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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 16.4635, 107.585
We have had two days in Hue the ancient capital of Vietnam and the centre of the Kings of the former regime before the French came. This is a lovely city centred around the Perfume River. The North bank contains many historic palaces and tombs of the kings while the south bank has the business and restaurant area of the city.
To get here we drove from Hoi-An, back through Da Nang and over the mountains through a high pass. The pass was an ancient checkpoint between provinces and then was an important American strategic point during the war. Pill boxes protect it on either side of the road. The drive took over two hours but mainly went along the coastline so there were charming fishing villages to see with their traditional fishing boats and nets. The drive though was rather hairy. I had to close my eyes at times as trucks weaved in and around motor cycles, cars passed trucks passing bikes but everybody seemed just to weave and dodge and get around each other. Organised chaos!
In Hue we were first taken out to the Tomb of Tu Duc. This is in a lovely setting with large man made lakes. It was built not only to be his tomb but as a country retreat for him and his 100 or so wives and concubines. Poor guy though was sterile so never fathered any children but must have had some fun trying! These complexes take on a similar pattern with a large courtyard entrance followed by a pavilion which houses a large stele on which is engraved the biography of the king: then inner shrines and finally the tomb itself. This was built at the beginning of the 19th century but is fading and has yet to have much restoration done on it unlike some of the others we subsequently visited.
The second tomb was of the last king to die in Vietnam in 1945 and was more elaborate. The steps leading up to this one were very steep and the tomb was built on the side of a hill. This was in very good condition with beautiful porcelain panels around the walls and porcelain decorations on the roof. This had photos of the king at various ceremonies and also photos of his grand funeral procession.
Today we went to the Citadel. This is like the forbidden city in Beijing though a little smaller in area. This was the palace of the Nguyen dynasty, the last to rule. It is set on spacious grounds with a boundary wall surrounding it about 10kms long. It is also surrounded by a moat.This was very impressive more so because Unesco and other organisations have given money to restoring it. Our guide told us that much was destroyed when the French came back in 1947 and again in 1968 when attacked by the Americans as the Viet Cong were using it as a hiding place. We were able to see the main throne room with a beautiful golden throne as well as the Queen Mother's pavilion and the temple dedicated to the memory of all the kings of the dynasty. This has a line up of altars with pictures of them and a Buddhist altar behind for worship.
At the front of the citadel is a raised platform flying the most enormous Vietnamese flag you are likely to see. We spent an interesting but very hot couple of hours here. The temperature has been in the high 30s everyday and combined with the 80% humidity is very draining. We are constantly dripping and the welcome cold water and airconditioning when we return to the car is much appreciated.
We also visited a pagoda which also has a Buddhist temple where there are resident monks. This has been in the same place for nearly 400 years and is on a hill overlooking the river. We had a nice ride back to the city along the river in one of the local boats which was pleasant.
Our last stop after lunch was at the Tomb of Ming Manh. Another of the Nguyen Dynasty this was about 10ks in the country reached by a very narrow and bumpy road. We had to back up for several metres when we met a bus coming the other way. This is set in peaceful and beautiful surroundings and is on the same pattern as the others. Restoration work is bringing this back to its former splendour, this king died in 1840 and the Tomb wasn't completed until 2 years later.
All in all we have spent a couple of enjoyable days here though we have been glad to get back to our airconditioned room to cool off each afternoon. A swim in the hotel pool has also helped. Food has been good too and the local beer is very drinkable and about $2 a can. It is certainly not expensive to live here. We go to Hanoi tomorrow.
Hopefully I can upload photos soon as I have been using the hotel free internet rather than the laptop.
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