Day 3 – Danang Train Ride via Hai Van Pass to Hue
After so much fun the day before at the resort and the luxury we enjoyed in the junior suite, there was no point getting up early going anywhere this morning. We still had a train to catch to Hue in the afternoon so we just took easy. It was already quite late in the morning when we finally decided to get up after having sufficient enjoyment of our fantastic room. There was no need to rush for the buffet breakfast in the restaurant as we would be having lunch early in order to check out to go to the train station later.
The coconut tarts desserts we brought back the previous night was good enough for breakfast. We also made ourselves some great coffee with the espresso coffee maker. The coconut tarts was very delicious and went very well with our coffee. The living room was a great place to start our morning with some light TV programs. The room was fresh and bright with sunlight coming in from the balcony. It was indeed resort living over here.
As we still had some time, we decided to head to the beach to hang out before lunch time. The sky was still as blue this summer morning and the beach still as nice and quiet in front of Pullman Danang Beach Resort. The beach was practically empty. It was so nice just to relax on the beach chairs to enjoy the breeze and peace on the beach. Having had enough quiet time on the beach, we went back to our suite room.
Since a Jacuzzi was included in our suite room, we put it to good use. Instead of swimming in the swimming pool, a dip in the Jacuzzi would be just as great. Furthermore, we could still watch TV in our room while enjoying our dip. Shower followed immediately after our dip in the Jacuzzi. It was time to pack up and get ready for lunch and then check out.
Our train leaving Danang for Hue was at 2.13 pm. Travelling time from the resort to the train station would not take more than 30 minutes. So we called reception to request for late check out at 1.30 pm so we could eat our lunch at the restaurant first and it was granted. So we proceeded to the restaurant which was again quite empty. The ambience in the restaurant was much nicer at night than during the day. As we had a train to catch, we ordered our meals from the a la carte menu and the cost for lunch came up to just under 280,000 VND after our Accor Plus member’s 50% discount. Our lunch was good and should keep us going till we arrived at Hue later in the late afternoon.
With lunch over, we went back to our room to collect our bags and returned to lobby. During check out, we were assisted by Doan again. It was a delight to have her served us with her hearty smiles. In a short moment, our check out was completed. We also asked Doan to help us get a taxi to the train station. So Doan went to look for concierge staff and it happened that one of their staff, Tien, was going to the airport and he told us he would send us to the train station first and then pick up his guests from the airport after that. This was simply great news. So we hopped on to the very nice van and soon we were on our way to the train station and thus ended our wonderful stay at the Pullman Danang Beach Resort.
It was again a very hot day and the air-conditioning in the van was up to the task to keep us comfortable. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at the train station at very good time before 2 pm. We thanked Tien and tipped him generously and we parted company.
The train station was quite crowded by the time we arrived with many passengers waiting for the train to arrive and we had to stand with other passengers who did not have a seat inside the train station. The air-conditioning in the train station was barely sufficient to keep the hall cool from the afternoon heat. An announcement was made that train arrival would be delayed for another 15 minutes. So we had no choice but to wait which was quite boring to say the least.
Finally, the train arrived. Everyone moved out to the platform and looked for the correct car number to get on. A train attendant was stationed at the entrance of every car to check train tickets. Our car number was 6 and it was not far from where we stood. The steps up the train were quite steep from the platform ground but we managed to carry our bags up without much trouble.
So we began to look out for the cabin with our bed number on the lower deck and found the two beds were already slept on by others though no one was on our beds. A guy came out and he was one of the train staff who was not wearing uniform who checked our tickets and then let us in. There were six beds to a cabin and we booked the lower beds which cost more but they were already messed up while the other four beds above were still neat and tidy.
Soon, the train left the station and another train attendant in uniform came into the cabin and he and the other guy went to the upper beds and slept. We were not sure whether they knew the lower beds were already booked but for their own convenience they probably had slept on our beds earlier and did not have the courtesy to tidy up before we arrived. Well, there was no point confronting them and we tried to enjoy our train ride to Hue.
As the train was pulling away from Danang City, the landscaped soon changed. There were no more houses, buildings and roads but vegetation and hilly plains. It was going uphill as well. I stood outside the cabin corridor to watch Danang City disappearing in the distance. Soon a beach appeared below with Danang City in the very far away distance. It was quite a nice view. Beside myself, there was another passenger standing next to me taking pictures of the scenery.
As the train gained altitude, more of the landscape could be seen in the far distance and the contour of the land with the sea with occasional stretches of pristine white sandy beach was a joy to behold. Some boats were also seen not very far from land. The horizon could hardly be seen with the blue sky and blue sea merging into one body in the far end as far as our eyes could see.
The train began to slow down at turns and also at steep incline up Hai Van Pass. The view from the top was really spectacular. It was made more beautiful on a summer day with clear blue sky which was perfect for taking pictures.
