Swimming through Central Vietnam.

We woke up bright and early the next morning..upon the insistence of the bus driver! For some reason, we were being subjected to Vietnamese music, up to full boar, at 5.30 in the morning. Go figure! I was not about to psychoanalyse this as well, but I did go and politely ask him to turn it down. On the bright side, it couldn’t possibly get worse than the night before (recall the kung-fu fighting)…..or could it? This is Vietnam.

I had read that Hue boasts some of Vietnam’s most aggressive touts, but I was not really prepared for what was about to happen upon our arrival. It was mid-morning when we arrived, and we were virtually mauled as we stepped off the bus, with a range of people trying to sell us accommodation at their hotel.


Have I previously mentioned how very difficult it is to listen to a multitude of people all at once? One man was tranquilly telling us about his hotel, when another almost bowled him over, wedging himself between us, and then placing himself almost on top of me, as he began to give us his spiel. In no mood at all after last night, I put my hand up to his face and told him that he would have to step back a little and wait, as I was speaking to someone else. He got all hoity-toity and aggressively asserted that, no, I had to speak to him then and there! I don’t think so! I was in no mood after last night! I virtually barked at him, and screamed that I chose who I spoke to, and when, and where! He did not like that at all! As he came towards me, and his hand approached my shoulder and pushed me back, it was again on for young and old. It was like the sequel to the night before! Again, Alex was bellowing at him to lay off me. There was another karate kick on Alex’s behalf, followed by someone hitting him on the back of the neck (luckily, he was not hurt). When I saw Alex hit, it was my turn to see red, and this time it was my turn to go wild. I was like a dog with rabies, and it was with virtual spittle oozing from my mouth that I howled at him. Livid, I bellowed that he was a disgrace to his people. I went on to cry that bullying and being aggressive is not the way to treat people. The piece de resistance, was when I was several inches away from his face, begging him to show all of his friends what a man he was by punching me! Needless to say, that did not occur and he ran away like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs! By this point I was hyperventilating, and needed to sit down and cool off! I was by no means proud of my public display of anger at all. I had had a rather large audience of both Vietnamese as well as foreigners, but I repeat, this behaviour is NOT all right, and I will not let it happen and do nothing about it! I will not be complacent! I am currently well aware that after some 14 months, patience is no longer my best friend! Not that it ever was!

With kung-fu episode number two out of the way, it was on to look for a place to stay. Luckily, we were very close to the bulk of the budget accommodation, and found a decent place to stay, rather quickly. It even came with a computer in our room, at virtually no extra charge! That was a first! But, you will later learn that it was a blessing in disguise! Once settled, we had a relaxing afternoon walking around Hue, and taking in its atmospheric surroundings. This place is all about art and architecture, and it’s packed with palaces, pagodas, temples and tombs. We were hoping for a cultural injection, and the next day provided us with just that.

Hue is justifiably famous for its Imperial City, or Imperial Enclosure, housing the emperor’s residence and the main buildings of the state. As most of Hue’s sights and population reside within the 2 kilometres thick, 10-kilometre walls that surround the city, the Imperial closure really is a citadel within a citadel. We had a wonderful, and very laid back afternoon wandering around and exploring. In true Vietnamese style, peak hours were packed with package tourists, but as they only go and look at the “main” buildings, the rest is wide open for relaxation and exploration. We felt like we had been thrown back in time, as we walked up, around and over parts of buildings that were hundreds of years old. We walked into the Halls of the Mandarins when we were suddenly shaken from our tranquil dream. This building is the one in which the mandarins prepared for the court ceremonies. I could almost imagine the royal splendour…… we walked in to find a cheesy tourist set up in which one can pose….in Imperial costume…on the throne…and…….for a price! Alex and I sat down, observed, and chuckled quietly. I think it was part of the Asian Disneyland theme!

