To get to Hue from Ninh Binh we travelled by train. Not a particularly cheap option at $280 but for this we were getting two cabins and the pleasure of being in them for 11 hours. We arrived at the station and glanced over to see a young couple sitting having coffee we exchanged greetings and commented on our envy of their jar of vegemite siting on their table - It is the only thing we forgot to pack and we are craving something savoury to put on some toast after all the super sweet jams. It turned out they were both from Wellingon so we had a bit of chat them went on our way in opposite directions. The thing that most intrigued them was how come the two of them had more luggage than the five of us!
Waiting at the station
Anyway we boarded our train and it would be fair to say it was worse than expected. One of the staff was ushered out of my cabin which he had been using for a fag break. There was used tissues on the bed, spit on the floor and hair all over the sheets - have we sold it to you yet? Matt confesses he was warned not to book on that train as it was not a good standard and a better option was returning to Hanoi to catch the more western train down which didn't stop in Ninh Binh. This would have however added another 4 hours to our journey - so the attitude of "how bad can it really be" had been taken. Once the journey had started we had our first bit of excitement when the train hit something. There was an enormous crash and we stopped suddenly causing Bella to knock her head and cry. There was lots of commotion outside as locals ran over to the front of the train. However as we were in the last carriage we didn't get to see what it was - probably for the best. It seems an incident report was not required as we started our journey again within a few minutes.
Here it is - won't post the one of the toilet
The trip itself actually went quite smoothly. We saw plenty of rice fields being harvested, water buffalo and corn. The kids were brillant and didn't fuss at all. They enjoyed the experince of being on a train for a while then played on the iPads and watched a movie. We all had a lunch of crackers and chips (the train fodder didn't look worth the risk) and drank plently of water. All except me who went through a self dehydration program so I didn't have to use the train toilets (they were gross). Much to my dismay I had to take Bella about 5 times though - an experience to behold as you try and keep yourself and a little person standing but not touching anything - yuck!! We finally arrived at 7.30pm after hopping on the train at 8.00am. It was a great relief to arrive at our accommodation, disinfect in the showers and tuck those tired little kids into bed.
Tob - "laxing" in the pool
The surrounds very peaceful after the bussle of the city
The accommodation in Hue which was recommended by Gary is a lovely retreat after a busy couple of weeks in big cities. The rooms are spacious, the gardens are lovely and we are making the most of the 40metre swimming pool. The crazy thing is it is only costing us $130 for two interconnecting rooms as they are offering a 50% discount at this time of the year (really makes us question the $90 we pay to put our tent up at the top 10 holiday park). In the first few days we've spent our afternoons just swimming and relaxing at the resort and caught up on a bit of school work. Each morning after breakfast we've headed in to town visiting the markets and one morning the Citadel. The Citadel was built in the early 1800's and covers a large area but only 20 of the 148 original buildings contained in it survived the French and American wars.
One of the buildings at the citadel
We found our first big supermarket and stocked up on supplies water and beer. To buy water and beer at the resort is $6 each as opposed to 60 cents in the supermarket. The thing that struck me in the supermarket were the rows of milk powdered "Complan" like nutritional supplements that were all security tagged. They were expensive and obviously in such high demand that this was a priority with many especially for kids.
We have also had clothes made a silk top for me $15 a dress for Holly $20 and some trousers and a top for Matt $25 hard to believe the prices. Matt has been wanting to get Toby a Dinosaur hunting uniform made so off he went today to the tailors choosing the fabric, colour and style. I anxiously look forward to seeing the finished product tomorrow with Toby's name embroidered on the shirt with junior paleontologist under it. Later...... Well am pleased to say Tob's uniform is a big hit. Matt did well conveying the design he had all the ladies laughing at his request I have to say ordering XXL clothes was a bit depressing until I bought some togs for Bellie - she needed a size6!
We had a trip to the beach via Khai Dinh and Tu Duc tombs and the enormous statue of warrior Quang Trung. The beach was lovely and deserted but had a strong current so was not particularly relaxing. We had a cheap seafood lunch that turned out to be really expensive when we inadvertently ended up ordering everything in 1kg quantities - yip my fault again. Anyway after a very much unfinished lunch of crab, (which Matt had massacred and left 3-4 meals inside the crushed shell) and prawns we headed back to the resort along with a kilo of sand.
Kai Dinh Tomb
Drying the rice on the side of the road
Dinners were spent most nights in town in one particular Street where all the kids got to know the shopkeepers well. They enjoyed Octopussy the most, mainly because the staff let them play pool out the back. They mastered a few more Vietnamese phrases - often being asked if they are going to school here as their memory and pronounciation is so good.
The kids favourite place - Octopussy
We couldn't leave Hue without heading to the Dong Ba Market to purchase conical hats. Hue is where the conical hat originated from and the kids had all been dying to get one. Toby only because then he would look like the "master" from Ninjago - apparently. We weaved our way throught the narrow market alleys past all the smells and sights and general grabbing of the kids. Past stall after stall of tigerbalm, clothes, household cleaners (of which there was none in the general supermarket) and our favourite highly aromatic pressed dried salted squid. So we emerged some time later with 3 conical hats and just $3 lighter.
3 little Ninjas