Good Morning, Typhoon!
All photos by Josh Meister Photo.
Our arrival to Vietnam started out a bit soggy. We landed in Da Nang around the same time as the latest typhoon did, resulting in a five-hour delay for our train to Hue (“Who-ay”). When we finally disembarked from the (unaffectionately-named-by-us) Cockroach Express, it was about two in the morning, and the rain was coming down hard. But the roads, as far as we could tell in the dark, seemed fine. Until the taxi driver turned onto our hotel's street. Which was almost entirely underwater. Luckily, he was extremely gracious and pulled the car right up to the steps of the hotel, wading through the water to get our bags out of the trunk.
The rain was coming down hard, but the roads, as far as we could tell in the dark, seemed fine. Until the driver turned onto our hotel's street. Which was almost entirely underwater. Luckily, the driver was extremely gracious and pulled his car right up to the steps of the hotel, wading through the water to get our bags out of the trunk.
The next morning, the water was even higher, threatening to come into the lobby of the building. Over breakfast (ridiculously included in the $15/night room rate!), the hotel staff asked us if we still wanted to check out the town, letting us know that one of the main attractions, the Imperial City, was flooded, but still open to visitors. We only had one day in Hue, had been planning on visiting the Imperial City as well as taking a dragon boat down the river to see the various tombs and pagodas, which apparently is an outstanding way to spend the day in Hue. But... monsoon.
As we debated the pros and cons of venturing out versus barricading ourselves in our room watching movies on a laptop all day, a German couple was having the same discussion nearby. Teaming up, the men decided they'd venture out and purchase some ponchos for all of us, while the hotel staff provided us with umbrellas and directions.
All raingeared up, we headed into the water, wading through the river on our street to slightly higher ground. The umbrellas were essentially useless against the sideways rain and wind, but the ponchos did a somewhat respectable job of keeping the top two-thirds of us dry. We alternatively laughed and cringed our way to the citadel, not having any idea what our feet and shins might brush against at any moment.
The Imperial City has been likened to a mini, and much less-visited, version of the Forbidden City in Beijing, and we could see why. The place was mostly empty (maybe due to the storm, maybe due to a lack of tourist interest), and we got to explore as many dry parts as we could find. There's a ton of palaces, gates, and courtyards throughout the grounds, and even in the rain, it was hard to deny the impressiveness of the architecture.
When we got back to the hotel to shower and scrub off the flood scum that we didn't want to think too hard about, the staff told us they'd be cooking a complimentary dinner for the guests since it would be impossible to go out to a restaurant. We were thankful and floored with how much value they were providing for what we had paid. We would soon learn – that seems to be a bit of a trend in Vietnam, one of the reasons it's such a great destination for budget travelers!