Myles Harrington

Our Day With The Tran Family

In Vietnam on September 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Hue was our next stop over on the long coast road down to Saigon. We attacked the trip in one long haul from Sapa with an overnight bus to Hanoi, arriving at 4.30am and then an ongoing 10am train to Hue, arriving at 2.30am the following day. A total of 30 hours travelling.

The Vegas bus

As always with these long trips there are highs and lows. A 5am roadside beer in Hanoi was a particular highlight that starved off the imminent tiredness and the 16 hour train journey where we shared cigarettes and the Top Gear Vietnam episode with the conductors was a great memory.

Timer shot for the 5am beers in Hanoi, 12 hour bus ride done and not even half way to Hue

Because we wanted to save as much money as possible we went third class on the train in the wooden hard seat section. Sitting there it’s as if they’re trying to punish you for being cheap, the seats are constructed with slatted boards with a bolt upright back. So we chose to sleep on the dusty floor instead, which was comfortable until we woke up with necks feeling like we’d been in a severe head on collision.

Ready for a rough ride

After eventually finding our guesthouse in Hue at 3am we had a good nights sleep and were ready to crack on with the sightseeing. The heat in the city was immense and the hottest I’ve experienced in a while. We sneaked in to the Imperial Enclosure, Hue’s two hundred year old walled palace, by hiding within the masses of a Vietnamese tour group, therefore saving ourselves a cool 55 grand (£1.80). We stumbled around the heavily bomb damaged ruins in the soaring heat and took the back exit so they wouldn’t recognise us and call us back to pay. We used the money we’d saved to buy a couple of well deserved Huda beers from a street bar by the moat. While we were sipping away at our refreshing beverages a man named Binh and his cute kid came and talked to us. He was insistent we should meet him an hour later at the supermarket by the big bridge, so we agreed, not really being too bothered whether we bumped into him again or not. Half an hour after we missed our appointment he was calling at us from the river bank as we crossed the bridge. He seemed rather annoyed we stitched him up, but calmed down after we shared a Coke by the river side. He asked us what we were doing with our next day in Hue and we told him of our plan to rent a motorbike and go to Thuan An beach and the tombs. He persuaded us that we shouldn’t do that but that him and his wife should take us on their new automatic motorbikes at 8am.

The part of the Imperial Enclosure still standing

As I always tend to do when I have an early start, we got all over excited and turned our evening into a bar crawl, taking in all of the best night spots Hue has to offer. Which to be honest isn’t that many places but a cocktail in each and we were quite Vietnamed. As we were stumbling home one of the moto drivers offered us marijuana, we said no so then he offered dancing. Having been a bit disappointed with the unraucous nature of the city’s party scene we took him up on his offer and scooted off for 10,000 dong (33p) to a relatively cool night club, full of the local Hue hipsters.

The club shut early, as expected in Vietnam, so we were tucked up by 1am but those welcome shots and red bulls hit me hard for the next day’s plans. As promised to Binh this time we made it to the meet up spot on time, where he was with his wife, his cute two-year old son and the brand new motorbikes­­­.

Shubes was on the back of his wife’s bike and I was on the one with Binh and his boy. The boy kept saying on the way to the beach to his dad how we were going to get lots of food and beers on the beach. He was right. By the time I could say hungover, Binh had a kilo of crab and a crate of beer before our eyes. It was only 9am. The crab was delicious, dipped in butter and lime salt but I would have killed for a Marmite and cheese baguette.  I left Shubes to entertain the boy while I had a well needed nap, really rude but they didn‘t seem to mind and I woke up an hour later to find a half cut Binh doing a fantastic impression of a Thai ladyboy.

Crab boy

Next up was lunch, on what was turning into a culinary tour of Hue, we stopped at a special niche restaurant that only serves goat. Binh ordered the most expensive dish on the menu, a whole goat thigh served in a hot-pot with various leaves and noodles. It was sublime and well worth the 75,000 price tag (£2.50) but he made us sample the speciality goat skin, this was not a nice experience given you could still feel the goat’s stubble in your mouth and to swallow it you had to gurn like a ten pill partygoer. We bought lottery tickets from a passing seller and crossed our fingers for a 125,000,000 win that evening.

Shubes loved the goat

Binh could sense we were tired and he was too after getting up for work at 4am and doing a shift at work before meeting us, so he suggested we missed the tombs and headed off back to his house instead. Of course we accepted and had a two-hour nap and bucket shower.

Next up was dinner, lovingly prepared by his nameless wife, who like an 19th century English housewife was there to treat him well and get in the beers. That’s not to say he didn’t love her you could see he really did but he also kept asking to marry Shubes. She declined gracefully, as she had done the four other proposals she’d got at the nightclub the night before. Dinner was a feast of lemongrass clams (amazing, succulent and well seasoned with a delicious soup), fried strips of beef and vegetables (A Vietnamese staple, but done very well) and then rice with chicken that had a delicious honey skin.

The man himself

They drove us back to our guesthouse on their bikes at 9pm and we stopped off to pick up the lottery results. It was the end of a wonderful day where we‘d experienced the best in Vietnamese hospitality and cuisine. We sadly didn’t win the lottery though, that £4166 jackpot would have come in handy to pay off a certain loan.

5k remaining: £1490.15

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  1. This post made me very hungry

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