June 23, 2005

first day in Hue

so today was our first day in Hue.

we arrived thur morning via a night train, on which we met a couple irish lads that had come over russia, mongolia, and china via train all the way down to vietnam. we raided the food car, chatted, and drank beer and corn whisky well into the night on the train.
the actual day in Hue was ok. it was unbelievably hot. according to my thermometer, it was over 100 F. and judging from the amount of sweat on my body that was not evaporating, it was also about 99% humidity. so we explored the town very slowly. in the center of town is an old citadel and a mostly destroyed mini-forbidden city. we wandered around here for the day before heading out to grab dinner at Y Than Garden.
Y Than Garden is a place described in the lonly planet as a good example of Imperial food, which Hue is known for. i'm wasn't a big fan of imperial food in china, but i figured it'd give vietnamese imperial food it's own shot. the conclusion is that while it looked pretty, i still wasn't too impressed. it was a fixed price menu for $8 a person. (which is a fortune for a meal here.) the setting was great since it was in a beautifully restored private villa inside the citadel walls. and during the meal i was able to watch a "heat lightning" show. (i'd never seen a lighning show like this. it wasn't raning and all the lightning was occuring between the clouds. ronda said that most people that didn't grow up in california are familiar with these types of things. regardless, i found it facinating.) the food was more about presentation that actual taste in my opinion, and while most the courses didn't taste bad, i wasn't too crazy about them. the best course imho was the rice cooked in lotus leaf (with a buch of other stuff mixed into the rice.) unfortunatly the duck that it was served with was a bit over cooked.
that night we met up with the irish lads again at a ex pat bar and sat around drinking till about midnight. after that we were hungry again so we managed to get the name of a street corner vendor that would still be around from the owner of the bar. we went there, and low and behold, the were still serving food on the corner. we were their last customers. (while we were eating they started cleaning up shop.)
we got some chicked with rice. basically the lady took a big knife and shaved some skin and meat of some large pieces of what looked like boiled chicken, threw it into a bowl with some oil, MSG, salt, pepper, onions, and greens. (basil i think.) she mixed it up and then put it on top of some rice. this cost us about 7k a plate. we then proceeded to sit on the sidewalk, eat, drink another beer, and watch the local roach, rat, and dog population scurry around. i was a little worried about eating here and i was pretty convinced that i would regret it the next day, but everything worked out just fine. i didn't die. also, i think the guy that owned the place was amused that a bunch of drunk white people who didn't speak vietnamese were there buying food. he was so amused he invited me over to have a drink of some of his corn whisky from a dirtly gasoline can. all in all a great time.

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