last week I left Hanoi heading to Hue, the old capital of Vietnam, in a soft sleeper berth on the overnight train - The trains are a throwback to the old days of communism and to be honest they should have been thrown away but they do serve the purpose, don't expect luxury and you wont be disappointed.
Each carriage has about 10 compartments with 4 bunks, two upper and two lower, a form of air conditioning which if you get the top bunk means you freeze all night - I had a lower bunk and shared the carriage with two Americans and a man from Vietnam - The Train left at about 8pm and arrived in Hue at 11am so about 15 hours for the journey.
I shared a taxi into town from the station and it was 60,000 ($3US) and the driver (Phung) spoke excellent english and I negotiated a price on the way to the hotel of $15US for him to take me around Hue for 4 hours on the back of his motor bike later that day.
I stayed at a Hotel called "Holiday Diamond" and it is the best I have stayed at so far - on arrival they welcomed me with cold towels and soft drinks and then cooked me a breakfast at 11.30 am - the room was excellent with all mod cons and I had time to shower and change (did I mention Humidity was in the 90's) before Phung and his bike turned up.
Phung took me to Tombs, Pagodas and Temples and shrines over an area encompassing all of Hue and the surrounding countryside which is quite beautiful
On the way to the old royal palace there can be seen at the side of the roads left overs from the Vietnam / American war in the shape of planes, Helicopters Tanks and anti aircraft guns probably left as a reminder of what they endured?
The old palace is being renovated and you can easily spend half a day just exploring the grounds which are expansive with all manner of statues around before heading off to brave the traffic which is horrendous.
On the way back we had to make a quick visit to the riverside to see the Dragon boats which are in use but alas I had no time left to ride one
before Phung dropped me back at the hotel 5 hours later without a mention of the extra time and I gave him $20 US which was a bargain.
Laundry done by the hotel took 4 hours - two pairs of shorts - one pair of trousers - one pair of underpants - one pair of socks - one shirt and three T shirts washed dryed and folded 60,000 ($3US).
A good nights sleep, followed by a great breakfast and a trip to the ATM saw me heading off, wishing I had more time in Hue, and at this Hotel, who by the way then gave me a free motor bike ride to the station for the next leg of the Journey - If you visit here you really could do a lot worse than stay here.