Southern Vietnam boasts most of the same draws as the North: colonial architecture, women in markets with conical hats, and fresh baguettes. But the South feels more tropical, lowland, and lush.
In Hue we stayed in a perfectly adequate seven dollar room and saw the citadel complex of the former monarchy and, subsequently, the Communist Party as a base to fight against the Americans. We only had a few hours to see the entire complex, but feeling rushed we resolved to take our time and finish what we couldn’t tomorrow. We strolled around the romantic fallen structures set amongst green fields and statues spotted with moss. Even with all this loveliness, we finished seeing the palace in ninety minutes.
Surprised at the quickness of our pace, I sat in the promenade in front of the former royal residence and re-evaluated. Are we lingering in these places too long? Should we be moving faster? Yes, I decided at that moment that we should speed through only the most spectacular places in Southeast Asia (you don’t visit the US and go to Piedmont, ND, do you?) and make some time for INDIA!
I threw my haphazardly conjured idea at Alex and, always a good sport, said he’d look into making it happen. Two days later, in Hoi An, we bought the Lonely Planet INDIA guide for eleven dollars, now there was no going back.
Hoi An was wet, drowned by a tropical storm that flooded the streets. Almost ruined by the rain, we still managed to see the wonderful Chinese, ancient Vietnamese and freshly-painted French colonial architecture on offer. Scouring our India Lonely Planet in a café on our last night, we decided we needed to move quickly if we were going to get to India. Skipping Dalat and Quy Nhon, we bought a $37 flight to Saigon that night.
Which was stiflingly, pore-openingly hot. We saw the little there was to see, including an enlightening War Crimes Museum and spent most of the rest of our time hiding from the heat in our air-conditioned room.