|I'm happy to have seen our last "open bus" today on our way to Hue. My advice to others considering which bus company to use? Wake up around 7:30 and sit in Saigon/Hanoi and watch the buses depart ... and really look at them (even get on one if you can). I'll just say that there were some amazing buses leaving Saigon and ours (TM Brothers) wasn't one of them.
Northward we go. The much praised mountain pass ("pass of the ocean clouds") is supposed to offer beautiful views of the ocean and coast. Instead, the bus disappeared into a tunnel longer than any I've ever seen: it took five minutes of highway driving to get through it and you couldn't even see the light from the end for most of the way. As we re-emerged into daylight, I glimpsed a sign posting it was 6300 meters long. No wonder it took a while!
The remainder of our day in Hue gave us some time to mail my suits and other stuff home. About 5 pages of documents later and about four different prices ($75, then $70, then $60 ... but that's where it stopped sadly), our things were boxed, wrapped, and destined for Canada. We then went for a relaxing walk across the "Perfume River" (ironically named it seems) to the Imperial Palace with a stop at a local restaurant for dinner. Tasty local dishes (you wrap up fried veggies and beef in rice paper with bits of green banana, mint, watercress, and cucumber, then dip it in peanut sauce ... yum) and almost best of all I got a free bottle opener!! Well, actually its a stick with a metal screw through it that they wrote the name of the restaurant and the date on ... but what better way to open a can of beer, I ask you?? We watched the family (must have been about ten of them) milling about the restaurant, children crawling through the kitchen, a grandmother directing operations in some cryptic way, all while traffic honked its way past on the street behind us. A typical dinner ... but wouldn't have it any other way (though Laura and I switched chairs at one point so she wouldn't see one of the family picking their nose and the child who looked about to pee in the kitchen). Best just to enjoy the food in my opinion ... what you don't know won't hurt you (and if it does, well you better be damned sure you enjoyed the meal that did it).
Tomorrow we explore Hue in earnest. Its bigger than the last couple of cities we've been to, but we'll try to manage our sightseeing on foot or bicycles if we can.