One of the main sights I wanted to do on this trip was the Hai Van Pass. It was made especially famous in Europe through the Vietnam episode of Top Gear, where the not-easily-impressed Jeremy Clarkson described it as one of the most beautiful rides in the world.
My guide book called it the 'Pass of the Ocean Clouds' and
many people describe it as one of the most dangerous roads ever
which, dear Mumsie, I do not believe. Maybe in the past, but now they
have built a tunnel which is used by the majority of the traffic that
used to populate the Pass – now it's only petty tourists, newlyweds and massive trucks carrying oil or something else similarly
dodgy. (I know trucks are called lorries in my dialect, but it's
difficult to describe Vietnamese trucks as lorries. When you think of
a lorry, you think of a big, modern, 'sensible' looking lorry.
Whereas a Truck is dusty, funky, and definitely dodgy. Like
Anyways, we decided on renting a driver (and his car), and he arrived promptly at 9am (well, to be precise he arrived promptly before 9am but to the wrong hotel), picked us up, and off we went towards Da Nang and the Pass! It was a very interesting experience, never having rented a driver before. At the same time we didn't want to hassle him, or annoy him, but at the same time we did pay him money so that he would stop when we wanted etc (or so we understood).
|Panorama courtesy of Stef|
Still not quite sure what the official protocol is to do with renting drivers, but we managed to get him to stop at a few points before the Pass – a big Marble Statue shop thing (literally, who buys a marble statue as a souvenir. Tell me.) and Da Nang Beach (unfortunately didn't get to do Da Nang properly... but one day!).
|Marble statue shop garden|
|Being Buddha is a jolly life|
|Danang beach boulevard|
|All we saw of the famous Danang Dragon bridge|
The Pass itself was epic. We stopped at a few points, got ripped off by the 'Coffee Noodle'-lady, who, in all fairness, took a few group pics of us so we forgave her for her rippy offiness and her horrendous iced coffees.
Took loads of wonderful pictures. Admired the views. Admired the brides in stunning dresses awkwardly being helped up this awkward ladder to pose on this, er, block, to take STUNNING pictures. When I get married... I want to be them.
At the bottom of the pass there was this lovely bay-ey area too.
|Panorama courtesy of Stef|
Hué. Is known for its Imperial City, it's the ancient capital of Vietnam. I was excited to see it – not topping my priority list, but I was definitely interested to see it.
|Into the Imperial City|
So, after checking into our hotel, we wandered about Hué which seemed a pretty average town. We explored the surroundings of the Imperial Town with the eternal fear that a mahoosive storm would erupt at any moment. Vietnamese weather has the habit of loudly thundering and massively wind blowing but, in the end, not raining. Or, alternatively, start bucketing down with no warning. It's quite annoying.
We stopped at a lovely place where we had iced coffees and Hayzybobzykins had the most... interesting ever pink drink which advertised itself as some sort of strawberry shake, but it was essentially sweet pink strawberry flavouring mixed with condensed milk. (Condensed milk is, just to remind you, extremely sweet in itself.)
We also witnessed a cool parade.
|And the traffic photo of the day....|
Our evening meal was at the amazing DMZ-restaurant. Amazing food and possibly the best service in Vietnam, now let me tell you why...
Vietnam is not known for its ability to bring meals at the same time. I do understand the logic – bring the meal when it's ready, it's pointless letting it sit around and get cold while waiting for the other meals that the same table ordered. Not the European way of doing it, but I do understand why they do it. It's still annoying. Especially when they actually forget your food. Or bring the wrong food. For example, I had breakfast one day in HCMC with my friends Mary and Dafi. They brought us three sets of cutlery. Then Mary got her food. Then Dafi got his. I waited. They ate. I waited. I waited. I waited. They were just finishing when our waitress came over to collect my cutlery which I hadn't touched. This was the stage when we had to remind her that the reason I hadn't yet touched my cutlery was because I hadn't yet received my food. She rushed over (or well, ambled over, for in Vietnam one is never in a hurry) to the kitchen to inform that they should make another meal. By the time I got my meal, needless to say, Mary and Dafi had finished their's. I was not impressed, even for Vietnam.
ANYWAYS. So, when me, Hayzybobzykins and Stef got our meals relatively at the same time we were quite impressed. Mary had to wait a little longer, but we were all used to it. Normal. Five minutes in, the waiter came over to our table to apologise for Mary having to wait. Oh, no worries, she wasn't frustrated at all. The waiter left, then came back with a cocktail bucket. He placed it in front of Mary, and told her it's on the house because her food was taking so long. We found this utterly hilarious. Most places you can wait for ten, twenty, thirty minutes to an eternity for your food, here less than ten minutes was already worthy of a free, er, bucket of alcohol. Amazing.
|Cyclo drivers waiting for customers|
The next day we went into the Imperial City, which was fascinating but I regret to say I spent most of the time napping on a shady bench at some less-populated corner of the area. Lack-of-sleep and I are not on the closest terms. Nor are insane heat and I.
This picture sums up the day:
This picture sums up the day:
And the story behind the picture: I was stood at the bottom of the stairs for a good while, trying to calculate if getting into shade for a minute or two was worth the climb up the stairs...
But for more civilised pictures...
Anyways, the Imperial City was a really cool place with lots of history, awesome ancient houses and buildings and ruins, gorgeous gardens...
In the afternoon we had an amazingly fun motorbike ride through more countrysidey roads to a pagoda. We had no time to check it out, but, well, I do love motorbiking.
|On our rented bikes|
|Steps to the pagoda|
And then, it was time to say bye bye to Marykins, and be thrown onto the night bus towards Hanoi...