Compared to yesterday, today was a pretty easy going and relaxing day. After finally getting a haircut, we enjoyed riding a cyclo to the Citadel and back and then went to the Hue railway station to catch our sleeper train to Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.
We woke up late, at 8:30 AM. We finally got an opportunity to sleep a little more today since it was mostly a travel day and we had already seen all the major tourist attractions Hue has to offer. We went for breakfast at 9 AM and took full advantage of the unlimited food offered by our excellent hotel, the Hue Serene Palace Hotel. Breakfast was really amazing, especially considering the price of the room. And the service remained excellent: the waitresses encourage guests to order more food at breakfast (even though it’s all free) before they go out on daily tours. This morning, we ordered vegetarian pho, sweet crepes and fried rice with eggs. We also filled and refilled our plates with exotic fruits and our glasses with tasty fresh fruit juices. Here we got watermelon, lemon and mango juices together with passion fruit, pomelos, mangoes, watermelon, oranges, rambutans and bananas. A Mimi-approved fruit station.
Of course Mimi found an occasion to act silly, here using rambutans as her eyeballs.
After finishing with breakfast, we went back to our room to pack and then checked out. We then left our hotel to resume our search for Quang Hair Salon & Spa, the barbershop recommended by the male hotel staff that we tried to find yesterday evening without success. Today was much hotter than yesterday as the sky had barely any clouds. After a couple of detours and wrong turns, we finally found the place. It was 120,000 Vietnamese Dongs for a male haircut, the equivalent of $6. Expensive by Vietnamese standards but there was no way I was going to try my luck on the street.
I sat down excited to finally get my hair cut as it had been growing since the beginning of our trip over two months ago. At the same time I was rather anxious to communicate with the barber who did not speak much English. What if he messed up, I’d look like a fool for the rest of the trip.
We struggled for a while trying to explain what I wanted. Mimi tried to help with hand gestures but the guy was only responding to us in Vietnamese. We asked for a haircut pictures book. They did have one, but all the styles depicted in it were more for a stylish Asian pop star than for me. Sitting on a bench nearby, Mimi couldn’t stop laughing while I scanned through the pages in despair.
In the end we told the guy to keep my existing style unchanged and just shorten the hair. He did exactly that and within twenty minutes, I was out of there. I liked the haircut but Mimi thought it was still a bit too long.
After that we looked for cyclos (also called cycle rickshaws). One man came to us and quoted a very reasonable price: 80,000 VND roundtrip to the Citadel for both of us sharing the same cyclo. While it would be not super comfortable we thought it would be OK for a short trip. After making absolutely sure of the terms of our ride (we had read online that cyclo drivers in Hue are especially scammy people, even by Southeast Asia standards), he started pedaling and we started taking pictures and videos, in particular as we crossed the Perfume River using the Truong Tien Bridge.
We also took some selfies, many of which were badly focused or framed, but one was decent enough.
Even though we had agreed on a price, I was still concerned that he may try to scam us later on. He dropped us at the Citadel, did not ask for any money and told us to meet him at the exit gate at 1 PM to bring us back to our hotel.
As we arrived to the entrance gate, we showed our passes to the guard but unfortunately due to a misunderstanding on our part we were not able to get inside. The pass lets us go inside the two tombs and the Citadel within 48 hours of purchasing it but not with unlimited entrances. Each site can still be visited only once and we had already seen the Citadel yesterday. We were not interested enough to pay the entrance fees again so we ended up walking around the Citadel for a little bit and then into some random streets adjacent to it.
We met up with our cyclo driver around 1 PM. He was actually looking for us, probably so that we would not ditch him and walk back by ourselves without paying him.
On the way back we tried taking a selfie video.
We also took the Truong Tien Bridge again in the other direction, surrounded by motorbikes.
And did more silly poses in selfie mode using burst mode. Yes, we really drained our camera battery while riding that cyclo.
The driver stopped at the beginning of the alleyway leading to our hotel. And there, as I initially feared, he tried to scam us! He claimed that the 80,000 VND agreed upon price was for one way only even though we specifically made sure the price was for round trip and he said OK! This time we were not going to give in. We categorically refused to pay him double the price and he pretended to get upset and offended and acted as if he did not want any of the money. We argued for a little longer and I settled the dispute by just putting the bills on the cyclo’s seat and walking away.
We chilled in our hotel’s air conditioned lobby for some time, reorganized our backpacks and luggage. Mimi was on yolomimo duty so she worked on her article while I went to pick up our laundry.
At 3 PM we got a taxi to the train station and got there ten minutes later.
We bought snacks for our long train ride to Hanoi while waiting for our train to arrive. We are pretty sure we got scammed on the snacks prices as well but we did not feel like arguing anymore.
Hue railway station is quite small, even compared than Da Nang’s. It only has a couple of tracks.
Our train arrived on time. It was a similar train to the one we took to get to Hue just a couple of days back except of course we will be in a sleeping cabin this time.
We found our cabin without issue. It was quite clean and comfortable, with powerful air conditioning. We made ourselves comfortable and waited for the departure.
We were soon joined by a young couple from England who had already been traveling through Southeast Asia for over three months with about three months left!
The train departed, marking the beginning of our first overnight journey in a Vietnamese train. Mimi worked on the blog for the first three hours from her lower bed while I napped in the upper one. At 6:30 PM the train made a first ten minutes stop in the town of Dong Hoi where they let passengers off to buy drinks and food. The British couple sharing the cabin with us bought a bottle of white wine that they later shared with us. I got overpriced bananas but didn’t feel like playing the bargaining game to save one dollar. There was music playing inside the train full of young backpackers having fun.
And then it was my turn to work on the blog… I finished the post and then we chatted for a while with the British couple. We talked about our respective experiences traveling in Southeast Asia and in particular in Laos, which was their favorite country and where they spent a full month. They shared more wine with us too, we got to try a red wine from Vietnam. We also talked about our jobs and theirs.
By 10:30 PM, people in all other cabins of our train car were asleep and we decided to do the same. I took to the top bed and Mimi slept on the bottom one. We both fell asleep quickly despite the noise and moves from the train. The AC was blasting cold air pretty strong so we had to put extra layers of clothes on.