Visiting Dong Ba Market
After a day and a half of exploring tombs around Hue, we could easily say we were tombed out for the rest of our travels through Vietnam. Needing a change from antiquities, the colourful Dong Ba Market was next on our list for the afternoon of our last day in Hue. Jerome was hoping he would be able to buy a kite for himself at one of the stalls, after having re-discovered the joy of flying a kite during our cruise in Ha Long Bay.
Cycling Through the Back Lanes of Hue
We had planned our route with google maps from Tu Duc’s Tomb to the Dong Ba Market carefully, trying to avoid the busy main roads into town. Shortly after leaving the temple’s complex we came across a vast number of multi-coloured bunches of incense sticks that had been left out to dry in the sun on the roadside. What a fascinating sight to see them arranged into flowers and rows upon rows in front of the houses. Following the back lanes we pedalled past barbers shops, a Christian cemetery and church plus the odd local store.
The Riverside Park
Eventually we ended up back on the main bridge that led us over the Perfume River, towards the Imperial Palace and past to Dong Ba Market. Luckily in the centre the pavements and riverside promenades were wide and could be negotiated with care on a bike avoiding the traffic. The riverside park was filled with locals lying in their hammocks or sitting on the low plastic chairs at one of the many make shift cafes. Just before we reached Trang Tien Bridge we locked our bikes behind a kiosk and strolled towards the market halls.
We were surprised to find aquariums stacked upon aquariums in some stalls beside the road. Under the roof hung empty, wooden birdcages. Birds trapped in cages, tweeted their sad songs. Past these a local policeman tried to guide a tourist to his destination and we braced our selves to cross the busy junction. Less afraid than at our arrival in Hanoi, we made a beeline for the other side and the mopeds and other oncoming vehicles magically swerved around us.
Western Style Supermarket
We noticed a large shopping centre with a western style supermarket before arriving at the market halls. The mart is a good one-stop shop for essentials like nappies, baby food and other necessities for families if you need them but is hardly a tourist sight, although we do find foreign super markets always an interesting browse. The busy pavement before the Dong Ba Market gave us a taster for things to come. Women, heads covered in the traditional non la hats, displayed their fruit and vegetables in their baskets.
Inside Dong Ba Market
Stepping into the mayhem of Dong Ba Market I immediately spotted packets of the jasmine tea I had grown to love since our arrival in Vietnam. I bought two packets, I used them in the cold water bottles that we carried with us and in the morning for breakfast. Sadly we ran out far too quickly and I now regret not having bought more at the time! Jerome kept an eye out for a kite, while Chris was on the hunt for an eatery for lunch. The market was a mixture of food, clothing, other daily essentials and of course souvenirs.
Non La Hats
Hue is famous for their non las, a traditional straw hat, that all the local Vietnamese wear. Jerome had painted his own hat at the Imperial Palace and I had bought one embroidered with a flower at their shop. Prices vary vastly depending on the quality of the hat and the embroidery plus the location of the shop too. If you want to buy one choose carefully where and when, the market is probably a good place to pick up something inexpensive.
Food Stalls and Eateries
None of the food stalls seemed to inspire us to eat, or maybe we were not quite hungry enough by then. It could have also been the opposite, perhaps the display of un-refrigerated meat and fish might have temporarily stopped our cravings. It was interesting to watch the locals banter and chat, see the stalls filled to the brim with goods and we even discovered some women asleep between their wares for sale. Jerome started to get more and more annoyed, as he just could not find a kite anywhere! Even the toy stalls did not appear to stock them.
Get Lost Among the Stalls!
Wandering through the narrow alleys between the rows of stalls was certainly a great place to get an insight into the local life of Hue. It is a place where you should just try to get lost and experience the colours and smells that surround you everywhere. Children, especially the younger ones, might find it overwhelming and noisy. If that is the case I would try to keep to the outer rows of the hall and you will still be able to enjoy the market.
We Finally Found a Kite!
In the end we left the market with empty hands apart from my tea, we picked up our bikes and cycled to the street that runs along the outer moat of the Citadel. Suddenly we spotted a toy store, and sure enough outside were some kites in a bucket. Jerome jumped off his bike and started to rummage through the options, there was a phoenix, a rooster, and a dragon. We checked the prices and were surprised at how in expensive they were, under 2 US dollars each, so we chose two. Jerome could not wait to get back to the hotel to have a proper look at them.
Lunch at a Local Restaurant
Further on near the moat there were plenty of local restaurants along the quiet street and we were bound to find one that caught our eyes. We sat down on bamboo chairs, half on the roadside, birdcages in the treetops and the peaceful views of the water. The food turned out to be nothing special but it filled our hungry tummies.
Heading Back to the Hotel
Afterwards we pedalled back the route we had taken on our visit to the Imperial Palace and enjoyed the last evening at the Pilgrimage Hotel. Once back at the hotel Jerome unwrapped his kites and was pleased with the designs, just one problem no string! We later found that the Vietamese often sell the kites and strings separate, so be warned. It was several days before we found a place to buy the string, but Jerome was still happy with his purchases.
Is Hue Worth a Visit?
Hue is truly worth a stay for a few days, to explore the tombs, Imperial Palace and abandoned waterpark. We most enjoyed getting away from the main tourist attractions and experience local life and colour. Apart from the Citadel, the town itself was not as charming as we had hoped it to be and we were glad to have stayed in the countryside. The luxury of our hotel and the friendly staff (I will miss practising Japanese with Miwa-San) were definitely the icing on the cake for us and made our time in Hue memorable. However, we were looking forward to our next destination, the serene Cau Hai Lagoon…