I’ve been on a Vietnam novel kick for the past couple weeks. And when I read about Vietnam, I can’t help but think back to my trip there 20 years ago. It was one of the highlights of my then-20 year life (and still is, although I’m not 20 anymore).
When I arrived in Hue in June 1991, I found myself at the empty Huong Giang Hotel (left). My guide checked me in there for US$50 a night. That was a lot of cash for a starving undergrad.
(I’d flown from Saigon to Danang, where a guide from the state-run Danang tourist bureau met me in arrivals and gave me the choice: hire him and his driver for US$100 a day, or take the next flight back to Saigon. Desperate to see Vietnam, I chose the former. Mind you, this was before Vietnam used ATMs and credit cards. Those next seven days just about wiped out my savings.)
This hotel was more or less a dump back then–and that boat had certainly seen better days–but boy were those exciting times.
You see, Catherine Deneuve and the Indochine cast and crew had holed up at the Huong Giang months before I arrived. I befriended the front desk staff (girls my age) and–when I could escape the wrath of my guide–they entertained me with descriptions of Catherine and the exciting chaos the film crew brought to the hotel.
When the film came out a year later, Hue certainly looked more lively than it had when I stayed at the Huong Giang.