A royal-sized attitude problem

Imperial City giant phoenix-chicken - Hue, Vietnam
Imperial Citadel’s giant phoenix-chicken, Hue | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Todd and I explore Hue through the kind of precipitation that never attains full rain status, an annoying mist that is more like god is gleeking on you. Clouds hang low and thick, dragged down with the weight of a downpour that thankfully never comes. The cloudy sky washes Hue in a bland gray light that leeches the color from the old royal buildings.

Vietnam is filled with persistent touts and Hue is as touristy as towns come. As we’ve wandered Hue’s streets, we’ve been dogged by cyclo rickshaw drivers intent on pedaling us around the royal tombs and pagodas. When we’ve paused to cross a street or check out a view, we’ve quickly been swarmed by a pack of cyclos.

Mosaic lion-dragon-horse (never sure what these are) - Hue, Vietnam
Mosaic lion-dragon-horse | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Todd and I linger across from the entry gate into the Imperial Citadel, an attraction as much because some of it survived American bombings during the Vietnam War, as for its architectural beauty.

Out of the corners of our eyes, we see four Vietnamese guys make their way quickly towards us. Without a word, we know that we’re about to get pounced by another group of naggy cyclo touts.

Preemptively, without glancing at the touts, Todd and I simultaneously chant “No. No. No. No. No. No.”

Thien Mu Pagoda - Hue, Vietnam
Thien Mu Pagoda | Photo by Lauren Girardin

As group reaches us, one the men interrupts our repetitive refusal in excellent Vietnamese-accented English, saying”Excuse me. Sorry to bother you. Could you take our photo?”

My and Todd’s faces drain of color, left looking much like the monochrome sky. I babble an apology “Oh, wow, sorry for all the ‘Nos’ it’s just that we’ve been hounded by so many touts that when we saw you walking over we thought…”

Guardian in pink at the Thien Mu Pagoda - Hue, Vietnam
Guardian in pink at the Thien Mu Pagoda | Photo by Lauren Girardin

Laughing, the man interrupts, “It’s okay, we know how you feel. We have the same problem as you. They never leave us alone either. We’re tourists like you. It doesn’t matter to them that we’re Vietnamese.”

After I snap their photo, Todd and I take a moment to reflect on our asinine and embarrassing behavior. Clearly, we’ve hit a low point in our ability to brush off the infuriating aspects of travel. Our impatience – with touts especially and cyclo drivers in particular – has reached critical dimensions. We’ve got an attitude problem. So, determined to be better travelers, we shake it off and remind ourselves to keep polite smiles on our faces even if we’re gritting our teeth.

Photos from Hue, Vietnam

If you can’t see the photo slide show above, view the photo set on Flickr.