This post is brought to you by Greg
We left Hoi An to continue out tour of places in Vietnam beginning with H. From 1802 to 1945 Hue was the Imperial Capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, which was clearly a successful one given how many Vietnamese people share that surname. The old citadel is the main attraction to the town and a testament to the Nguyen's wealth and power, but not to their construction prowess. Most of the city was built from rendered brick and concrete, then painted, only to deteriorate rapidly in the heat and moisture of a century-and-a-half of monsoon seasons. The palaces, temples, housing and offices remain largely intact but scarred by peeling paint, crumbling concrete, and mould. All of this lends a rather ancient and rustique air to a construction that, compared with sites such as My Son and Angkor Way, is barely out of its cradle.
A highlight for myself was being photographed in a temple, kneeling in front of the altar, by a visiting Buddhist monk sporting a mid-grade SLR. I figured it was some sort of payback for years of being objectified by voyeuristic tourists. He subsequently forced a stash of money into the hands of the temple guard in return for overlooking the 'No Photography' rule. You've got a long way to enlightenment, buddy.
On our second day we went down to the port to hire a dragon boat that would be willing to take us to Gia Long, the furthest imperial tomb from Hue, as well as a few other tombs and temples on the way. We stopped at the seven-storey Thien Mu pagoda (Ed note: Built for some random lady who prophesised the coming of the Emperor), Minh Mang and Tu Duc tombs, and enjoyed the experience of having the whole boat to ourselves. (It was also large enough to take around 15 people!).
We took bikes with us so we could cycle around when we disembarked, which had the added benefit of allowing us to speed past the women hawking their goods aggressively along the approach to the sites. That didn't stop them from standing in the middle of the road waving their arms as if there was some sort of medical emergency that required our immediate attention.
Editors Note: We travelled down the Perfume River - so named because of the perfumed blossoms that open in spring and float down the river. Unfortunately it was not that time of year and the river was perfumed with a subtle scent of garbage.
Thien Mu Pagoda & Surrounds
Minh Mang & Tu Duc Tombs
We returned to the boat to find a huge lunch spread out, courtesy of our driver. We ate heartily as we cruised back into town.
Our third day in Hue was spent with gastroenteritis. Perhaps enough said.
Feeling marginally better we boarded the night train bound for Hanoi, and luckily had a cabin all to ourselves. We spent the next 15 hours sleeping and recuperating before pulling into Hanoi.
Next post: The amazingly beautiful Ha Long Bay, and the best street food tour in the world sampling the delights of Hanoi food (coconut pancake wraps, special noodle soups and frozen yoghurt coffee!).
Love to hear your thoughts and travel memories of these places so let us know!
Jade & Greg x