We were probably the only people staying in our hotel and so, as we woke, the challenge was to find someone to open up at 7am so we could get our trikes out! This may not be a common problem at the Dorchester but is something we confront from time to time. Eventually someone appeared and, in very good grace (since we may have dragged him out of bed prematurely), opened up so we could get on the road. We had decided to cycle the short distance to Vinh and then get a train or bus for the next 350km to Hue because the next section did not look too interesting and we did not have time before our flight home to cycle all the way to Ho Chi Minh city.
It was overcast but not rainy and the day was getting going, with hundreds of motorbikes taking locals to school or work. We wove around them and got onto the dual carriageway to Vinh. This is already a dual lane road but there are roadworks to create a 6 lane highway in the middle between the two lanes, along with piles of sand and gravel that must have been 30m high. The only explanation is that they are developing a deep water port here and anticipate a huge increase in truck traffic – or it is someone’s vanity project!
We arrived in Vinh at rush hour and negotiated our way to the station to see if we could experience Vietnam Railways for the trip to the former imperial capital, Hue. The answer was that we could get the train but there was no freight car today so the trikes would have to follow tomorrow. Being separated from the trikes was not really an option so we decided to explore bus options.
The bus station had moved from the location in the guidebook, but a combination of googletranslate and googlemaps got us to the right place, and we found a “sleeper” bus was leaving for Hue at 11.30, arriving at 6.30. So, at 7 hours, it was due to be faster than the train, more comfortable and cheaper – overall a bit of a result. We packed up the trikes (getting good at this now) and paid the man – with the inevitable luggage surcharge!
That left us a couple of hours to get breakfast, food for the journey and top up our the caffeine levels. We had cycled through a market on the way to the bus station, so we walked back that way to get supplies. Markets in Vietnam are female dominated spaces – and tough women at that. They have a vibrancy, continual banter, jokes and arguments, noise from motorbikes passing through the alleys and general hubbub which makes them special places. There are no health and safety inspectors allowed or animal welfare or hygiene standards.
We wandered around picking up supplies and taking photos – wondering at the range of things on offer. Live chickens, live fish, non-refrigerated meat in huge blocks, wonderfully ranges of vegetables and numerous stalls selling plants and flowers, as well as every type of household good you could need for a Vietnam house. The pictures tell the story.
Then it was time to return to the bus, survive the journey – which went quickly as we each had our own couchette and could sleep, read and watch the world go by and, as we got nearer Hue – the rain come down. We were offloaded at a pull in near the centre of Hue, thanked the bus crew, rebuild the trikes and cycled the few km to our hotel. It was all remarkably straightforward and uneventful – except for the car that drove into the back of a tour bus as we waited at a red traffic light. More damage to the car than the bus – but the bus was stationary and the car driver was on the phone at the time. We pulled around and peddaled off, anxious not to become part of the ensuing discussions!
Our hotel is fine and Hue is packed with Western and Chinese visitors, as it is a tourist hot spot. We are looking forward to the cultural sights for a day after a few days of rural Vietnam when we saw no tourists at all, and then will make our way down the coast with lots of interesting stuff – at least according to the guidebooks.