Friday, December 5, 2014

Hue- Food, Accommodation, Shopping and Moving Around

We stayed in Hue for 3 days 2 nights, visiting several places of interest such as the tombs of Nguyen emperors and the Citadel of Hue. These UNESCO heritage sites were really must visit places in Hue. To get around Hue, let us start with accommodation.

Finding a place to stay is easy, from high class expensive resorts beside Huong River to the small family-run guest houses between the streets, the choice is yours. However, we would recommend to stay somewhere within the boundary of four roads- Le Loi, Nguyen Chong Tru, Le Quy Don, and Hung Vuong. That is the area where many tourists gathered. Night market along the esplanade, eateries, shops, Truong Tien Bridge, and even the Citadel of Hue are within walking distance from that area.

We stayed in Holiday Diamond Hotel, which ranked high in Tripadvisor with a reason- outstanding service with only USD24 per room per night. We arrived late at around 6:15 pm.We were immediately served with welcoming drinks and fruits. The hotel staff explained briefly on the attractions in Hue and approximate fees for the tours before leading us to our room. The room was readied with high speed wifi, flat screen TV with satellite programs, safe box, wardrobe with hangers, coffee making facility, mini bar, water heater for bathroom, hair drier, and even fruit served everyday. We were surprised by very nice buffet breakfast with more than 30 items on the menu. By the way, if you wonder where can you get the best "bun-bo", the beef noodle of Hue in the city, our answer is- Holiday Diamond Hotel. However, the dish was not listed in the menu, so you might need to ask the waiter to prepare one for you.

Holiday Diamond is small, and located some 30 meters from the main Nguyen Cong Tru Street, which is not accessible by car. The location might bring some difficulty in case of raining, but the location itself promises quiet environment and a good night sleep. The staff were helpful, with a few of them could speak very good English. The stay at Holiday Diamond Hotel was a very good experience and we really learnt a lesson on how to "win by service". We would like to express our special gratitude to all the staff, especially Anna. She had helped us a lot in finding good deals for the local tour and recommending good local food around Hue.

The outlook of the hotel (upper left), which the front door leads to the lobby (upper right). Holiday Diamond Hotel is connected to the main street through a lane (lower right), where a sign of the hotel can be seen from the main road. This little lane was shared by two other hotels.

The room is big for two with cozy design (upper left). Coffee, tea, fruits, and drinking water were complementary (upper right). Local fruits were served as welcoming refreshment (lower left) and during the buffet breakfast.

Hue offers various types of local food. Although eateries can be found at every corner of the area, not many of them serve nice local food. We tried as many as possible during our stay- pork rib rice, chicken rice, beef noodle, spring rolls, grilled minced pork on lemongrass stick, rice paper roll with BBQ pork, and many more.

Located at 28 Vo Thi Sau Street, Thanh Na Restaurant is just 5 minutes by foot from our hotel (upper left). It was a place where local people gathered (upper right). During our visit, we found that none of the staff could speak English. Luckily, the menu was prepared with simple translation. So, we could get what we want by pointing at the dishes on the menu. The price of chicken leg served with rice and vegetable was VND 55,000 (lower left), while pork was served with much cheaper at VND 30,000. Fried noodle with beef was served at VND 50,000. The taste, really delicious, especially when we were hungry. We took two meals (one dinner and one supper) at this restaurant during our stay in Hue.

We had a supper at Golden Rice Restaurant at 40 Pham Ngu Lao Street (upper left) with good atmosphere (upper right). The price for three fresh spring rolls with beef was VND 59,000 (lower left), and the "bun-bo" or rice noodle soup with beef and pork was served with VND 55,000. The food was average and a bit expensive. But the service was good- staff were attentive and could speak in simple English. The second floor of the restaurant was air-conditioned.

The eateries beside the roadside might not be the cheaper choice (upper left), if it is close to the Citadel of Hue (upper right). We spent our lunch time at a small eatery beside the citadel. The price, VND 50,000 for 4 spring rolls (lower left), VND 50,000 for vegetable and pork rice paper roll (Nem Lui Heo), and VND 70,000 for fried pork without rice.

The Hanh was located at a corner of Pho Duc Chinh. By foot, it was around 15 minutes away from our hotel.The restaurant offered delicious traditional food with relatively cheap price- 6 nen-lui (pork with lemongrass stick) with VND 60,000 (upper left), fried and fresh spring rolls (upper and lower right) with VND 40,000 respectively, and ban cuon (rice paper roll it yourself with vegetable and pork) with VND 30,000 for a portion of 4 person! Cheap, delicious, and highly recommended, but we need to do a little bit of walking to get there.

The Hanh is located at a corner, the street was quiet.

