I woke up in Hoi An after a night out with a French-Canadian couple and an Israeli chap named Yuval (or just “Yuvey”). We played pool at a local haunt while the rain fell in a heavy downpour. I ended up trudging through it to return to my hotel room, ready to depart for Hue in the morning. Should’ve seen it as a bad omen.
When we left Hoi An—‘we’ being me and Yuvey—the sun was out. But about 30 minutes into the ride the skies started spitting. My rain poncho was doing little to keep me dry and the dye from my red bandana was leaking all over the poncho, turning my fingertips pink.
Luckily, the rain managed to hold off as we rode through the Hai Van Pass, which was just stunning. It’s a little-travelled road through the mountains north of Da Nang, through which only motorists travel, as a tunnel was recently built through the mountain to permit trucks and other commercial vehicles. All the better. The pass overlooks more gorgeous mountain, as well as the ocean to the east—all of it safe from the perils of huge, lumbering trucks. Once we passed through, though, the rain returned and pretty much hung around for the rest of the two hour trek to Hue. And I’m not talking about a spring shower or anything. This rain was fierce, like the kind that drops in huge globs that slap and poke your skin.
It was brutal. In short time I was completely soaked through from shoes to shirt. We passed through countless puddles that were in danger of flooding our engines, passing huge trucks that sprayed even more water all over us. It was also pretty cold, so I just hunkered down and clung to the (tenuous) truth that this couldn’t last forever. It was pretty shocking to see how this kind of weather does little to dissuade the Vietnamese from going out on their motorbikes. They’re everywhere, rain or shine—always with a rain poncho handy.
When we arrived in Hue I was in a pissy mood and just wanted to find a hotel or hostel. We eventually found a pretty cool hostel with a lot of fellow travelers and backpackers, as well as pool tables, music, guitars, a friendly staff, and plenty of booze. I opened my wallet to discover it was completely soaked through, making me grateful for the plastic material used in Vietnamese dong. The quarters were decent and it didn’t take long for my mood to improve, despite the rain that refused to let up.
Yuvey and I met an American dude named Mike from Oregon who’s currently in the process of expatriating, most likely to Vietnam. He’s trying to get a job teaching English in Saigon, where the pay is supposed to be pretty decent because of how desperate they are for English teachers. In between rain showers, Mike and I had a chance to visit an old Buddhist monastery. It was pretty neat, I guess.
Hue is an ancient city with a lot of history. During the war it was completely leveled, so it’s mostly rebuilt now. I had coffee with a local man who spoke fairly decent English. He told me he had fought for the South for a year before the fall of Saigon, and that after the war ended he was sentenced to work on a farming commune. His brother, who fought of the South for three years, was sentenced to a prison camp in the north for three years, but he was eventually released. He had some coded yet harsh words for the Vietnamese government, and I had to agree with him. He also claimed to have a cousin who emigrated to Boston during the war and now drives a taxi there. I told him I might have taken a fare with him once.
I’ll probably stay in Hue another couple days. It’s quiet and rainy and I want to catch up on some reading and writing. The plan is to head back into the mountains: Khe Sanh (which was the site of a major battle during the war), then up to Phong Nha, where there’s a massive cave system.