Along the way at the top, we passed by a water body which could be the top of a waterfall. The endless terrain covered with green vegetation and wild flowers showing its curvy landscape merging with the deep blue South China Sea was very refreshing and calming. In fact during this two over hours, I hardly slept on my hard bed. The scenery was so captivating and I would gladly forgo the short nap than to give up this once in a very long time great train ride over some beautiful scenery.
After some time, the train began descending and we knew Hue City would not be very far away. This was when I spent some time in the cabin to rest for a while, mentally trying to recollect the amazing scenes we went past. It would be so nice if we had the opportunity to spend some time at those pristine white sandy beaches with no one around. The water near the beach was also crystal clear as viewed from our train ride from above. It must be another paradise on earth in an unspoiled beach.
As the train rumbled along, we soon passed a very long bridge back down to near sea level. Soon some buildings and roads could be seen with vehicles and human traffic became the norm after we left the green vegetation and highlands behind. The sun was getting lower and it was becoming too glaring to look outside. So the last stretch of the train ride was meant for resting before arrival in Hue.
Eventually, the train came to a stop and many passengers including ourselves were already gathered at the train exit. The train attendant in our cabin was still sleeping and he woke up to a rude shock when the train came to a halt. Without adjusting his untidy uniform, he pushed his way through all of us to get down the train first in order to perform his duty.
Finally, we got down from the train and exited the train station and it was almost 5 pm. We had already arranged with Serene Palace Hotel to send a staff to meet us at the train station. The hotel didn’t seem to have their own vehicle. So the deal was they would send a staff to meet and greet us at the train station and get us into a taxi to go to the hotel and the cost was US$4.
Soon we found a young man in smart red uniform holding a card with my name. We went up to him and he greeted us with a big smile. He took our bags and I noted his name Brian from his name tag. He went to the car park and tried to get us a taxi. He managed to get us a taxi and he gave the taxi driver direction to the hotel. He helped us get in the taxi with our bags and then he went to get his bike to ride back to the hotel.
Along the way, we passed by the famous 5 stars La Residence Hue Hotel & Spa, an Accor Hotel which we originally intended to use our complimentary night to stay two nights but we changed our mind because of our late arrival in Hue and early departure to Hoi An in two days’ time. So we booked Serene Palace Hotel at under US$36 per night instead. We drove along the main road by the river and soon reached the tourists backpackers’ area. The taxi driver didn’t seem to know where Serene Palace Hotel was and he stopped by the road and asked some people. The hotel was just a little further ahead but the hotel was not along the road. So we alighted and walked a little distance into a small lane and we arrived at Serene Palace Hotel.
The hotel staff came and carried our bags and front desk staff greeted us and sat with us by a sofa at the lobby. Welcome drinks and cold towers were given which was a great relief for us suffering under the heat of this summer day in Hue. This hotel staff’s name was Tina and she sat with us to explain to us about the hotel and tour arrangements.
Most tourists would consider a visit to some tombs for a day tour out of Hue but we were not keen, not to mention the heat in Central Vietnam during this time. So we booked a private boat tour on the Perfume River on the way to visit the famous Pagodas for the next day. The boat ride would include a return trip to the market near town but we requested to be alighted midway at the Citadel instead and we would make our way back to the hotel on our own. The cost for this private boat tour was US$15 for the two of us.
We also booked bus tickets back to Hoi An at US$5 each instead of taking a private transfer to Hoi An where we could stop and visit places along the way which cost US$65. We felt we had seen enough during the train ride through Hai Van Pass so there was no need to spend extra and take up extra time on the way to Hoi An. In fact we hoped to arrive Hoi An as early as possible to enjoy the sights over there so a bus ride to Hoi An would be all that we required. We would be departing between 8 and 8.30 am in two days’ time and would arrive Hoi An around noon time. So this arrangement was perfect for our travel plans.
So with our travel arrangements settled, and our welcome drinks drank and some fruits eaten, Tina showed us to our room on the sixth floor. The hotel seemed to be rather quiet with not many guests when we arrived and Tina told us it was their low season in May. When exited from the lift, our room was just on the right. This hotel was still using normal lock and key type of system and not those electronic card key door locks. We were also required to return the key to front desk whenever we leave the hotel.
So Tina unlocked the door and showed us inside our room. The room was very nice and clean with a balcony facing east. The furnishing in the room was fine and the bed looked clean and comfortable. A computer was also provided in the room for guest use. TV and wifi and most importantly, the air-conditioner worked well. Likewise everything in the bathroom was in order. We were happy with the room and so Tina left us after that.
