So here I am in Hue. Not a bad night's sleep all in all, me and five Vietnamese men sharing a compartment, basically similar to Chinese trains, though with a free bottle of water and a pot noodle (!) In contrast, in my hotel I have this huge cool room with air-con, a balcony and my own PC, on this narrow lane full of hotels and funky cafes.
Hue is famous for a number of things, including poets, rain, and getting fucked up in the American War. I am glad they call it that here, and that they forget we were involved too. I am hoping that in the future Iraq will be remembered in the same way so I don't have to feel embarrassed when I am in the Middle East.
So after settling in, I hired a bike to try out the traffic for myself. Actually, though the approach is similar in Hue to Ha Noi, the volume of traffic is considerably less, so it was comparitively safe, probably no more dangerous than at home, albeit with different - not always clear - rules. I like the freedom of a bike, and the speed does help keep you cool.
I had a full though relaxing day planned, beginning with the old Imperial Palace. This was like a mini Forbidden City, but in contrast to the posh Beijing version, a lot of it was in ruins, there were virtually no people there, and no Starbucks. What there was, was very nice though. After a few hours wandering around, I rode off to lunch at this place nearby, which is run by a very extrovert deaf-mute guy. As by this point it was pissing with rain, I stayed there for some hours, having slightly surreal conversations with him while I waited for the rain to stop. In the end I gave up on waiting, gave up on my plan for other places to check out, and rode home in the rain, which was OK in this kind of temperature.
On the plus side, this evening I was eating some more of the regional speciality (like a kind of soggy fajita with this yummy chili-peanut sauce, like a hot satay), when I saw Chris and Abbie, the young Australian couple I was in Ha Long Bay with. They came overnight on the bus, which sounded a bit of a nightmare. However, they were cheerful, and later we met for a drink in the funky traveller bar opposite me.