After leaving our cozy bungalow in Trang An, we caught a night train from the nearby Ninh Binh city to Hue, located around 600 km south. Taking a night train turned out to be a really good idea as it allows to save lots of time, it's quite an adventure too and I slept just as well as in any hotel.
We arrived to Hue around 8am, just in time to drop off our luggage, get some breakfast and start discovering the imperial city, beginning boldly with 19th-century Citadel.
Although definitely worth visiting, the Imperial Enclosure doesn't offer a lot of possibilities to take great pictures. Expect temples, palaces, emperor's residence and way too many tourists. Still, it is pretty enjoyable as a leisurely stroll and some of the less-visited areas are highly atmospheric.
Within no more than 2 hours we left the place and headed to the city center to soak up the local atmosphere.
Today's Hue successfully blends new and old, remaining a tranquil, friendly city with just the right concentration of nightlife. As usual, the best places to enjoy and shoot, were streets, markets, all the crazy traffic and people.
Among all the places, I particularly enjoyed the night food market, located just next to the banks of Perfume River, under the bridge. It was definitely on of the most picturesque markets I've ever seen, full of most incredible street scenes. Like those two boys, looking a bit incredulous and amused, while listening to a foreteller:
As Hue is quite known for great examples of colonial architecture, we managed to visit a couple of buildings, among which the An Dinh Palace definitely stands out.
Built on the northern bank of the An Cuu River, the Palace is one of the classic structures of Hue imperial city. Beautifully restored as part of a German Government aid project where international specialists trained locals in restoration techniques, it can now be seen in all its re-born splendor.
Unfortunately it wasn't possible to take photos inside, but you can easily imagine its unique fusion of Vietnamese and French artistic and architectural styles both indoors and outdoors.
Our next stop, Hoi An, was located around 145km from Hue and we decided to go there by bus. To our great surprise the bus turned out to be probably the most rad mode of transport that we could get, totally unexpected and so comfortable:
I could hardly be in better shape when arriving to a new place and I highly recommend taking this type of bus. I wish they existed in Europe too!
The stay in Hoi An was so full of fun activities that it would be quite hard to list all of them. Let me just focus on my favorite - Vespa tour around rural villages located near Hoi An.
The best thing about moving around by Vespa is that you can stop whenever you want, chat with villagers, see them working in the fields and workshops, have a good laugh with school kids met on the road, enjoy the peaceful landscape and many more.
While going deeper and deeper into the countryside, it was really cool to stop at the tiny, local coffee roastery, ran by a family.
Although I'm definitely not a coffee drinker, I couldn't help buying a pack of those deliciously smelling grains, making it a perfect gift for my dad ;)
Discovering all the small villages was a great occasion to taste local food for lunch... and even participate in cooking.
Back to Hoi An in the late afternoon and after a little rest at the hotel, we headed to the city center. Just like in Hanoi and Hue, the possibilities for street photography are endless. Markets and streets are so vibrant with life that I hardly ever did I lower my camera, trying to capture as much of it as possible.
However, I think it's no secret that Hoi An looks best at night. Countless, colorful lanterns make the city look absolutely mesmerizing and I could spend hours getting lost in the maze of beautifully lit up streets.
After visiting Hue, Hoi An and the countryside, arriving to Saigon was quite a shock and I can't say that I liked it. At least not at the beginning ;) Gonna tell more about it next Monday!