Published: May 3rd 2011May 3rd 2011
Today I had a dream day. Successful and lovely in satisfying amounts.
It got off to a cracking start as I got into bed last night and realised - on sweet joy - the pillows were soft, like at home! Like they SHOULD be...!!!! Up until now, they've been utterly solid, the consistency of rapid dry concrete and solely responsible for the permanent crick in my neck, Indeed as I made this discovery, I felt the urgent need to do a little dance of exultation, all by myself, next to the bed waving my soft pillows in the air. And it's not often you get a chance to write a sentence like THAT in all sincerity.
I had a delicious sleep. This is a hotel where they really seem to care about you. Cold juices whenever you get in and more toast than I've seen for a long time. They really think about your comfort and wellbeing and I think sleeping in a place where you feel one of the family helps enormously.
So I breakfasted HUGELY on eggs, toast and fruit. I highly recommend breakfasting hugely. I have done so all holiday. Its the only meal I've felt like. (I only needed a banana to get me through til supper - and I certainly have NOT been sitting on my bottom all day - oh no). Off I strode into the dripping wet, relentless heat, waving away motorbike taxis and cyclos with the air of a woman who has places to go and body fluids to lose. Destination: the ancient citadel of Hue and the Forbidden Purple City (think The Last Emperor and you've got it).
On my way, I had one of those lovely explorer moments. I had decided to get off the main road an walk by the riverside. I found a massive (wrong word), EXTENSIVE bonsai tree display. It was amazing! Did you ever try to grow Bonsai trees in the airing cupboard? I did - it was a disaster, but these were absolutely perfect. I wonder if the growing of Bonsai and normal sized tress is related to quantum vs. Einstein's theory of relativity? The micro and the macro? But then, that wouldn't work - because according to quantum, when I wasn't watching those little buggers in my airing cupboard they should have gone all Schrodinger's cat and walloped into life. Anyway, I digress. And illustrate how how truly ignorant I am on the art of Bonsai, quantum theory and Einstein.
Eventually I reached the citadel. It is hard to describe, with any originality, how bloody hot it is. (And I'm too hot to try). I was wringing wet. Literally. I don't understand how the locals always look so dry and cool and all the Westerners look pallid, pink and sweaty. I suppose they don't walk anywhere, mad dogs and all that. I wandered around the city. Away from the clusters of tourists, this vast place was deserted. The sheer scale and grandiosity of it was overwhelming. An entire civilisation, dynasties upon dynasties I knew nothing about, going back hundreds of years and the little people bowing to the Emperor in the sepia footage - all individuals, like me with their own life stories. Awe inspiring.
Incidentally, if I ever get world famous, there's going to be a lot of very excited Japanese girls. For some reason during this holiday, I have been pestered to be in photos with Japanese teenage girls. I have reluctantly acquiesced as I can't imagine being next to these stunning Oriental flowers is doing me too many favours, but what the hell. (And no, it wasn't because I was looking ridiculous. I looked quite normal today actually). Funny to think I figure in loads of Japanese photo albums, though nameless. (Unless the caption 'big pink, odd, blonde woman' counts).
So citadel done, I decided to make for the Royal Fine Arts Museum. Now I'm wise to these maps now and I knew it was miles. I would have taken a cyclo, but what do you know, very sensibly all the cyclo drivers had disappeared off to snooze under trees in the heat of the day. On my way, I stopped off at a locals beauty salon to get my eyebrows tidied up (one has standards). Got mugged into having a facial massage. To my horror I realised that this was removing all my sunblock. And I had no more...but surely the museum couldn't be much further - could it?
I arrived at a very splendid, utterly deserted, palatial house surrounded by stunning grounds. I was the ONLY tourist. I had a personal tour of the palace, part of the Am Dinh Dynasty and home to the Emperor's mother. (It was home to the Emperor's mother, I wasn't then taken home to meet his mother). Alone upstairs, in bare splendid rooms, I felt my neck prickle. There was something there apart from me. Not in a bad way, but the air was thick with memory.
Then I was taken to watch a video (yay! we love the video!) in a blessedly cool room. It was ONE HOUR LONG and all about the palaces and pagodas I shall be visiting out of town on the motorbike tomorrow. There were some cracking stories about the emperors. One had 103 wives but STILL couldn't get a son. Blummin' patriarchal laws. It was riveting. I only fell asleep a few times. Whoever wrote the commentary was a bit of a hippy. Kept going on about 'our souls drifting on the mists of peace'. Hue is actually famous for its poetry as well as art, philosophy, food and architecture. A lot like Cheltenham then really. I was so pleased I had discovered a gem and had it all to myself.
It was nearly 4pm by now and I decided to get a cyclo back to the hotel, expecting to be quoted huge amounts by the driver, when I knew it should only be a dollar. Found a cyclo man - and he said - it would only be a dollar. I could have kissed him. Arrived back at the hotel to fresh juice and enquiries about what I had been up to. I then went and lay on my bed and watched the end of Harry Potter on HBO. Even that was ok!
I love Hue. I love the ancient buildings, the feeling of history, the lack of Hoi An's 'nouveau riche' attitude, the verneration of poetry and art, Best place so far.
On my way out to supper this evening, I bumped into the squeaky voiced sisters from the Grumpy Snorkelling Tour. they would have walked past but I said 'Hello !' We exchanged pleasantries and set off on our separate ways. We spoke more in 30 seconds than the entire time on the boat. 'There' (I wanted to say) 'that wasn't so hard was it?!'
I've just read this through. I have the chilling feeling that I have turned into my mother. (But don't tell her will you?!)