Later in the day, we visited a museum, which was housed in an exquisite building which was once a school for princes and the sons of high-ranking mandarins. I felt the most fascinating part to be the collection of several old war tanks out the front. As I walked past, read and observed, a tingle shot up and down my spine. I have never understood, do not understand and will never understand war! What a waste of sooooooooo many things, and needless to say, lives!


Luckily we got in a bit of sightseeing in Hue because the next day it was all over! The skies opened and it hammered (as in poured) for some thirty-five hours! I have categorically never seen anything like it in my life! It was raining elephants and whales! Get the picture? It reached the point where it was impossible to even walk around! Step in a computer in our room! All we did over the next two days was sleep, relax, and get brilliant value out of our “in-house” computer! Occasionally, we would step, or I should say wade, out for a meal. At one point the water was knee high, and over dinner one night we actually saw a tourist jump out and have a swim in the street. I should mention that it was the rainy season in Vietnam, and only a few weeks earlier there had been a major typhoon. As my Dad will attest to, I have this amazing penchant of rocking up to places just before or after some major catastrophe has occurred! I want to make a special mention of Brown Eyes Cafe, run and owned by the very affable Bich (pronounced Big)….great food, great portions, great coffee, and a great person! As it was only a short swim away from our hotel, and due to the horrendous weather, we virtually lived there for a few days! Bich assured us that this kind of weather this time of year was actually quite normal!


After being couped up for a couple of days, we decided that it was time to move on. It had not stopped raining completely, but at least the elephants and whales seemed to have stopped falling from the sky. So, we booked an overnight bus to Hoi An, which is further down the coast.

Hoi An was once a sleepy riverside village, but now firmly set on the tourist trail, well, the tourists are now busting from its seams! And speaking of seams, this is the place to have anything sewn and made -up, from jackets to shoes! This is definitely one of the town’s claims to fame! The old, or historical centre oozes charm, with its old wooden buildings, many sitting right on the edge of the Thu Bon River. Whilst we did spend a couple of days here, it pretty much rained the entire time, but not as heavily as it had in Hue. Having said that, it was heavy enough to not be able to hire a bicycle, and/or explore properly on foot. Yes, I did attempt to get a couple of pairs of shoes made, which ended up being a small disaster, but I managed to escape without the disastrous shoes, and persuaded the lady to sell me a newly made “sample” pair! I am personally not into having things made up. My theory is if you try it and fits you, buy it! Having things made up especially seems to include too many “unknown” factors and probabilities. Not into that! The street food was also great here. To be honest, it seems to get better as you move down the coast and get further away from China, where it begins to lose that Chinese influence (as it has up north).

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day! Over, over, over it! Time to move on, so we booked another overnighter to Nha Trang. What can I say, another day (or night!), another adventure! What was supposed to be an overnight trip, ended up finishing at around 1.00pm the next day? Why? Because part of the road was so flooded that it was impassable! The bus had to stop for some 5 hours, as we waited for the water level to drop enough to…well, pass! Needless to say, we were so over it upon our arrival, and all we wanted was a place to dump our bags and chill out. We settled on a small, and clean room, in a quiet part of town, which was still central. This part of the country also had rain predicted, but we had to stop somewhere. Luckily, we were in luck, so to speak. We only spent a couple of days here, and the weather was great! Great, as in no rain!


Nha Trang is known for its pristine beaches and its scuba diving. The former? Well, I am Australian, and a thus a bit of a beach snob! Yeh, the beach was OK. The latter? After weeks of alluvial downpours, we were told that the visibility was shocking. So, we bypassed both and opted for a mud bath at the Thap Ba Hot Spring Centre. It was a five-kilometre walk out of town, and an interesting walk at that. We had to pass the Cai River, where we saw traditional houses on stilts, lots of fishermen, lots of fish drying out in the open (and on piles of rubbish at that!), and the subsequent smell that came with it! It was obviously an area which was quite poor. It’s amazing to see how the real people live, only kilometres out of the central area, where most foreigners end up staying. We also stopped to see Po Nagar Cham Towers, which were built between the 7th and 12th centuries. The pagodas and temples are very beautiful, and very tranquil, and to this day Cham, ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists come to pray and make offerings, according to their respective traditions.