It was such a hot summer day coming all the way from Danang to Hue, so a quick shower to cool down was necessary. After this, we unpacked and rested for a while with the TV as our added companion as well as connecting with our children back home with the excellent wifi provided by the hotel. It was good to be able to stretch out on the bed for some relaxation before dinner and other night activity.
When it was about sunset time, we went out to the balcony and enjoyed the sunset show. The sun was partially hidden behind some clouds and with sun rays piercing through edges from the clouds, it was a great sight to behold.
So in every cloud there was a silver lining was being displayed before us when nothing bad had happened thus far. Gradually, the sky turned darker and with a hue of orange, the sun blasted its last glorious presence and disappeared and soon darkness took over Hue City.
We then went back to ground floor to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. The hotel was offering a five course set dinner for two persons at 259,000 VND and we took up the offer happily. This five course dinner was traditional Hue food with a pomelo salad, grilled pork in lemon grass, rice cake with shrimp, grilled pork fresh spring rolls and Hue traditional noodle soup with either beef or pork. We also ordered fruit juice being such a hot day we went through.
Our food arrived and they were unique in taste. They were a little different from North and South Vietnamese dishes but they were delicious. We were so full after dinner and for the price we paid for this dinner, it was worth every cents and sense.
Though this was not a posh restaurant, the restaurant staff were very friendly and helpful and we really had a great time at the restaurant. Their service standards were commendable for a restaurant in a 3 stars hotel.
So it was time to head out for a walk at the night market by the river. We got more information from front desk and also took another city map. After getting direction from the hotel and with our bearings right, we left the hotel for our night activity. We turned right from the hotel entrance and walked out to the main road and then turned left and followed the road. We soon reached the river after passing shops, restaurants and cafes all nicely lit up.
Along the river, dragon boats were berthed waiting for passengers for a river cruise at night. The walking paths were part of a park by the river where many locals young and old, male and female came out to have a great time. They seemed so happy with kids running around in the cooler evening during summer where the temperature would be near 40 degrees Celsius in the day.
As we walked on, we soon reached many cafes, restaurants and shops all very nicely lit with lanterns. The ambience was quite romantic where young couple would no doubt be happy to spend some time over coffee by the river alfresco style chatting the night away.
Further ahead at the night market, a lone busker all dressed up in gold was standing like a statue hoping for donations to come his way. He changed his posture a few times while we were there. We didn’t find him very entertaining. A small crowd gathered but we didn’t see anyone giving. Perhaps he might have better opportunity in Europe than in this part of the world doing this kind of stunt trying to impress and amuse passersby.
As we walked along, the river was a hive of activities with river cruises plying back and forth and passengers boarding and alighting. Further ahead the river near the bridge, many little burning lights were released into the water floating along and the river was glittering under the many little lights.
We kept walking and soon reached the end of the lighted shops and restaurants. After a while looking out at river activities, we turned and walked back. We had had a very sumptuous dinner and were in no mood to eat more so we skipped all the cafes and restaurants while walking back. We looked at some souvenir shops and arts and crafts shops but didn’t make any purchase. We went into a leather shop selling made to order leather belts at very good price where the belt could be ready in a short while with many leather skins to choose from. The shop was a little busy so we decided to come back the following evening.
This night market was more of a local affair than foreign tourists centered attraction. Perhaps we came during their low season where we did not see many tourists here. However, I was particularly pleased to see the locals with young and old enjoying their night out at the park by the river. This reminded me of a time when I was a kid where my dad brought my siblings and me to play at the park along Queen Elizabeth Walk by the sea near Clifford Pier. We could just run around play hide and seek and we enjoyed ourselves in the evening followed by supper at the Satay Club. So I had this nostalgic feeling spending time with the locals here and it was a great time for us as well.
After walking past the entire stretch of night market along the river park, we were near Serene Palace Hotel. The hotel was conveniently located near the backpacker’s area and at night, this place really came alive with cafes, restaurants and shops all nicely lit up. So we walked a few streets to survey the place and looked at some shops selling clothes but didn’t buy anything as well. So we went on to find our way back to Serene Palace Hotel.
Eventually we reached Serene Palace Hotel. Though it was a casual and leisurely night walk, we were tired and were perspiring quite a lot so we went straight to the restaurant. The restaurant staff were happy to see us again. We ordered fruit juice from a combination of pineapple and mangoes to chill out before returning to our room. The juice was so refreshing and this was great for us as we rested our tired legs and aching bodies.
Soon we were back to our room. We needed a shower badly to cool down as the air-conditioner was shut off when we left the room with the room key. After shower and the temperature in the room back to human comfort level with the aid of air-conditioning, we finally could get to bed to rest and watch TV programs. Chatting with the children back home and showing them the beautiful pictures taken during the day and night over whatsapp took us to late night. We then decided to let the children go to bed and we likewise snoozed off in great delights over the events of the day that went favourably our way.
Continue to Day 4 …