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Stories from the Road: Hue'd Down in Vietnam

Every traveller hits the wall somewhere and after almost 4 months on the road I've hit it in Hue

It's cold, wet and rainy...again. I don't have enough winter clothes and my soaked sandshoes squelch as I walk ankle-deep in water over a broken footpath.

Back home, in Australia, it's a sunny 41 degrees and I could be there sitting on a golden beach listening to the soothing sound of the surf instead of the constant irritating clatter of traffic and their incessant horns. But I'm in monsoonal Vietnam where I haven't seen the sky for 2 weeks and I have a head cold because nothing ever dries out and rustic homestays don't have much in the way of heating...or walls for that matter.

The miserable faces of other tourists tell the same story. Whether you start in the south, where it's hot and rainy, or the north where its cold and rainy, you eventually converge, with your dirty laundry, on the misery-stricken drowning town of Hue.

Every traveller hits the wall somewhere and after almost 4 months on the road, I've hit it in Hue.

So what to do to get over this funk?

I had a range of activities planned, most of which are washed out or I'm just not in the mood to battle tour touts or spend another day walking around sodden sites in soggy shoes. So, instead, I start my day with a lie-in. Why not?

Most days I'm up-and-at this tourism thing like its a 9-5 job, 7 days a week. It can get kinda tiring. Sometimes, we need a holiday from our holiday.

We can fall into the trap of having to do 'something' every day. Ticking off sites like a to-do list even after we've lost interest. I mean, lets face it, how many of us have been to every historic relic and museum in our own city? Most of us know there's more to our hometown than that. And most of us would find it a chore to do it day after day and every few days a new town. Sometimes the best days come in chilling out and doing the things we like rather than what a guide book or Tripadvisor say are the 'must do'. No, we don't 'must-do' anything.

Eventually, I get up for pancakes, then go back to my room, catching up on stuff, reading and staring out the window. I'm lucky to have a window in Vietnam - one that is an actual window not a fake window dressed with curtains. What's more it's one that doesn't look to the neighbour's wall but into their peaceful shabby chic garden. A rainy view is always nicer through a window frame.

Feeling better, I dress warmly in freshly laundered clothes, wander down the riverbank and stumble on a vegetarian restaurant that's really very good and right next door to a modern art gallery.

Even the Palace roof leaks!

A friend was telling me how she recently met a tourist who wasn't all that impressed with Vietnam. He'd seen all the things he was told to see and didn't think they had the big 'wow' factor.

It's hard in a country full of UNESCO sites to not feel the net dragging you there. But what if you just aren't that into it? What if you're not an archaeologist, anthropologist, geologist or architectural historian and you're just pagoda-ed out? Or if you can't be arsed to haggle with touts to sit on a bus for 2 hrs just to see a rice paddy? Or you think the beaches are better at home? Are you supposed to feel guilty about that? To feel you're missing something?

We don't have to be impressed by everything in the guide book. Someone else's holiday doesn't have to be ours. The trick is to make the most of your experience, to enjoy it, to take something away from it that you can't get at home. But our reason for coming shouldn't be someone else's bucket list.

I remember a couple in Venice. The husband stood on one side of the canal, hands in pockets, looking around unimpressed. "What's up your arse Darl?" His wife shouted, in a cringing Aussie drawl. "Ahh," He replied miserably "I'm shit bored!"

I'm not bored, I'm tired, have a head cold and am begging for a sunshiny day. But I also know how privileged I am to be here and how unlikely I will be again. I've travelled long enough to not kick myself for missing a mushy must-do site, preferring to stay warm and dry indulging in my love of art or movies or just staring out a window watching the world go by without me for a day. Maybe I'll go tomorrow. Or maybe I won't.

I even see a little bit of sunshine.




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