We were very excited to leave Hanoi because we knew we were heading to the China Sea to celebrate the New Year, beer in hand, on a sandy beach. We first flew to the charming city of Hue to spend a few days exploring the city and then we headed towards the city of Hoi An for a week on the beach – finally! Unfortunately for us, Typhoon Nock-Ten disrupted our plans by bringing us a week of rain that made us feel like we were in the middle of the monsoon season. We had drizzle, light rain, plenty of heavy rainfall and the streets were flooded right outside our hotel. The rice fields were full of water, the beach was closed for swimming and walking downtown was a nightmare. Since we are true adventurers (read stubborn), the rain did not prevent us from going out of our hotel room and it’s wet as wet can be that we spent this week and a half near the China Sea.
The Citadel of Hue
The main attraction in Hue is a citadel built between 1804 and 1834, therefore relatively recent, but which is unfortunately in ruins due to the Indochina War and the Vietnam War. The site is huge and there is plenty to see. Exploring it took us a whole day. We visited the main attractions of the Citadel, including the Royal Theater, Co Ha Gardens, Mandarins Pavilion, Thai Hoa Palace etc. We also visited the Royal Museum of Art outside of the Citadel but included in the ticket. Although the signs were giving a lot of information about the important families that lived in the Citadel through the years, what really caught our attention was the anthropological aspect of this little city, much as we had often appreciated in other sites in Europe. It was very pleasant to imagine how people spent their days inside the walls of the Citadel, in the magnificent buildings or in the huge gardens.
Conclusion on a special day
To conclude this great day, we still had something very important to do … to celebrate the ninth birthday of our super champion Hugo! Since it was his special evening, Hugo decided that we were going to eat SUSHI for dinner! We went to the restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet and Travelfish, the restaurant Ta:Ke ??☺️! The sushi was really good and if we were really tired of eating bad sushi in Calgary, eating amazing ones made us addicted to sushi again. To conclude this special evening, Simon and Kolya braved the heavy rain to get a birthday cake. Fortunately, Simon had spotted a bakery when he went out the night before to pick up dinner, so it was easy enough to get a cake. The cake was really sweet so Hugo really enjoyed his birthday celebration. He even received a beautiful bouquet and a bowl of candies from the nice women working at the hotel.
Rain in Hoi An
Where our real disappointment began was when we arrived in Hoi An. We traveled to our hotel, far from the city but two minutes from the beach. We had booked a large family room for the week in prevision for our incredible week at the beach. Unfortunately, we had rain every days except one day and the morning of the day we were leaving, so we could only swim a little during that week. Even though we took advantage of the large room we had to spend a bit of time in it, we went out almost every day despite the bad weather and walked a lot under the rain. We visited the old town of Hoi An during many days and evenings. We visited some temples and some museums which were rather small but still interesting. We drank pudding-like hot chocolate-coconut blend that Simon must absolutely learn to make (after the hot chocolate we had in Italy and those of Vietnam we realized that pudding-like hot chocolate was the best way to enjoy this drink). We walked around town to enjoy the lanterns after sunset and sampled some of the local eateries. Another activity we enjoyed was to get custom-made clothes for Simon. For once, this thick-necked man will be able to wear an adjusted shirt while being able to close the collar to wear a tie without risking to die of suffocation. It was a lot of fun to choose the style of the suit and to choose the fabric, to get measured and to spend time in the fitting room to make the necessary modifications for a completely made to measure suit. We went to a place recommended by the travel guide and although it was more expensive than other tailors in town, this tailor had his workshop on site and could do the adjustments right away, which was a bonus. The final result was very good for a fraction of the price that this would have been in Canada. Now we just have to see how the suits will stand the test of time!
Short excursion out of Hoi An
We took advantage of a day of light rain to make an excursion outside of Hoi An in a truly special place: the Ruins of My Son. These ruins are recognized as a World Heritage Site by Unesco and we chose to take a guided tour to learn more about the places. We learned that these Hindu ruins are the most important relics of the Cham Empire, some being as old as the 4th century. These ruins are the largest relics in Vietnam and are located in an enchanting place, nested in the middle of the mountains. Unfortunately they were discovered and looted by French explorers and also damaged by the Americans during the Vietnam War in order to destroy the ammunition that was stored there by the Communists. All the same, the visit was worth it. Some ruins are impeccably preserved despite the vegetation which is omnipresent and which honestly adds a little something to the place. Another intriguing aspect of the site is the technique and materials that were used for the construction of the buildings and that is still to this day misunderstood by anthropologists who have analyzed the places. Indeed, even the modern restorations that were made on the premises does not compete in durability against the original structure. We concluded this day of exploration by taking a short boat ride back to Hoi An.
As you see, even though it rained a lot, we managed to do a lot of things during that week and a half. In addition, we managed to enjoy a bit of respite from the rain to swim in the China Sea, so it will not have all been in vain!