At 7am we arrived at breakfast for toast, bacon and crepes with chocolate sauce. Yum! Half an hour later, we were assembled outside the hotel for our cyclo tour. Cyclos are bicycles with a built-in buggy in the front and a skinny Vietnamese man at the back to take all the fat Western tourists around the city. We were loaded in and cycled through the streets of Hue to the citadel,which was the residence and administration centre of the emperors who reigned from 1802 to 1945. There were various buildings to house the emperor, the emperor’s mother, the emperor’s wives and his many, many concubines. Our guide told us that one emperor had 104 wives, a thousand concubines and 142 children! Once a concubine fell pregnant, she was made a wife of the emperor. The citadel was interesting, although it was pouring with rain so we were pretty glad when we rejoined our cyclos for the trip back. They’d put plastic covers on, just like on a buggy, so we looked like oversized babies being wheeled back to the hotel.
At 10am we were ushered onto to bus once more to drive to Hoi An. It was earlier than originally planned to avoid an incoming typhoon. After a couple of hours, we stopped at a beach-side cafe for some lunch. Our guide said that we’d usually have some time for a swim, but the wind was starting to pick up and the waves were looking pretty ferocious, so we jumped aboard the bus and continued on to Hoi An. On the way we went up a steep mountain road, similar to the roads leading up to ski resorts in the Alps. I suspect it was one of the roads they used on the Top Gear special. At the top of the climb, visibility was absolutely nil. I was looking out the front window and couldn’t see a thing! Still, we made it over the top in one piece and rapidly descended down the other side to rejoin the road to Hoi An.
We arrived mid-afternoon in Hoi An, and did a whistle-stop overview tour of the old town as the winds got steadily stronger and the rain came down. Hoi An really is beautiful. The houses are hundreds of years old and they’re all yellow with tiled roofs. The town has been well looked after and was awarded World Heritage status in 1999. Our guide pointed out some of the sights and good shops so that we’d be able to occupy ourselves sufficiently during our two and a half day stay. He left us after about an hour to wander round by ourselves. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants in Hoi An, so there was no chance of getting bored!
One of Hoi An’s specialities is tailoring. There are over 500 tailor shops who can make clothes just from magazine pictures, with a turnaround time of a day. Our guide pointed out a couple which he said were good, so we toddled down to swanky-looking one called Yaly. As we went inside, we were shown to a little waiting area which had bookcases stacked full of brown files. I said I wanted to look at blazers, so I was handed one of these books which was filled with pictures of various celebrities and models wearing blazer jackets! I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted so I used the books to describe my jacket to the shop assistant (Alice) who then guided me through the vast range of materials. I chose a heavy navy cotton, white piping and a stripy grey lining. Then Alice took photos of me against a height chart, measured me from neck to hip and booked me in for a fitting the following day. It was pretty fun playing with all the styles and materials, and having the freedom to have whatever you want made (within budget!).
After mooching about the tailor for a bit longer while everyone chose their items, we wandered along the streets to check out the shops. There were lots of shops selling handicrafts, including watercolours, silks and jewellery. We went down to the Japanese bridge and saw the river was already flooding from all the rain we’d had, and the typhoon was still 12 hours away! After getting thoroughly soaked, we camped out in a bar before meeting the rest of the group for dinner. On the recommendation of our guide, I had a dish called cha ca. It came as a plate of beautifully herby fish with rice noodles, balanced over a heater. It was amazing, definitely my favourite dish of the whole holiday so far!
After the restaurant, we found a bar which our guide assured us was open until 2am. We were seated on a bed and sampled their reasonable attempt at cocktails. The power flickered on and off a couple of times, and with the water rising and the wind picking up, we got kicked out of the bar at half past 10. We had a splishy splashy walk back to the hotel and found some beers in the hotel fridge. We sat drinking and chatting in one of the girls’ rooms until the power went out at about midnight. I retired to bed at 2am while the others stayed up to see storm hit at about 3am. The high winds and rain apparently lasted until about 7am. I was pretty miffed that I managed to sleep through the whole thing!!
When we got up this morning, we were advised not to leave the hotel until 10am while the winds died down. When we finally went out we there were lots of fallen trees and wires. The flooding wasn’t much worse than when we saw it yesterday. The number of people out on the street cleaning up all the litter and trees was phenomenal. We walked around for a bit and then headed back to the hotel to meet the guide for lunch. He’s promised to take us for local food, which we think may mean dog…!