Hue, Vietnam

January 12 – January 16, 2020

After 4 days in Da Nang, it was time to move again. We took a train to Hue, about 60 miles north of Da Nang. Train travel was great for us even though it’s not always the most economical, practical or efficient option for a family of 5. Whenever an expense needs to be multiplied by 5, it is often equal in cost to a more efficient or comfortable option (5 train tickets > or = private van with a driver). Still, it was nice to take a train from Da Nang to Hue and provide our kids with another experience that they don’t often get to have.

Our first impression of Hue was that it was incredibly clean. We noticing the stark difference in the cleanliness of this town compared to Da Nang or Hanoi. It was so drastically clean that I sent a couple of messages to friends that live in Vietnam asking them if there was a particular reason for this phenomenon. We didn’t find the reason for this obvious improvement in cleanliness but we certainly enjoyed its charms more than we hoped we would. This is where my love for Vietnam started. We originally planned to be in Hue for only 2 nights but we enjoyed it so much that we extended it to 4.

Hue’s close proximity to Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Vinh Moc Tunnels from the Vietnam War era was another interest to us. I watched a documentary series called the Vietnam War created by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (available on Netflix) which made our historical tour of that region even more impactful. Kids, especially Petra, got a close look at and a much better understanding of the complex history of the Vietnam War that she probably would not have picked up just from history books. Pedja is our history buff so a lot of what the rest of us learned in those few days, he already knew. We all (usually) like to hear random facts he shares with us along this journey, and touring DMZ provided a good opportunity for his commentary on the Vietnam war (but then ask him to tell you the names of our kids’ school friends or who was Pepa/Nina’s teacher in x grade, and he would not be able to say ;-)).

I was most interested in touring Vinh Moc Tunnels. This tunnel complex was located on the border of North and South Vietnam during the war and was built to shelter Vinh Moc villagers from the intense bombing of that area.…/V%E1%BB%8Bnh_M%E1%BB%91c_tunnels

This was an unbelievable system of tunnels, some up to 30 meters underground. We walked through these tunnels by ourselves (no tour guide) and that was an incredibly sobering experience. It was nerve-racking to be in those tight, dark tunnels that seemed to never end. We kept going deeper and deeper that I had to keep my anxiety level in check to not have them turn into full-blown panic attacks. We walked through the tunnels long enough that at some point, we somehow ended up in the part that was closed to the public and no longer maintained. We walked for over 15 minutes in pitch dark, completely alone, anxiously wondering when and where we would surface up. I am certain that our kids will forever remember these tunnels. As we passed through the last portion of the tunnel with support beams that were almost caved in, we finally surfaced up through some exit/entrance that was obviously abandoned, overgrown with bamboo. Although turning into that dark portion of the tunnels was not the smartest parenting move on our part, thankfully, we survived it.

To think that hundreds of people lived in those conditions day in and day out for years, children grew up there, babies were born, meals were cooked, it is almost unfathomable. I think that visits to Hue and DMZ were a starting point for my turnaround in my view of Vietnam. I think that’s when I started to fall in love with this country. That song “Hello Vietnam” helped a bit plus our time in Hoi An sealed the deal for me.

In Hue, Nina had his first back and shoulder massage. He has become more expressive about his wants/needs, especially when it comes to food and activities. He has eaten foods we would have never dreamed of picking for him. He regularly checks out the food menus, reads everything in them and then picks something totally off the wall that we often think he would never even try. But then he does!

A month ago, as we were getting ready to leave Koh Lanta, Thailand, he kept saying that his back hurts and that he needs to get a massage. He usually doesn’t let anyone mess with him, touch his head, check out his face, etc. I just thought that he is not really serious about getting a massage but was seeing Petra and me raving about them so he wanted to try it too. I ignored his first few requests but by the time we got to Hue, he was quite insistent to go for a massage whenever we would pass by one of many massage places you can see on every block. I was a bit nervous about finding the right person that would not be put off by working with him and that would respond well to his limitations or jibber-jabber. Finally, in Hue, two of us stopped by the massage place next to our hotel. Nina said he only wanted back and shoulder massage and he did well for the whole thirty minutes!!! Thirty minutes seems like an eternity for a boy like him. One more new experience for my list.

Next to our hotel, we came across a great sushi restaurant and proceeded to eat dinners there for 4 nights in a row. It was really fresh and affordable that all 5 of us ate all we could. We confirmed once again that these Radmanovics love sushi and prefer it to many other food choices.

I highly recommend Hue as it was a place where I started to truly enjoy Vietnam and the complex history of this central region was branded into my mind as a symbol of the Vietnamese struggle over the past century and the incredible resilience of its people.

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