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Published: October 18th 2012
Cyclo in Hue
Pip happy on cyclo despite insane traffic
We travelled by train from Hoi An to Hue. It is supposedly one of the world's great train rides - but the haze, smog, dirty windows and fact that we were on the wrong side of the train facing backwards made it a little difficult to work out why. But hey, we weren't at work, and had a packet of Oreo cookies to console us.
It was dark in Hue, but the drive from the airport was interesting - much cleaner and some pretty smart street lighting here. Rooms at the Huong Giang Hotel are gorgeous, but staff look at me blankly when I ask if this was once a school. I read a great book recently by Uyen Nicole Duong, called Daughters of the River Huong (the first of an interesting trilogy) talking about her (autobiography?? heroine) time growing up in Hue and her antecedents and royal links. This made the citadel visit this morning just that much more interesting. The author also described returning to Hue after her dramatic escape in 1975 from Sai Gon - probably in the mid '90s. She talked about this hotel having been her school, so that is why I asked the question.
Hue citadel, very special, very moving
Talk about civilised people, this citadel with all its palaces is as sophisticated and cultured as anything we have seen in Europe
I enjoyed the book, and it has made this part of the visit particularly interesting.
We were taken by cyclo (seat in front of cycle) early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, and spent an engrossing couple of hours or so wandering through the citadel of the last kings of Vietnam (Nguens sp) and their concubines and pasttimes.
This is another eye opener for us. This magnificent palace complex was hugely damaged during the Tet Offensive, prior to the end of the Vietnam War - no blame mentioned. It was already old, and under communist rule (poverty, hunger) no-one cared about history, they were worried about eating and surviving. So timber and bricks were looted, and the enormous and fabulous complex fell into disrepair and the jungle quickly did its stuff.
Since the the reacceptance of Vietnamese refugees and their welcome in the late '80s, repairs began, paid for by UNESCO and the Vietnam Govt. Of course, like everything here it is labour intensive, and that, in turn creates jobs, and people like us tourists add to the mix, visiting and paying the almighty dollar to see the repairs. Great stuff. Our guide,
Urns in Hue Citadel
Stunning artworks, just sitting there - gorgeous
Hai, said every year is now a better year. But boy there is some serious poverty here.
So we cycloed back to the hotel, had a fight with the drivers about the paucity of our tips (despite them being pre-paid), booked a river cruise and Davie and I wandered up town.
It was too hot to go far, so we wandered (this tropical torpor is a real problem, the symptoms start when you walk fast and the sweat starts to flow - thank goodness for the silk pyjama affairs we have all (girls) adopted) off and looked at shops and stuff i.e. had a beer every so often between checking out the stalls/shops.
Had a lovely lunch at a restuarant supposedly mentioned in the Michelin Guide (2012??) and headed back to hotel for quick shower before our Fragrant (Huong) River cruise. Can't be bothered with a swim (TT - tropical torpor - it gets you!!).
Were apprehended, as one is all the time, but this time by girls on scooters asking it we are kiwis and would we change kiwi money. Poor souls, they had lots of two and one dollar coins, which we did change
Flower vendor in Hue
Note the enormous load on a single bicycle - we'd have serious balancing issues if we tried it.
for them, but they also had a swag of old coinage, and refused to believe it was no good any more. They maintained they got the money from tourists buying postcards. Pretty tough when it is a big deal changing $20NZ.
Davie asleep in nana-nap land, but I will wake him shortly for tour. Off to Hanoi by plane tomorrow. Nearly all over. And it is such fun and SO intereting.
Trust the weather is improving in NZ.
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