Left the maddness of Hanoi on an over night 'hard sleeper' train - it does exactly what it says on the tin ...its hard to sleep and the beds dead hard. Mr P had more challenges ahead as he tried to curl into the top bunk which wasdesigned for an asian frame. Next morning he siad (and this is the clean version) "it was like sleeping in a small persons coffin". Despite the comfort levels it was a cool journey leaving Hanoi as the train tracks run only about 1 meter from the houses and shops so you can spy on all the locals as you pass through. Unfortunatly though only 20 mins into the journey the train ground to a halt as it had hit a pedestrian! We shared our carriage with two Singaporians (who started to resemble stalkers over the coming days - we bumped into them everywhere!) and a couple of old vietnamese guys - it was really interesting listening to them talk about the 'American War' - no-one calls it the Vietnam war here.
Arrived in Hue in the early hours and was shocked by the persistance of the Cyclo and motobike drivers - they followed us from the station for 45minutes whilst we walked to our hostel saying "you want motobike" "you want cyclo" - at some points we nearly buckled as it was hot and we hadn't read the scale on the map right but they were SO annoying on principle we kept walking.
In a nutshell, Hue was a bit of a let down. There was nothing great to see and the food was dire. On the first day we went to a restaurant which was recommended in the lonely planet - it should have been easy to find as it was marked on the map and the owner was a deaf mute. We found the restaurant nestled between two others with the same name and curiously run by deaf mutes with signs above the door saying "we are the real restaurant mentioned in lonely planet". We never did work out if we were in the real restaurant but the food was pants!!
We headed out to the market and mooched around the busy, smelly, noisy alleys - its a very interactive experience and in Hue vendors think nothing of grabbing your arm or shouting "You....You buy" at close range. One lady ran after Si shouting "you, you, you buy....what you want to buy?" Simon replied "Peace & Quiet" - strangely the vendor had not heard of this before but with the sniff of a sale in the air she persisted in asking exactly what it was he wanted and could he draw it for her.....you can imagine Simon relished this and it took a good while for her to give up!
We splashed out on a river tour of the Cham ruins (pronounced Sham - you see where this is going!) - $2 for an all day cruise of ruins with lunch included. But as we all no there is no such thing as a free lucnh and when we got on the boat the 'hostess' bought round a notice that read "your lunch is very small, not enough for one person you can buuy more food from my kitchen" . At this point we were so p'eed of with the robbing Vietnamese ways (we can say that only because we have since discovered alll other vietnamsese outside Hue are nice!) that we declined to order more and waited for our lunch. Lunchtime came and we picked to sit near the skinniest couple on the boat working to the principle that if your sharing dishes its best to share with someone with the appetite of a bird. On the menu - fried tofu and green beans. We were delighted as we have benfitted from the 'tofu principle' beofre. The genereal rule of thumb is that westerners don't like tofu so if you avoid tucking into the tofu early and concntrate on the more desired dishes you can bank on having the tofu to yourself at the end - its just like orange quality street at Christmas. So you can imagine our dismay when the couple we were sharing with declared themselves tofu loving veggies who on principle had not ordered any other food for lunch!!
On our last night in Hue we were so down in the dumps about the food situation we went for a curry and dear god it was fantastic!!