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Published: January 2nd 2015
Hué: Boat Trip on Perfume River
... on a dragon boat like this, on the way from the city to Thien Mu Pagoda.
We arrived in Hué late at night and it was pouring down with rain. So we caught a taxi that took us straight to the hotel, had a late dinner in the hotel, and went straight to bed.
The next morning our guide came to pick us up. Our day started with a boat trip on the Perfume River. The river has its name because the people living at its banks used to grow herbs along the river and that is why the air always smelled nice. We got off the boat at Thien Mu Pagoda, a Buddhist temple. The main pagoda consists of seven floors and overlooks the Perfume River. Behind it there are several other pagodas and buildings. In one there is a car that is supposed to remind people of an incident: During Diem’s dictatorship in South Vietnam it was not allowed to practice any kind of faith. In front of the car that is exposed in Thien Mu Pagoda a Buddhist monk burned himself to protest against the ban.
Our next stop was the Citadel. It is not as old as one would assume: construction work started in 1802 and finished in 1833! It was
Hué: Thien Mu Pagoda
Buddhist Pagoda with seven floors, located close to Perfume River.
meant to be not only a fortress, but also a city with houses, parks, even artificial little mountains and rice paddies. In the city centre there was the Forbidden City with the royal palace and its administration buildings. It must have been incredibly beautiful; however, unfortunately most of it was destroyed during the Vietnam War. But it is UNESCO World Heritage now and the Vietnamese are putting a lot of effort into rebuilding it. This will require huge effort though because only 80 of the once 300 buildings are left, and even those are declining. Also here we could see how the Vietnamese used to worship and still worship their ancestors. There are statues and pictures of them and furniture and food for them. What was a very nice pavilion was the queen mother’s one, surrounded by a fish pond and very quiet and just a nice place to sit. Some of the buildings are simply splendid with coloured bricks, paintings, and lacquer work, whereas others are a bit simpler. All in all it was kind of sad to see the remainder of what must have been beautiful and I was a bit disappointed.
After visiting the Citadel we
Hué: Citadel I
Outside the Forbidden City.
went to the market. People sell all kinds of good in and around the big building. There is meat, poultry, vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices, clothes… The Vietnamese are good salespeople, do all kinds of business, and manage to use different kinds of sales techniques. Pretty interesting!
After lunch we visited two royal tombs. The first one was Tu Duc’s Tomb, located on a lake and in parts declining so that it felt kind of romantic, but at the same time also a little bit like in an Indiana Jones movie. Tu Duc lived in the 19th century and was a poet and romantic person. He preferred hiding in the gardens around his tomb over ruling his country – during a time when Vietnam’s independence was in danger! But the gardens are very beautiful and romantic, so I can relate to the fact that he loved spending his time there. The architecture is traditional Vietnamese. The other tomb was Khai Dinh Tomb, completely different in style. A long flight of stairs with dragons on it led up to a terrace where there were statues of mandarins. Another flight of stairs led up to the temple and tomb itself. It
Hué 014: Citadel II
The intention when building the citadel had been to create not only buildings and a fortress, but to build a landscape that also included little mountains and lakes - like here.
is a mixture of Vietnamese and European architecture, built from concrete instead of bricks and covered with mosaics of glass and ceramics on the outside and also on the inside. It is considered to be a symbol of the decline of Vietnamese culture under Western influence. Accordingly, the emperor who is buried there is seen as a puppet of the French invaders. After so much input we were exhausted and treated ourselves to a full body massage, hmmm! In the evening we went for dinner and then had an early night.
The next morning a driver picked us up and we started our journey to Hoi An, the city of lanterns. On the way we stopped on Hai Van Pass, the pass between North Vietnam (Socialist) and South Vietnam (occupied by the Americans) during the Vietnam War. There were bunkers and once we got to the other side and drove through Da Nang we could also see the hangars and airstrips the Americans had built during the war.
We arrived in Hoi An in the late morning and checked in at our hotel that was just across the river from the old part of the city. We had
Hué: Citadel III
The queen mother's tea pavilion, surrounded by a lake. Wonderful atmosphere!
lunch and then started exploring the beautiful city. The houses there are a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese architecture. There are a lot of houses that used to belong to merchants and they have beautiful wooden interiors. Also there are quite a few temples and assembly halls, many of them Chinese. There is a big indoor market surrounded by many different market stalls, and there are many shop houses in which all kinds of goods are sold. There is also a bridge with a roof and a little altar inside. You can stroll around the city for hours and always discovers something new. There is nothing that totally stands out, it is just all the beautiful buildings, assembly halls, and temples that are very nice, and the city has a great atmosphere. We just loved it there! In the evening we had dinner on the terrace of a restaurant on the first floor with the view of the river. It was full moon and people were putting small lanterns into the river that floated down the stream, a most beautiful sight.
The next day there were more streets and houses to explore, we did a little bit of
Hué: Citadel IV
This is where they are starting to rebuild the buildings that were destroyed during the Vietnam War. It gives an impression how beautiful everything around here must have been.
shopping, and we decided to walk to three more remote temples. The first one, the Tiger Temple, was not that spectacular, but it served as a landmark on our way to the next temple. On our way we had a coffee in a restaurant where we were the only guests. The waitress did not speak any English (well, I should say we did not speak any Vietnamese), but we managed to tell her what we wanted (traditional Vietnamese coffee, very nice!) and she was super friendly. She brought us our coffee and then sat down at the table next to us with her own coffee. We had actually wanted to pay, but we decided to stay a little longer just because we found it such a nice gesture of her to give us some company although we could not talk to each other.
Then we continued to the temple, Chuc Tanh Pagoda. We were the only people there apart from the Buddhist monks that live in the temple. It was founded in the 15th century by the first Buddhist monk in Hoi An. We enjoyed the quiet and peaceful atmosphere there before continuing to the next temple, Phuoc Lam
Hué: Market I
They are selling all kinds of fruit and vegetables here, all nice and fresh...
Pagoda. It was founded in the 17th century. There is a story that one of the monks there joined the army in place of his brothers and after returning to the monastery he went to sweep the market square in Hoi An for twenty years in order to rid himself of his sins. It was peaceful and quiet in the temple and we sat underneath a Banyan tree for quite a while before returning to Hoi An. We enjoyed a foot massage in our hotel before having dinner in town and then had another early night. The next morning we had some time left for visiting some more of the beautiful houses and having a cup of coffee before leaving the city. We flew to Ho Chi Minh City from Da Nang – the next story!
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