We flew into Hue to save ourselves the 12-hour train ride. I wasn?t quite sure that my cousin (who?s over six feet tall) would fit into a sleeper compartment so the 6:30am flight from Ha noi was a sacrifice he was willing to make. Hue was the seat of the Vietnamese government up until Ho Chi Minh took over in the late 1940?s. Surprisingly, the government didn?t see the potential for tourism here until very recently and many of the buildings have fallen into disrepair. This is where we really started to feel the heat. The sun was so intense that we spent as much of the afternoon in the shade as possible. Hue was also our first look at Southern Vietnam–where people still call Ho Chi Minh City by it?s former name Saigon.
My cousin persuaded me to get on a motorbike for a tour of the city?s tombs and pagodas. I had avoided motorbike rides up to this point because I am deathly afraid of turning corners in any motorized vehicle–I?ve been in one too many car accidents. The ride turned out to be easy and I didn?t feel like I was going to fly off the back of the bike. My driver (and our guide) was a woman about my age. She was very curious about the American healthcare system (or rather lack thereof) and dating customs. I enjoyed talking to her but would have preferred not to attempt to understand broken English while on the back of a bike travelling through busy city intersections. The tomb of Dai Noi was the most impressive site we visited. Built on a hill overlooking the countryside, every single object was covered in intricate carvings. By contrast, the other tomb we visited, Tu Duc, was practically a shed. The Perfume River is gorgeous running through the hills, I wonder how much of the vegetation we saw is new since the DMZ was removed? Vietnam is a pretty country but I think much of it?s history was destroyed during what they call ?The American War.