24 hour bus trips – Not always what you’re expecting

So, southwards, from Hanoi to the small town of Hoi Ann, rather neatly about midway between Hanoi and HCM city. But first, we have to get there.

Planning on catching the train, we found that full. Next option, a 24 hour bus trip. In South East Asia. This did not sound appealing. But, with few other options, bus it was.

Thankfully, it was not nearly as bad as it could have been. It fact, it was almost pleasant. The bus was modern, clean, did not break down, and it was a bona fide sleeper bus. It actually had ‘bunk beds’ for lack of a better word in the bus. That fitted my 6 foot plus frame. Bliss. Leaving Hanoi around six, Hue was reached around 8 the next morning. And thanks to the bunk beds, we slept most of the way. Although I was fortunate enough to wake at around 3 in the morning and catch a glimpse of some Vietnamese rice paddies, ghostly and beautiful under a full moon. Pity the camera was not close at hand.

At Hue, we had another unexpected surprise. We had a layover in this ancient imperial city for around 6 hours, before our 4 hour bus dash to Hoi Ann, so technically it was not a 24 hour bus journey. What a blessing.

So, after some breakfast, and stowing our bags with a friendly (and hopefully trustworthy) restaurateur we hired a couple of motorbikes and drivers and sped off for a literal whirlwind tour of Hue. First up, the ancient Citadel. The imperial seat of government in ancient Vietnam, it has been severely damaged in both the Vietnamese
War and the French resistance. However, slowly but surely attempts are being made to restore, replace and in some sections rebuild this historic site, part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite this, it is still a formidable structure, although from what we gleaned from eavesdropping on tour groups, a guide would add to your experience
immensely.

The wall of the Imperial Citadel from the back of a moving motorbike.

Next up, a short cruise on the back of the bike along the banks of the Perfume River to the Perfume Pagoda. The site of a functioning Buddhist monastery , it has a fantastic view over the Perfume River, and the Pagoda itself as gold images of Buddha on its base. An atmospheric and beautiful Pagoda, and well worth the visit.

The Perfume Pagoda in the background

Our briefest of brief visit over, it was back to pick up our bags, cadge a quick shower and back on the bus. For Top Gear fans this is the stretch of road that the presenters ogle over in their Vietnamese special, and rightly so. Dropping down to the coast in a series of hairpin bends before opening up on magnificent lagoons, this is some scenery you do not wan to miss. It’s also the first spot I’m visiting next time I’m in Vietnam.

A view of one of the lagoons on the way to Hoi Ann

Anyway, finally in Hoi Ann. We found a cheap hotel, and hit the streets in search of dinner. With a couple of friendly Dutch girls we found on the bus trip down, we holed up in a little restaurant, and took it upon ourselves to sample as many of the local delicacies as possible. Thankfully, nothing on the menu was more than $4, so for once this was possible. It did not hurt either that they were selling locally brewed beer at the mind-boggling price of VND4000 ($0.25) a glass. Needless to say, the meal was well washed down, and thankfully the Dutch know how to hold their beer. I had a feeling I was going to like Hoi Ann.

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Published in: on 28/09/2010 at 7:31 pm  Comments (2)  
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