Hue and Hoi An

We’ve officially left northern Vietnam and had about 5 days to explore central Vietnam. We started in Hue, which is known as the imperial city and is cool in that a large part of the city is located within large stone walls surrounded by water.

We upped our hotel game a little bit in central Vietnam and stayed in hotels with pools, which was an awesome relief from the heat. Our first day in Hue was pretty chill and we had some pool time and explored along the river. I started to get my stomach back in Hue and while I was still too beef adverse to try their most popular dish, Bun Bo Hue, I did try Banh Khoai, which is the Hue version of Banh Xeo. Banh Xeo is a crispy pancake filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. It’s slightly different in every city and I’m on a mission to try them all. Its a tie between Hanoi and Hoi An for my favourite, the one is Hoi An is served with a delicious peanut sauce. I also tried Nem Lui in Hue, which is basically a pork skewer that is also served with a peanut sauce.

On our second day in Hue we did a cruise of the Perfume River in a dragon boat. It wasnt my favourite because it was just so hot and the engine on the boat is really loud, but it took us to see Minh Mang tomb, a temple, and Thien Mu Pagoda, which are all located along the river and are pretty neat. There’s a ton of tombs located in Hue for past kings and emperors of the imperial city, but we just visited one. Its enormous though and was heralded as an excellent piece of architecture for its time (1800’s).

We also made a visit to the Imperial Citadel. The Imperial City is essentially everything north of the river in Hue, and the citadel is located in the center of the city behind another moat and set of stone walls. It is impressive in its scope and there was a lot to look at and explore, but we were about ready to pass out from heat exhaustion at this point, so we cut our visit a little short and made a beeline back to the pool. We had good timing though because we were in Hue over the weekend and similar to Hanoi, they close down a bunch of the streets to just pedestrians in the evening, so it was lovely to explore after dark.

We left Hue at the crack of dawn to travel to Bach Ma National Park for what would become the highlight of Seth’s trip. As I’m sure most people know, Seth loves birds and is just completing his masters in ecology, so we hired a local ornithologist to take us on a private bird watching tour of Bach Ma, which is supposed to be one of the best places in Vietnam to see birds. It did not disappoint!

I won’t get into the specifics, but we did some heavy birding in the morning and Seth was thrilled to see more than 30 different bird species. It was a great tour for both of us though because the park is very mountainous and gorgeous and I loved admiring the landscapes as much as Seth loved looking for birds. We started with a hike up to the summit of the mountain, which had an amazing view looking down over the coast, and did a hike along the river and several waterfalls in the afternoon.

This one was called the 5 lakes trail and was actually a much more technical trail than I was expecting, but I got to swim in the river under a waterfall, which is pretty much my favourite thing to do! We finished by hiking to Rhodedendron Waterfall, which is a 300 metre high fall crashing down over the mountains. It was neat because we hiked to the top of the waterfall, so while we didnt actually see the waterfall, we had a cool view of the river cascading over the cliff.

It wasnt all fun and games though! Seth and I discovered a new species that we had no idea existed, the land leech. We were so naive to only think there are water leeches, but we quickly learned about land leeches which were constantly trying to climb up our shoes whenever we went through the bush. They are quite gross and I was constantly checking my boots for them and kicking them off before they could make it to my legs. Seth wasnt so lucky though, he had short socks on so they kept sneaking down into his boots and he had to pull 2 or 3 off him over the day. They dont hurt, but they’re nasty little buggers and one left him with a big bruise.

Hoi An stole our heart on the trip though. We’d heard really good things about the ancient town and we were looking forward to having some time to chill. We had our nicest hotel booked in Hoi An and we’d originally planned to do a day trip to some ancient ruins, but we liked the town so much we decided to just hang around the city instead. On our first day we borrowed bikes from our hotel and biked about 5km out to go to the beach. It was another hot, cloudless day, so we enjoyed booking beach chairs, having our food and drinks delivered to us, and hopping in and out of the water. We were very content.

I got the biggest surprise though when we got back to the hotel room because they completely decked our room out with flowers and rose petals. There had been a few flowers the day before, and I was laughing about how extra the hotel was being, when I turned around and found Seth getting down on one knee and pulling a ring box out of his pocket! He totally surprised me but I couldnt have been happier to say yes when he proposed to me with my Mom’s engagement ring (they are both very sneaky!) So Hoi An became our favourite place for very sentamental reasons!

It is a very romantic city though. Every day starting at 3 they close down all the roads to traffic in the ancient town and after dark the entire city is lit by hundreds of paper lanterns! There are boat rides running up and down the river, so we took one to celebrate and see all the lights. It capped off a perfect day.

It wasnt the end of the excitement though. We had a pre-booked street food tour of Hoi An to fit in as well! Fortunately we had both gotten our stomachs back and we were able to eat all the delicious treats on the tour. We started with a proper Banh Mi, which was much better than the one I had in Hanoi and I tried the Hoi An version of the Banh Xeo pancake. There’s a lot of chinese cultural influence in Hoi An as well, so we tried the traditional white rose dumplings and wonton “pizza”. The main course was the most delicious chicken fried rice, and we capped it off with some coconut crackers that are local to Hoi An. We didnt have it on the food tour, but I did try one more local dish, Cau Lau, which was a tasty pork noodle soup.

Sadly our trip is almost over now, but I have one more post about Cat Tien Park and Ho Chi Minh City, so stay tuned!

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