Hue and the Paradise Cave
Hue was a pretty cool but rather ordinary city. We visited the ancient city where the old palace grounds are located. Across from the entrance is a large bunker-like structure, from which hung the biggest Vietnamese flag I’ve ever seen, or any flag for that matter. The inside of the grounds were much less impressive, although the 1,500kg water basins were pretty cool. They stored water to be used for putting out fires back in the day. On our way out of the ancient city we ran into a class of students and played an impromptu game of futbol, which ended with the ball lost in the river.
Later that day we took a drive to an ancient temple situated along the river. The temple grounds had an unmistakable tranquility about them. Behind the main structure of the temple was a beautifully maintained garden, alive with plants and young monks playing games. This garden is home to a number of monks who reside in the simple rooms nearby. The young apprentices all have their heads shaved save for a long ponytail, making them seem like tiny warriors running around.
Other than the ancient city and temple, the only other noteworthy attraction was a bar called Brown Eyes. I know, sounds like a stinky establishment and we had low expectations entering on a Monday night. To our surprise the dance floor was active and the place was full of locals celebrating a girl’s 22nd birthday. Nobody was more excited about this than Flor, who unashamedly had both hands deep into the cake by the end of the night.
After Hue we rode into Phong Na National Park to explore Paradise Cave, the largest known dry cave in the world. Descending down into the cave, the humidity dissipated and the air became cool and crisp. Giant stalagtite and stalagmite formations lined the cave walls, fascinating to behold. Each formation was unique, and some formations looked like creatures from a science fiction movie. Only the first km of the cave is open to tourists, to explore farther you have to pay $100 and take a guide.
The next day we walked on an eco trail in the park and took a swim in the clear water (it’s somehow made clear by the limestone) before starting the couple day drive to Hanoi.