Hué is the old imperial capital of Vietnam, it's also near the soil from which one half of the family tree springs. Originally, the plan was to drive up from Ho Chi Minh City, but as this would take away from sight seeing and be prohibitively difficult for the frailer members of the party, we split forces allowing us more time in both cities. We booked inexpensive airfare with JetStar Pacific, on very short notice. We had a fantastic buffet dinner at the Center Cafe: sushi, carving stations, hot pot ingredients, pho, pasta, cold cuts, desserts and more.
We spent the morning shopping in An Duong which is located beneath our hotel. The prices are comparable to Ben Thanh. The Young (Beautiful) Vietnamese-American Women's Association of the Midwest are on a quest to find replica (i.e. knock-off) name brand purses. Although not informed of the rules, this is apparently a competition to locate the best price on the best purse. Competition is fierce as the haggling skills and buyer's remorse varies drastically between the contestants. I have been drafted as impartial judge, who occasionally breaks from the action to negotiate deals on wood, bone, and stone craft items. So far I've found some fine local crafts, that I've been able to haggle down in price.
Domestic air travel in Vietnam is...interesting. First, with same geometric laissez faire that is used to load mopeds is applied to carry on: redundantly taped cardboard boxes, obviously oversized suitcases, and too many items. Bitter verbal battles raged at the check in counter. Then there is a near panic about getting on and off the plane. The que is more of a suggestion than a rule, and everyone has a gleam of fear that that they will be the last one to hurry up and wait to have their ticket collected, wait for the bus to take us to the plane, wait to get on the plane, wait to get off the plane, wait to take the next bus to the terminal, and then wait for the checked baggage.
We did not have much time to explore Hué, night falls like a curtain and this being the rainiest city in Vietnam, a fine drizzle greeted us on arrival (as did a bumpy landing). The city is charming on first glance, the traffic is laminar compared to the turbulence of Ho Chi Minh City. Our hotel is a charming renovation of colonial times. Dark wood doors contrast with the light rattan furniture, a small veranda overlooks the Perfume River, the whole effect makes one feel as if we accidentally stepped onto the set of Indiana Jones.
We had dinner at the Riverside Restaurant which was deserted. Now if the volume has anything to say about the quality of the food, the rest of the food in Hué may just cause nirvana and end war, because the food was excellent, I had a grilled beef kabab and I was able to taste the ginger and lemon grass chicken that the others got. We also got the area specialty, banh khoai, a crispy egg shrimp and egg pancake as an appetizer.
Time for me to say some "Hail Loperamide's" for an unknown gastronomical transgression. Orbitz be praised.