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Full Circle

Day 82: Hue

Hue, Vietnam 
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Hue station. First taste of the monsoon.
Michael Palin - Full CircleBreakfast overlooking the Perfume River. Rain falls from a low, flat sky, as it has done for the last thirty-six hours. A shiny green kingfisher stares intently into the limpid water. A village of sampans lies strung out on the stream and the slim boats look like driftwood in a monochrome morning light.

At Hue station, cyclo passengers arrive encased like babies in multi-coloured rainproof sheeting. Children are sheltering under one of the arcades, taking it in turns to see who can slide their sandal furthest along the tiled floor.

As we progress slowly down the coast towards Da Nang I can see why water puppetry is such an art form in Vietnam. The entire countryside looks as though it is about to float away. Short, fat, lazy rivers merge with waterlogged fields. Canals join up with impromptu creeks and ponds, which are in turn swelled by streams spilling merrily over mud walls. My bowels seem to take inspiration from all this and I am forced to face the Chinese toilet-paper torture, Hong-He Sanitary Tissues, the only lavatory paper that could also be used for sanding down.

Outside Da Nang the prospect changes dramatically. Our single line track winds up through tunnels and across steep, bridged gorges until we reach Hai Van Pass, nearly four thousand feet above the ocean. Waterfalls and tumbling streams have replaced the listless rivers of the plain. Far below, the flat, dull-silver surface of the South China Sea is transformed into tossing, turbulent breakers.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 82
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Hue
  • Book page no: 119

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