They never mentioned the rain. That’s to say, I’m sure someone said the monsoon season would be over by now. But…
We arrived in Hanoi on Friday and transferred to a flight to Hue, about halfway down the coast of Vietnam, where we were met by Nyan, our very fluent guide. It wasn’t raining yet, but as soon as we reached our (very nice) hotel, it started. We could see the swimming pool from our fabulous room, but there was no way of getting to it without getting drenched, and, illogically, that didn’t seem like a great idea.
Within minutes of checking in, Jay had, of course, covered all the surfaces with his stuff, leaving me with my usual bedside table. Only problem was that the bedside table was a small triangular one, with a large bedside lamp on it. That left room for my cell phone. Still, I did not repine since we had fun things to look forward to.
Our guide picked us up for a cyclo ride later in the day. The cyclo is a kind of reverse tricycle, with the pedaling person on the back and the passenger in the front. It reminded me forcibly of being wheeled along in a push-chair as a child. As we started out, the rain had cleared for a bit, but, sure enough, as soon as we were about half a mile down the street, the heavens opened again. My nanny (sorry, driver) stopped the cyclo to pull the cover over me, leaving a letterbox-shaped opening for me to look out of. In a way, this was just as well, since the number of cyclists and moped riders that cut across in front of us was impressive, not to say terrifying.
On the bright side, so to speak, the two-wheeled travelers were certainly bright. They all wore plastic ponchos, in a rainbow of colors: orange, fuschia, lime, blueberry, yellow and sky blue. Then there were the polka dotted ones and the checked ones that looked like flying tablecloths. It was relatively rare to see a single rider – most bikes and motor scooters carried two people, with the pillion passengers sometimes riding side-saddle, their stiletto heels demurely tucked to the side. The passengers would try and cover themselves with the same poncho as the driver, which meant they had no way of seeing the road – and maybe that was just as well. The cargo carried by bikes was untrammeled by common sense – baskets full of rather grubby white ducks, vegetables, huge flower arrangements, even a mattress, were attached to bikes and hauled around in the rain.
It poured while we visited the remains of the Citadel, a 16th century stronghold bombed almost to the ground during the war. It rained when we visited the 15th century pagoda, where the monks, dressed in saffron and red, were chanting near a huge statue of the happy Buddha – a nickname our guide soon attached, for reasons still not quite clear to me, to Jay. The temple was built of teak and open, as almost all buildings seemed to be, on one side. The altar inside was flanked by two enormous blue and white vases, the height of a man, easily.
It continued to bucket down as six large bowls of snails were carried by the monks down to the river as offerings to the Buddha. I think I may safely say that I’ve never seen as many snails (like English cockles) in one place at one time. I suspect the snails were happier in the rain than the monks
It rained when we took our boat ride on the Perfume River on a dragon boat – one with large painted dragons on the prow. The owners lived on the boat, though they must have slept in the area where they had kindly placed three plastic chairs for us to sit on, since there wasn’t anywhere else. Free enterprise thrives in Hue, and it wasn’t long before the wife produced a pair of silk Chinese style pajamas for me to look at. I shook my head and pointed at the shopper in the family. We came away with five pairs, one for each of our daughters/daughters in law. And a small wooden model of some Vietnamese fishermen…
And it kept on raining.