A little further on, we arrived at the Thap Ba Hot Spring Centre. What a brilliant way to chill out and do something both different and healthy at the same time! Our experience began with sitting and slopping around in a wooden tub full of hot thermal mud, after which we baked in the sun for a while, waiting for it to dry. A bit like a face mask, but all over your body! We then washed off and got to soak in another wooden bathtub, this one full of soothing natural mineral water. After this “treatment” there were plenty of other pools of varying temperatures to laze and lie about it. We did them all, and loved it! Needless to say, we felt exhausted after all the pampering and relaxing. Not about to walk back after all that, we caught a ride on a couple of motorbikes, which is very much the done thing in the country.


We only had a little over a week left before our Vietnamese visas would run out, so we decided to move on, and check out Dalat in the central highlands. The weather was pleasantly fresh here, and the vibe quite different to the coast. Actually, it was quite different to anywhere we had visited in Vietnam. Once a former French colonial outpost, it looked a little more like the French Alps. Whilst it did not pour, there was certainly on and off drizzle. We managed to eat some great food here, finding a local place with some girls who were able to help translate the menu (as we were the only foreigners in there). This ensured real, traditional food at local prices. Remember the old saying when you are into a good thing………….yep, we stuck to it, and went back several times. We also walked a few kilometres out of town and took a cable car to a temple close by. The views of the surrounding and very lush countryside were breathtaking, and the temple was an oasis of calm. A beautiful end to our short time in Dalat. Very close to the Xuan Huong Lake (created by a dam in 1919), I went for a run here for the short duration of our stay here. It can be circumnavigated along a 7-kilometre path which runs all the way around it, and past many of Dalat’s main sights, including a flower garden. So, I got to sightsee whilst running!


Speaking of running, time to move on. Last but not least we would be off to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), from where we wanted to cruise the Mekong Delta by boat, before finishing up in Cambodia.



This time I will leave you not with a quote, but a poem of sorts. It (along with some comments)was sent to me by a friend, Samantha Bulmer, after she read our last blog. She writes:
First they came is a poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller(1892 -1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.


When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
This poem is the perfect punctuation for the story of the hotel bully. As soon as I read your blog I remembered this poem. Poignant. Perfect. Enjoy yourselves and keep out of trouble. If that is at all possible.”

Thanks, Sam! The poem and your comments simply further aid in highlighting how destructive and damaging complacency and inactivity are. Until we take a stance, we will continue to see history repeating itself!

(Photos:1.- Communist, or is that socialist propaganda? 2.- Hue architecture. 3.- Eaves on a traditional house in Hue. 4.- Inside the Imperial City, Hue. 5.-Inside the Imperial City, Hue. 6.-War memorabilia, Hue. 7.- Trying to keep dry in the alluvial downpours, Hue. 8.- Another day, another alluvial downpour, Hoi An. 9.- Buying some fresh produce at the local market, Hoi An. 10.- Taken from the bus, as we made our way from Hoi An to Nha Trang. 11.- Stilt houses and boats along the canals, Nha Trang. 12.- Soaking up the mud, hot springs, Nha Trang. 13.- Washing “on the line”, Dalat. 14.- Competition for China? What exactly is a long dung? Want our version?)


Check out our interactive map on our Start Here page to see where we are now and where we’ve been?  There are still so many countries that are still on our to-do list. What would you recommend? Where would you like to go?

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Alex & Ombi

Alex & Ombi

Ombretta (Ombi) Zanetti is a co-founder of veryitchyfeet.com. She has been travelling the world since 1989 and since 1999 with her partner, Alex, who hails from Ecuador. They both like to venture to the lesser known places. Ombi shares her passion for different cultures through her travel stories and Alex through his lens. Come take a detour or two with them!

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