ride: About half a day
Number of pictures taken on this motorcycle trip: 105 (excluding bad shots and those at King Tu Duc’s Tomb)