08.04.2012 - 11.04.2012
Before we arrived in Hue, the bus stopped in dong Ha which is about two hours from Hue. Dong Ha is very close to the old DMZ (De-militarized zone) and while we were having breakfast there, the cafe owner asked us if we wanted a tour of the DMZ and then continue on to Hue on a different bus. We decided to do the trip but there was some confusion about the price which didn't become apparent until we were well into the trip. We ended up being overcharged but it was our own fault for not being clear enough at the beginning because we were tired. So if you do it, make sure you agree the price beforehand.
We went to the old DMZ where Vietnam was divided into two by the Ben Hai river. They had reconstructed the old bridge and we learned a lot about the history of the war. Then we went to the Vinh Moc tunnels which was excellent. We learned that sixty families had built two kilometers of tunnels with some being as deep as twenty five meters. They lived there on and off for six years while the war was fought and it was also one of the most heavily bombed sites by the Americans, who unsuccessfully tried to collapse the tunnels. The tunnels are mostly unchanged and I had to bend over in most of them (I'm 6ft), so my back was a little sore after roughly an hour walking through them, so I couldn't imagine being in there for six years. They had tiny rooms for each family, storage rooms, a hospital and only one toilet for six hundred people, which was a hole. Also they had limited light so they mostly lived in the dark. When I turned my flashlight off it was pitch black. Also, as far as they know, at least seventeen babies were born underground in the dark. Being there was a surreal experience and a major eye-opener.
After the tunnels we got a bus to Hue where we stayed in a great hotel called Phuong Lan for three nights. The staff were very friendly and helpful and got us a room in Hoi before we left. Great service.
That night we went to Huebackpackers and had 2-4-1 pizza, which was pretty crap. We stayed there for a while drinking and chatting, then we went to Octopussy with an English couple for a few games of pool. It wasn't great there so we went to Browneyes. It had a good crowd at the beginning but then emptied out quickly. We went for a second dinner, and then home. In general I thought the tourist strip was overpriced and the food was inferior to that in the North. They were small portions and not very tasty.
The next day we rented bikes and toured around, and outside the city. We went to the Khai Dinh tomb, which was nice. Then, after some navigational errors, we finally found Ho Quyen, or Tiger Arena. This was were the old Emperors used to get tigers and elephants to fight each other. It wasn't a fair fight though as the tigers were drugged and had their fangs broken before the fight. The Emperors wanted the elephants to win because they represented the Monarchy, and tigers represented rebellion. You could go inside the rooms where the tigers were kept and see the claw marks in the walls. These may have been real or not, but it was still sad to think about what happened there.
Next we went to the Citadel which was where the Emperors lived. There we saw a real elephant who nearly knocked out a silly woman who got too close when taking photos. That was funny. The Citadel is in a bit of disrepair and wasn't particularly amazing in my opinion. They were also setting up stages and dinner tables for some event, which detracted from the history of it all. It was the Hue festival while we were there, which was pretty cool.