Hue, Vietnam. Certainly not the most popular tourist spot, but the small city in the central region (near the DMZ) has plenty of culture to offer. Aside from the beautiful Citadel and Imperial city (impressive to say the least), many of its other landmarks, from the Nyugen Dynasty, were partially destroyed by bombings during the war. The surrounding rice paddies show craters, also remnants of the “American” war.

It’s not hard to navigate the ins and outs of this city, and 10 days here was time enough to establish some of our favorite places. First, Snow. Supposedly a Korean trend, Mango Snow (finely shaved ice with condensed syrup and fresh fruit) is cold, fluffy, and dreamy, especially on a 105 degree day.

Shrimp rice noodles in lotus leaves and Bon Bu Hue are among the most popular dishes, but boiled snails are evidently a teenager’s favorite. I hope to grow up before that becomes popular among American adolescents.

We are staying on the upper floor of a house Mom expertly discovered on Airbnb, with our Vietnamese “grandparents” living on the ground floor. It’s nearest landmark is karaoke street. If one family opens a promising business, the rest of the neighborhood follows their lead, which would reasonably explain the 50+ identical neon signs advertising karaoke rooms on the bottom floor of every home on Nyugen Hue street. How to choose?

In the evenings we play Bananagrams at a nearby cafe, where our competitive screams are drowned out by the honking of motorcycles outside.

About half way through our time here, we took a weekend excursion of sorts, to the Phong Nha-Khe Ban National park, famous for its caves. Some have narrow crevasse openings and are recently discovered, and others have long since been used by the locals, and even as hospitals and bomb shelters.  Here, we toured the paradise and dark caves, which involved a zip line, a swim in the chilly lake to the entrance of the cave, a mud bath (like sitting waist deep in Nutella) among the stalactites and stalagmites, and a canoe ride. Like field day, but better.

We barely had time to clean our bathing suits before our train ride back to Hue- equally as interesting with loud TV screens blaring and people’s bare feet propped up on my seat.

Just another week in Vietnam for this crazy world traveling family!

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