Yesterday I made my way from the little town of Hoi An to another city called Hue (sounds almost like “way). It was a longer drive than I had thought it would be but certainly no less harrowing. I think that it would take me a long, long time to get used to the fact that really you only need one rule on the road: Whoever is the biggest has the right-of-way. I stand and just watch intersections that carry more traffic per minute than the corner of Wilshire and Sepulveda with nary a traffic signal or stop sign. It’s amazing how they all just weave in and out, and there doesn’t seem to be a need to watch for other vehicles, that’s why you have a horn. The loudest ones, typically belonging to large tourist buses, command a tremendous amount of respect. The whimpering of a middle-aged American pedestrian trying to cross the street: Well not so much so.
This would all be a whole lot easier to deal with if one could walk on the sidewalks, but only tourists would attempt such an obstacle course. The sidewalks are for commerce and parking. But I’m not complaining since I have walked so many miles that I have actually worn out a pair of shoes. Seriously, a shoe shiner on the street in Saigon tried really hard to convince me that I need to have them shined. They are nylon and suede tennis shoes. It was almost worth the 5,000 Dong (about 25 cents) just to see his technique. Maybe when I get to Ha Noi tomorrow I can look for a new pair. The most expensive pair I’ve been able to find here was around $5.00. With all the walking I’m doing, maybe a better pair would be in order.
Hue is the old capital of Vietnam and is where the Emperor lived when the French got involved here. There is a royal residence and a “citadel” that is really quite interesting. However large portions of it were blown to smithereens during the wars of 1946 and 1969. Further, I found it to be an indication of just how poor this country really is. It’s sad whenever you see such a treasure in a third-world country that is in such a state of disrepair simply because there are not the resources to restore and protect them. Large portions of the royal grounds here were restored by more prosperous countries in the region such as Korea and Japan.
Tomorrow I move on to the current capital, Ha Noi. I’m looking forward to it, but something tells me that there will be another assault on the senses there too. The French left behind a lot of beautiful colonial architecture in Vietnam and this is supposed to be at its best there. But the French left something else in Vietnam that, in my mind, is much more important and has certainly had a bigger impact on me: the baguette!