Hue is the kind of place that allows you the opportunity to embed yourself into the cultural history of Vietnam, by this I don't mean the war with the Americans (although this is also possible throughout the DMZ) I mean the history of the country through its dynasty and all that comes with this.
I took the opportunity to do my first full flung touristy tour in Hue not because I'm a sucker for a sales pitch but because it seemed the best way to visit the Royal Tombs (or some of them at least) Pagoda and Citadel in one day. The price was really reasonable ($12) which included the bus tour throughout the day, lunch and a river cruise. The entrance fees to the sights were not included and this came to another $12 or so throughout the day, you may be asking yourself why an Englishman has become a convert to the much maligned USD, basically my brain has stopped functioning in pounds and now even when drawing cash out i think in dollars, I've finally gone mental!
The beauty in the royal tombs around Hue must be seen to be believed, the level of work, an
average of five years per tomb, is unreal. The first stop was the tomb of Ming Manh, this guy planned to the nth degree, he believed (quite rightly but perhaps morbidly) that life is very short, but death is for eternity, i guess therefore that he wanted somewhere nice to spend the rest of time! He planned it so intricately that it is even in the shape of a human if flying over in a helicopter or suchlike. The architecture is very ornate and obviously as with a lot of SE Asian attractions has a continuous cycle of restoration taking place on it. The place is huge, it needs a good hour to walk around and take it all in, but this is really the point, I find it pretty disrespectful to turn up at an ancient tomb of an emperor of anywhere nevermind Vietnam and then run round it like a madman in order to get back onto a bus or into a taxi. I was that person, led too much by ego with not enough time for anyone or anything, art galleries, people, museums they didn't interest me, I now take a differing viewpoint on this and love
to explore and find myself if anything being late for the bus not the one shouting at others for being so.
Anyway onwards we went to the next tomb that of Khai Dinh, he was ruler from 1916 to 1925 and therefore his tomb is a great deal more modern than the others we viewed, in fact I would go as far as to say there was a touch of Gaudi about it in terms of design, perhaps most similar to Park Guell in Barcelona's suburbs, it was also much smaller in comparison, he would have been the final emperors grandfather. The final tomb was Tu Duc, this guy loved the tomb he designed so much that he lived in it for 50% of the time even when he was alive! Again magical and conjures up some great images of what that period of time must have been like in Vietnam. It is complimented also by a mass of frangipani trees one of which is no longer in full fettle due to a young dutch girl swinging on a branch and snapping it clean off, everyone in the vicinity just stopped, stared and then she cried so that was
The final event of the morning was a traditional martial arts show, this isn't something I'd usually buy into but it had knives and spears and was $2 so relatively speaking was something I can believe in, the guys were experts in their trade really going for it, see the videos attached to this blog. Again a worthwhile foray into the culture of one of the most amazingly interesting groups of people on Earth, in my humble opinion.
The biggest draw of people to Hue is the huge citadel complex, it is lliterally massive, I think it probably feels bigger because everything has been destroyed or demolished over time and is now in the process of being restored to its former glory, within the confines of the citadel is the forbidden city, who's history I will let you read for yourself but needless to say Hue's position in Vietnams history is a one of great power having been the capital for great swathes of time. To my mind the most defining feature of the citadel was the 50 metre or so high flag pole with a gigantic Vietnamese flag flying from it, a true representation of the
pride and power of the citadel.
As with all of the cities I have visited there has been a level of socialising and this invariably entails drinking copious amounts of the local beer, in fact as I write this I am flying to Bangkok and its the first fllight where I have been in a fit state to converse with fellow passengers, it seems my big nights out in places are always the night before I fly somewhere else! So my tale of woe from Hue is as follows, after the tour I thought I would go for a few soothers to get out of the heat and rehydrate...... very quickly I met an English guy but we were introduced by the waitress as she recognised a) we were both English and b) sitting alone, it was like Vietnamese blind date but just with fellas and you didn't get a choice at the end. Anyway Tom was a really sound lad and we just continued drinking in the DMZ bar until late, when he eventually gave in and went back to his hotel, this is where the story becomes a bit different, I then continued drinking with a load
of Aussies but they were maybe 50 or so, the best character Ricki a married woman who loved playing pool and dancing with the cues! Still it gets better, I then elected to leave (6am flight) and did just that jumped on the back of a moto and went off into the night, not realising I hadn't paid the bill...... I realised when I got to the airport the next morning when I knew I had too much money for the taxi. At this point I was devastated, I'd had a great night met some great locals and travellers and then sullied it by just wandering into the night and leaving a 300,000 dong bill behind. So yesterday when arriving back into Hanoi from Halong Bay I put this right by writing the DMZ bar an apologetic letter and including the money, I have no idea if it will ever reach the intended recipient but I have tried to right a wrong so can at least feel a little better now. Perhaps in a couple of weeks I can send them an email to check it made it.
So next instalment Halong Bay and then into Bangkok and some
of the major cities in SE Asia before the Philippines then Southern Thailand and home, 1 month left give or take, its going to be amazing, take care all, safe travels.
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