Hue and Saigon 2008 
Sunday, January 27, 2008

We said goodbye to the friendly and helpful hotel staff at the Hanoi Indochina Hotel and boarded the hotel mini van to Noi Bai Airport for a flight to Hue. The 45-minute ride gave me another look at the charming city which I would love to visit again but am not sure whether I'll have an opportunity to do so.

The airport was full of foreign tourists exploring VN just like Lee and I. Foreigners, especially Caucasians, used to be mobbed on the streets but it's no longer that way since they are everywhere. I enjoyed visiting many of them on our tours to Ha Long Bay and Perfume Pagodas. It's great to get various global perspectives from different folks. As far as Lee and I are concerned, most Hanoians knew we're not local and were so eager to help. That made our visit very enjoyable.

We took a cab from Hue's Phu Bai Airport to our hotel. The Orchid is located in the center of the Old Town and about 10 miles from the airport. The hotel is new; our room is large, clean and has all the modern amenities. We got a suite on the top floor with our own
 Jacuzzi, all for $49 a night for two people including breakfast. Your money can sure go a long way here in Viet Nam. 
Private Jacuzzi at The Orchid Hotel in Hue
After dropping our luggage, the hotel staff directed us to a great restaurant within walking distance for lunch. After that we visited the most famous temple in the City, Thien Mu Temple. Hue is where Lee was born so a lot of memories were coming back to her.
Lee and Ba Ngoai
The nuns at the Temple
Lee at Thien Mu Temple
We'd been at the temple for three hours when the cab came to pick us up. Needless to say, it was hard for us to say good bye to everyone. We promised to come back soon. Back to the hotel area for dinner then we started wandering the streets of Hue. Lee found Ba Ngoai's old home and the next door neighbor who still lives there. It was a wonderful day for Lee and I enjoy seeing her being so happy.

Monday, January 28, 2008: Our plan today was to visit the old Imperial Palace, the flower market and head to the airport for Saigon.

The Imperial Palace is a complex of buildings where Vietnamese kings and queens used to live. The old style buildings which survived the war are immense and beautifully preserved. The ground is well kept and workers are working on the restoration of many other buildings that had been damaged. We took a lot of pictures here.
Imperial Palace in winter
Lee in front of the Imperial Palace
Bonsai trees in front of the Imperial Palace
We then headed for the flower market which was set up just for the Lunar New Year. The sight and scent of the freshly-cut flowers were wonderful. Once again, our digital camera had to work overtime and here are some samples.
Flower Market in Hue
Flower Market in Hue
We then headed for Hue's Phu Bai Airport where we boarded the plane to Saigon. Our trip to Hue was short but we were able see Ba Ngoai and that made it worthwhile. 

Sitting on the plane typing away, I'm looking forward to spending the next four days in Saigon, a city in which I was born. This time, I'm going to drag Lee around to see my old schools, neighborhods, fav hangout places (if I can find them.) 

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it. See you all soon.

(Written January 28, 2008)
Since it was still early when we finished, we hailed a cab to go visit Lee's grand mother (Ba Ngoai) who lives in another temple - 15 miles from Hue- that cares for older folks. As the cab approaching the temple, I could see Lee's eyes getting misty and I became a little emotional too.

The Buddhist nuns were standing in front of the temple waiting for us when the cab arrived and we were ushered to Ba Ngoai's room. She still looked great. Her voice was strong, and her eyes were lively. Lee and Ba Ngoai hugged for a long time then they sat down on her bed holding hand, talking. I don't think Ba Ngoai recognized Lee much less me at first but then she started remembering and asking about the family. She wondered why we didn't come to see her more often and we had to explain to her about where we live and our jobs. I visited with the nuns and really admired the simple life they'd chosen. One nun left her home at 14 and has been living in the temple for 16 years.

What do you think?
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