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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

There were two places in Vietnam I was told to skip or only visit briefly: Saigon and Hue. These were also the two cities in Vietnam that I had local friends of friends to show me around. I ended up having a great time in both. Hue is a relatively small city, with around 300,000 residents. There is a considerable amount of tourism as it was the imperial capital of Vietnam. I stayed in the Hue Backpackers’ Hostel, which was not my kind of place, but the price was right. It was mostly 19 year old British kids getting drunk. I love to party, but this is not my idea of a good time. My special lady friend taught English in Hue and had a couple of her Huean? friends show me around town. Her friend An took me to a popular pagoda that wasn’t far from the city center. It was a pagoda; nothing mind blowing, but nice and peaceful. I did get asked to pose with people for photographs, which made me feel special. The real fun started after the pagoda: food! An took me to a place on the way back to the city for some beef noodles. They were cheap and delicious. For dinner, we went to a small local joint near the citadel and had some really good clam noodles for only 5000 dong ($.25) each! For a sense of comparison, the naan I had at the Indian restaurant in the backpackers’ area the night before cost 20000 dong. The following day I toured the citadel on my own. It is the one touristy thing you have to do in Hue and it was totally worth it. The city within a city within a city was big, beautiful and really nice. After several hours of walking, I went a few blocks from the main gate and found a hole in the wall for lunch. I had pork noodles and it was delicious and cheap. For dinner An and another friend, Nhung, took me to a local eating establishment. We had pork that was grilled on lemon skewers then rolled with veggies in rice paper with sesame dipping sauce and some small crispy pancakes with shrimp and bean sprouts. I really enjoyed the pork skewers. They took me to the riverfront, which was all lit up and full of people on a Thursday night. The next morning Nhung escorted me to an emperor’s tomb that was about a 30 minute drive from the city. It was built on a mountain and really scenic. We had some delicious and cheap crab noodles for breakfast at a packed little restaurant. Hue was really nice and having such great guides made it that much nicer. I enjoyed the cheap, delicious local food and made two new friends.

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