After Hanoi, we traveled south to Hue, Vietnam's old royal capital. The palace there is being restored after damage from US bombing and neglect, but the structures that had survived or had been renovated had intricate woodcarvings and an architectural style we hadn't seen elsewhere in SE Asia -- more Chinese influence we're told. We loved waking around the old palace - the architecture was fascinating and it was fun to try to imagine what life must have been like inside the walls - we thought Hue was well worth the diversion on our way to Hoi An.
We'd read about Hue's royal cuisine - delicate flavors - and amazingly intricate dishes. Unfortunately, though we did try many different restaurants, we found that as the money has moved north to Hanoi, so has the gourmet food. The Best food in Hue is found on the streets. The food that real people can afford to eat. Food in restaurants tends to be more for tourists & therefore (in our opinion) less interesting.
A tourist bus service runs the length of the country. You can book a ticket, then hop on and off in any of the major cities along the way. Tickets are very reasonably priced and can be purchased from a tour agency or cafe. It is also relatively inexpensive to hire a van or car and private driver to shuttle you around. For example, a private car from Hue to Hoi An (with stops along the way) cost us about $65.
Hotel Saigon Morin was a clean well located hotel. Breakfast (included in our rate) was served outside in the pleasant pool/courtyard area that the hotel is buit around. Rooms have free internet access with your own laptop.
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