Hue, a city in central Vietnam, was the location of the old imperial capital. For us, this city was more of a quick stop over before reaching the much anticipated UNESCO World Heritage Site Hoi An. Hue has a lot of history and certainly has much to offer. However, the cold weather, clouds, and rain were putting a damper on our mood and we decided to leave after one day.
There are many ways to arrive to Hoi An from Hue. Bus is the cheapest, and many people take motorbikes to go at their own pace. Because of the weather and most likely wet and muddy roads, Jennifer and I decide to take a private car. This way, we could make the four hour picturesque journey down Hải Vân Pass and stop at various sites along the way. Many tours out if Hoi An offer day trips to see the places we would be passing by, and this way, we could be efficient travelers and see them before we even reached Hoi An.
The road is supposed to be one of the best road trips in the world. Passengers can stop by mountainside temples, Marble Mountain, and go through Da Nang before taking the final stretch to Hoi An. We had read that people who did this road by private car had loved the experience. It was a highly recommended journey, and worth the $20 extra for the car over a bus.
What we didn’t take into account was the dreary weather.
The pounding rain meant that mist and fog covered mountainsides and cliffs, making temples and ocean views impossible. On top of that, we were in a stuffy car, unable to roll down the windows for fresh air. Both of us are prone to motion sickness, and the curves were making my stomach turn. To make matters worse, the driver had to continually dodge potholes and other random objects. We were swerving, stopping, starting and at one point I thought I could run faster than we were driving. For at least 20 minutes we might’ve been going 20 mph.
Our kind driver, who unfortunately did not speak English (my Vietnamese is nonexistent), had been told by our pushy (but he meant well) hostel owner at Hue Happy Homestay to stop at a pre-planned set of tourist attractions. When we realized how miserable we were going to be all day, it was a challenge to communicate we weren’t enthralled with the idea of stepping out of the car only to be drenched and shivering. We didn’t have proper attire to handle it.
Later in the drive, we were more confident in saying “no no! No stopping!” Before we reached that point, we were already knee-deep in water, literally.
Around 45 minutes in, our driver pulled off at a place we later discovered was the Thanh Tâm Resort. It took me a second to recognize we were at a beach. In my nauseous haze It just looked like pellets of rain and angry clouds. A closer, more concentrated look at the coast reminded me of news footage of a hurricane hitting Florida. The palm trees were halfway bent over and the waves were hostile.
The driver pulled up to the front of the resort and said, “you go.” By this point in our trip Jennifer and I were used to following directions without understanding why.
Jennifer got out first and landed in a deep puddle. Her thin Nike running shoes were soaked immediately, and would take until the next day to dry. Seeing her mistake, I waited for the driver to pull to the opposite side of the parking lot and I went in another entrance. I thought it was another entrance to the resort but soon found myself in a maze of the kitchen, another eating area, back porch, then the main eating area with hundreds of people, and finally to the front entrance where Jennifer had been anxiously awaiting me. It took me a while.
Approaching, I noticed she had already made a friend. Nguyen, the tour guide turned manager, was our bright sun in the disappointing circumstances. He was explaining the bustle – they had a private party of 400 people eating that day. To all of our comments he answered with a big smile and “THAT’S RIGHT!” We were grateful he was so kind and welcoming when we ourselves had no idea why we had just crashed a party of 400. To commemorate the day, we made this video at the resort to send to friends and family. Taking ginger tea to go, we got back in the car and stomached the rest of the three hour ride.
Why do I think it’s important to know this? Make sure you check the weather, and make sure you do your research. We had been recommended this journey for its insanely beautiful landscape. But by paying extra and not considering the implications of rain, we were stuck with headaches and seats that smelled vaguely of mildew. That’s right!
Top photo: pedestrian crossing in Hue