Must try food in Hue- Rice paper roll. We can wrap it, roll it, fold it, or in anyway we like, with pork, beef, or simply vegetable. Next is bun bo, or the beef noodle. If you are a big fan of Hanoi's beef noodle, then you may want to try this- the taste, a bit more spicy and sour compared to the one that we tried in Hanoi. Nen-lui is special, but the taste was nothing extraordinary, while we prefer Hanoi's spring roll than the one in Hue. Overall, the food in Hue was good, but the price was not as cheap as we thought.
What to buy in Hue? Many will tell that we can buy silk, bamboo works, and wooden items there. Incense made by natural woods can be purchased as well. If you like one of these thing- bamboo hat, bamboo fan, wooden carved items, or clothes made by silk, then Hue is a place for you. For us, we are not interested in any of them. But we did get some souvenirs with bargained price.

Night market beside Truong Tien Bridge was the only night market at Hue. Locals went there to get what they need, so the price of the items were expected to be cheap. Please do bargain "extensively", starting from 1/3 of the price, or even 1/5 of the original price. It would then end up with a deal somewhere around half of the original price. The clothes, food, fruits, and some other items were marked with very attractive prices, but most of them had no price tags on them. We learnt from others that we should insist to pay in Dong. Paying in USD gives a sign of "we are rich" and will close the door of bargaining.

Items available at the market. Some music instruments were sold too.

The incense and bamboo work factory was not attractive, at least for the one that we had visited on our way to Tu Duc's tomb. The items were much expensive than what we found in Dong Ba Market.

Dong Ba Market is located at Tran Hung Dao, some 3 minutes from Truong Tien Bridge. It is one of the oldest market in Hue (upper left). We could find local fruits (upper right), local bamboo work (lower left), groceries, and many others there. Again, when we asked for price, the offer would always be in USD. When we said that we would pay in Dong, the price immediately went down by 20%. When we asked for a discount, then the prices went down further by 70%. It was the offer we got for one of the silk product.

Food stalls at Dong Ba Market (upper left), groceries (upper right), gold products (lower right), and red prawns sold in Dong Ba.

Dong Ba is not a big market. It was not a pleasant place- poor ventilation, squeezy and humid. So, if you don't like to go to wet market, then Dong Ba may not be a place for you.

Truong Tien Plaza is just beside Dong Ba Market (upper left), fully air conditioned, with a supermarket (upper right) and a fast food outlet (lower left) at ground floor, and a food court and departmental store at the second floor.

The best way to go to Hue from Da Nang International Airport is by taxi. The taxi ticket counter was located in the airport arrival hall, and the price was fixed at VND1.15 million per trip for 5 seaters sedan (approximately USD55). Of course, we have to pay more if we wish to use Hai Van Pass, as we shared in our previous post.

Many hotel and tour operators were waiting for their customers outside of the arrival hall (upper left), with the taxi station located at the same level (upper right). The check in counters (lower left) and the departure hall of the airport was clean with modern look.

The standard taxi fares from Danang International Airport to Ba Na, Hoi An, Lang Co Bay, My Son, and Hue were shown in the airport.

Bicycle and motorbike can be rented on daily basis in Hue, with quite a low price.  Riding on our own can be economical, but only if you can adapt to the Vietnam style of driving. You can visit Wikitravel for more information on the transportation in Hue. For us, we used rented car with driver for a one-day trip, from 9 am to 5 pm, with USD45 on our second day in Hue to visit the emperors' tombs and the citadel of Hue. The metered taxi could be a good option for short trips around the tourism area, with the fee calculated in Dong. 

From our hotel at Nguyen Cong Tru Street we had walked around the main tourism streets- Le Loi, Vo Thi Sau, Ben Nghe and places in vicinity. The street was safe both during the day and night. However, we need to be careful about the traffic. Most of the people in Hue follow the traffic lights, but we still need to follow the "Vietnam rules" as in Hanoi and Danang. Electric powered bicycles could be the "deadliest", as these silent vehicles moved very fast without any noise.

Hue in day time (upper row). Some streets can be very quiet, while others can be very busy. The streets at tourism area are basically closed to the traffic (lower left). The night life area was concentrated around Le Loi Street, Doi Chun, Pham Ngu Lao Street, Vo Thi Sau Street and places in vicinity.

One thing that we need to keep in mind- watch out for the incoming traffic (upper left). Locals with their daily activities around the market area (upper right and lower right). The electric powered bicycle was very popular around hue.

Most of the people in Hue could not understand English. Their body language was not as good as what we could find in the night market of Bangkok, or the hawkers in Hanoi. A map is important, but not a must.

After staying in Hue for 3 days, we continued our trip to My Son, Hoi An, and Danang. Follow us now for more updates.

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