I turn 42.5, a momentous occasion for today marks the quarter completion of my forties. Half birthdays may not be as celebratory as full birthdays, but these halves do prompt me to take stock of life. Is this year, this decade heading the way I intend? Will I do all my deeds? Well, as I wake in a German guesthouse in alpine Vietnam, rumble in a train along the Pacific Ocean through verdant mist, and wander the royal city of Hue, Vietnam is enough for a half birthday.
A tourist sneered, “Hue is like Majorca in Vietnam.” I have not yet been to Majorca, but I can guess what Majorca is like from Hue’s prevalence of ex-pat burger bars, tour agencies, roving shaggy or scantily clad white tourists, and the preponderance of Greg’s most vilified banana pancakes. “What’s wrong with bananas in pancakes?” I scream at him. Greg’s friend astutely noted, “Why is a white person abroad called an ‘ex-pat,’ while an Asian or non-white abroad is labeled an ‘immigrant?’”
Hue makes our previous Da Lat hum like a big city. The Hue streets are quieter with more bicycles and two-passenger, pedal-driven cyclo’s. White tourists, confused and beleaguered, haul large backpacks from place to place. I can see why tourists like atmospheric Hue compared to chaotic Ho Chi Minh City, but the fun here is simulated. The bar across the street from our hotel only closes “when the last person drops.”