Saturday October 28, 2017 – Monday October 30, 2017
Welcome to Imperial Vietnam! We’d had an inkling that a visit to Hue – the former capital of Imperial Vietnam, complete with its own ‘forbidden city’ – would be worth a visit, and after seeing Top Gear’s Vietnam episode we knew we just had to rent ourselves a scooter and head for the Hai Van Pass that would take us there.
The Hai Van Pass was the traditional highway joining Da Nang to Hue, which was within striking distance of the DMZ or border between North and South Vietnam during the war. It was often fought over and contested as it was one of the few passage routes over the mountains. In recent years, however, Vietnam has built a tunnel, which is used as the more direct driving route for locals, commuters and many travelers. Meaning the over-mountain route known as the Hai Van Pass is not nearly as busy anymore, save for tourists like ourselves seeking great views, and great adventure!
After receiving two bikes that morning in Hoi An and doing a very brief test-drive, Kylie (everyone’s favourite driver) quickly realized a 4-6 hour solo bike drive was not in the cards – so we went tandem. Jesse on the other hand (Kylie’s and everyone’s actual – favourite driver), was a complete natural and was ready to go within minutes. While our bike wasn’t in the best shape (the speedometer was shot and the horn did not work – all of which we realized a little too late into the journey to get there – good thing for Kylie the backseat driver!), we made the trek without any issues, and with plenty of photo stops. It really was a remarkable ride, and given scooters only cost about 20 CAD to rent (with one-way service – they pick up the bike in Hue!), we had to add this to our itinerary, and it did not disappoint!
Once in Hue we took the remainder of our first day easy, relaxing and exploring its ‘night market,’ which, rather than shops, involved closing streets in the entertainment district so the various bars and restaurants could spill on to the road. It was a laid back evening as we prepared for the main event: Hue’s Forbidden City.
The next morning started early. Hue was Vietnam’s capital and home to the Nguyen dynasty with its impressive, expansive fortifications and moats right in the centre of the city. The palace was seized during the Tet Offensive, and while the US was initially reluctant to fight over the historic area, fighting soon encompassed the forbidden city, destroying many of the original buildings.
However, extensive reconstruction efforts have been underway, and bit by bit the fantastic grounds are being rebuilt, and rehabilitated.
We’ve loved being in Hue, and especially being in Vietnam – but sadly this was our last hurrah. Following our quick stint here we boarded a plane and headed off for a relaxing month in Thailand!