the conservative former capital
(Hue, young family waiting for Mom)
I got up early and hired a car to Hue via some mountainous coastline (very similar to Highway 1 in Central California) and entered North Vietnam. Although my driver spoke sparse English we seemed to manage. It was foggy most of the trip, and we stopped in China Beach to see the marble carving factory (amazing artistry with some magnificient, mostly oversize pieces - geared toward hotels and estates worldwide). I could not resist a small carved marble vase, and was tempted by several others. The Vietnamese are extremely skillfull artisans, and the trinkets for sale here are really something to behold. They have antique reproductions of ultra fancy teapots that would make any collector green with envy. Looks like I'll be needing an extra bag to haul the stuff back home.
My driver suggested a hotel in Hue which has not turned out too well. It's cheap and clean enough, but the fact is it's downright boring, and I'll only be staying one night (found a much nicer place round the corner that has real class - balcony of course!). I took the famous Citadel self tour this afternoon (very very impressive if you're into ancient royalty and that sort of thing). As you probably guessed, I'm not really into much of the cultural stuff. I stopped at the exclusive Saigon Morin Hotel for another Singapore Sling, and I'm now using their very nice modern computers (most units in country are ancient, and it's a real pleasure to be using new stuff). This is one of Hue's original hotels and has a great deal of history itself.
Hue is also noted for being a gourmet, as well as cultural and educational center. It's said that most of the country's intellectual elite reside in Hue (sort of the Boston of VN?)
Susan sent more pictures this morning, and I must say that I'm impressed with her level of care. Fact is I'm just a little jealous after seeing Spud being held by one of the Jordans!!! I'm very happy that he's enjoying life too. Today for lunch we stopped for Bun Bo Hue (spicy pork noodle soup), and I fed the resident dog some fat and gristle from my bowl. I believe that most Vietnamese dogs are scavengers (you don't see any large or overweight dogs here).
Due to the fact that I have a rather short fuse, I have a real problem here with patience and being hounded constantly to buy buy BUY B-U-Y B--U--Y! These people look at tourists as walking ATM machines - constant "hello mister, you buy "XXX" from me?" or "motorbike mister" - at least 300 - 400 times every day! I've gotten to the point that I just ignore and play deaf mute. However, many will follow you down the street and the pitch goes on and on...
I can't believe my luck with weather, in fact, I wish it would rain a little. March is certainly an excellent time for this country. Already thinking about my next one - maybe Thailand? Time to find a crowded place for dinner - sure to be good that way. Last night in Hoi An, I took the suggestion of my friends from Western Australia and tried the only Indian place in town - best Indian I've ever had too.