Hue and a bus ride to Phong Nha
We only had half a day in Hue because of the additional Day in Hoi An. The Bus we had booked with Hung Than Travel was scheduled to start to Phong Nha at 4:30 pm. That meant we had to skip all the Kings Graves and sights further out of the city, and instead just took a look at the citadel, which was within walking distance. That way we also got a short look on the city of Hue by daylight before we had to take off again.
Even though many buildings of the citadel have been destroyed and only a few have been restaurated, it is very impressive. In the coming years some more are to be rebuilt, and currently they have models and a 3D rendering of how the area should have looked like when intact.
The citadel is a big complex, but the really interesting part is the Imperial City (or purple city, forbidden city) within the citadel. It was built in the style of the Chinese, similar to the forbidden city in Peking.
The way into the imperial city first led us through the Meridian Gate, which is the greatest of the four gates.
Right in front of us was then the "Hall of the highest harmony" (no idea how that really would be call, but that's the translation of our german guidebook), which is also the throne room.
Inside visitors aren't allowed to take pictures, but it was beautiful. Everything red and golden, and the hall itself very empty. Just a big, vast space and a throne. Out on the other side, we realized that we had already seen the most interesting things. The remaining buildings were halls for ambassadors etc., a reading pavilion and gardens. Or haven't been rebuilt yet. Nevertheless they were also really nice to look at.
It was again a very hot day, and after a few hours, and a few bottles of water, we were glad we’d gotten to see the citadel, but not all too sorry that we couldn't go out to the tombs and memorials for the old Kings. We spent some time in the gardens and explored the many small pavillions and then made our way back to the hotel.
We packed our things and waited for the bus that was going to take us to Phong Nha. The reviews we had read about Hung Than bus travel had been mixed and most were not too enthusiastic, so we were a bit worried how things would turn out. We had ultimately chosen it because it was the bus to Phong Nha that left the latest in the day. When we were picked up by a small van we at first were a bit scared that we’d have to sit in the cramped space for the four hour ride to the National Park, but it just brought us to a gas station out of the city center, where the real bus was waiting. A sleeper bus. We had tried to avoid those as we had been told that Tim would have a hard time fitting in the seats. This one we hadn’t expected, since we weren’t really traveling through the night, and only for four hours.
But for this ride, the bus wasn’t very crowded and none of the horror stories we’d read before came true. I actually found the sleeper bus quite comfortable. Tim had a bit of a hard time because the seats obviously weren’t made for people as tall as him but he also thought it wasn’t as bad as expected. After a while he even managed to fold himself into the seat. We did have the advantage of the bus not being too full, only two passengers that got on later had to sit on the floor up front, so we could just leave our bags in the aisle. I can imagine bus travel to be a lot worse, when the bus is full, and people are sleeping on the floor as we had read on some blogs.