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Day 34– January 3rd: Hai Lang to Hue: 49kms
I got up at 5.45 am and took my time, checking that all my riding clothes were dry. I got everything downstairs and loaded the bike. There were other guys there now; I had heard them arrive during the night. I think they’re traveling salesmen or something like that. The woman at reception returned my passport, and I was immediately away around 7.00 am.
My first concern was to find a coffee. Mornings are hard enough without a coffee to perk me up a bit. I found a cafe open on the other side of the big bridge and quickly made short work of it.
Conditions on the highway were foggy and damp. You’d think I was used to the dull and dreary conditions by now, but I’m not; it does nothing for my spirits riding alone.
Approaching a large city like Hue, the ancient capital, the volume of traffic increased noticeably, especially the buses and trucks with their constant blasting of horns. As I pushed along, I passed several wedding tents set up on the side of the highway. I couldn’t help but think there couldn’t be a worse place to put them, but this is obviously a tradition here in Vietnam that is firmly adhered to, as I’ve seen it many times before. You can usually hear the wedding tents well before you can see them, even on the busy highway. Their giant speaker stacks emit an ear-piercing volume that burns your ears and rattles your back teeth. I have no idea why it has to be so loud.
As it was a shorter day today, I decided not to stop and eat. I had gone without breakfast and lunch, but I didn’t feel too bad at all. As I entered the outskirts of the city, the bike traffic really picked up, and I was suddenly riding shoulder to shoulder again with scooters everywhere. It was almost claustrophobic, being totally surrounded by them. I pulled over alongside the canal on Le Duan and mounted my phone on the handlebars. With all this traffic, it was hard to see what was coming up, and I’d need to know early when to get over so I could turn left along the Perfume River.
Watching my GPS carefully, I drifted over left through the thick traffic just before the large intersection at the river. A red light enabled me to weave around, edge up closer to the front, and get a head start. As the light began to turn green, I darted left in front of the oncoming traffic with a couple of other scooters, using them as a block. I’d seen this done many times in Saigon before, so I wasn’t exactly new to it.
Riding down along the front of the Imperial Citadel complex, I took a right-hand turn onto the Phu Xuan bridge and rode over the Perfume River towards our nearby hotel. Sharyn was waiting for me at the gorgeous Scarlett Boutique Hotel, tucked away in a lane off of Ben Nghe, not far from the river.
By now, I was starving and looking for something a bit more hearty than Pho. After a quick shower, we headed out for a late lunch, finding an Italian place just around the corner. I filled the gap in my appetite with pizza and headed back to the room for a nap.
Sharyn had already found a craft beer bar yesterday just up and around the block, so we headed over there around 4 pm. Unfortunately, the Cham Bar was closed, so after some study, we took a longer walk to the only other craft beer place we could find on Google Maps, Imperial Craft Beer.
We found the Imperial nestled in the middle of a maze of cozy, tree-lined streets. Shaun, the American owner, was on hand to have a chat about the craft beer scene in Central Vietnam while we put away a variety of beers. They have ten beers on tap as well as some of their own brewed on-site. As we didn’t know the area at all, we also stayed for a bbq dinner at the bar and met a few other ex-pats as well as his Vietnamese wife, Minh. It was great to be among the English speakers again!
Read on to see what happened next: Rainy Days and Sundays.