|The Hoi An to Hué bus|
|Hoi An bus station|
|A Hardened Aircraft Shelter|
|Outer perimeter wall|
|Some new development|
|A rather nice hotel to welcome the GIs back and their Yankee $|
|Another high rise development|
Next a stop at one of the many wayside bus food places, handy for a visit to the toilet (do not expect a flush, a hole in the ground, a concrete water tank with a plastic bowl the rest is left to you.
These mountains (North and South of Hué) are the cause of Hué inclement weather, the damp cold mountain air is funnelled down onto the coastal plain, this makes it very good for paddy fields and just to prove it on arrival it was raining.
The railway line that once traversed the shore line precariously hanging to the cliffs (at times not) has now been diverted through a tunnel, this now cuts down the time from Da nang quite considerably.
But before getting into Hué you have a great view down to the coast with its small fishing villages and duck farms.
I dropped off my larger backpack and then shouldering my small one (contains all of my important things, like documents, electrical ware etc.) I headed along Thua Thien down towards the river which I believed to be the Sông Huöng (the Perfumed River) the main river through Hué that leads to the sea. I of course took the wrong river and the wrong bridge; something’s never change do they.
But I walked across the bridge and passing fishing boats and vendors selling river snails straight from their boats.
I walked a further 500 mtrs and realised I was not outside the Imperial Palace, my intended destination, but in a district of tailors, cobblers and other small artisan workplaces, I stopped at a small eating house went in to ask the way (I did have a map of sorts), they said (gestured) to my question of which way was the Palace, in the direction from whence I had come. Well I had a look at the picture menu and what was cooking, I could see some fish being cooked, I indicated I would like to have some of that, I was plonked at a table, Vietnamese tea was brought (it always is) and I asked for a bottle of water (I always do), first came a clear broth (it always does), then came the fish served with rice and a very tasty sauce. I do enjoy a good piece of fish when it is cooked well, this was and very nice indeed.
I paid my few dong, thanked the restaurateur and retraced my steps along the street this time turning right and along the correct river. I passed Dragon boats offering me a trip on the river, I thanked them and with a polite hands together and a knick of the head and a no, I plodded on my way to the bridge that crosses over the river at this point.
You can see the direction of the Imperial city from a long way off, as at the riverside of it is a massive redoubt crowned with a very large flag pole upon which fluttered the red flag with the yellow star. This is the main way in to the walled moated city, I of course didn’t go this way (why take the easy route when you can take the hard one). I crossed a bridge and through a small entrance gate and was in (or so I thought). Well I was inside the outer walls but not the main citadel, but to make up for this I was right beside the museum of captured American war materials, aircraft both fixed and rotary winged, tanks, self-propelled and towed guns.
The only way in was through a main entrance at the other side, the paying entrance. I was somewhat disillusioned with my day’s orientation; I had taken quite a few wrong turns. As it was getting late and they would soon be packing up the Imperial city for the night, I thought I would toodle back to the hotel and return in the morning.
There was also a large sculpture park on the grass between the river bank and the boulevard; there were some very interesting pieces.
Again passing the dragon boats, and with a hands together and a bow of the head passed quickly by. The road was also lined with flower sellers, making the most of St Valentine’s day offering posies of flowers and hearts of roses to any that would buy (I suppose it would only be tourists).
I had a walk around downtown and along then along riverbank, visiting a shopping mall to use an ATM, this is across the river at the more modern side of the tracks. I was a bit foot weary so I headed back to hotel and had a little nap (well that afternoon had been a long journey of turns, returns and missed turns), it was getting dark when I awoke so decided it was time to shower and head off for a bite to eat.
I returned to the Hot Tuna as the menu looked very nice with lots of local dishes on it. I was greeted at the entrance by the same chap that had enticed me to have a beer that afternoon, it was still early and most of the tables were empty, I picked a nice table that overlooked the street and was adjacent to the small souvenir shop attached to the restaurant.
These of course came both served together, in SE Asia there are no courses, everything comes together and it is left up to you in what order or any order you wish to eat them, very civilised I must admit. I had a chat with my young waitress who I had found out was called Lyn, she spoke excellent English and made a wonderful translator between the chef and I as I enquired what, how and ingredients of what I was eating. The chef had no qualms of initiating me into the mysteries of his art.
So that was that cleared, I then rounded the corner and there was the bar “Brown Eyes” open until the last one passes out! I popped in just to have a look, bought a Hanoi beer, it was one of those normal seedy bars, with even seedier clientele I drank up and left, returning to my hotel to have a last beer before bed.
|Me being rather regal|
Thai Hoa was for the Emperor and his direct family only, The mandarins would stand in front of the palace the positions designated by 18 stone stelae. The footfolk (soldiers and civil servants would be standing a good way back in the cheap seats. The palace has been restored to its formal glory, red lacquered wood work embellished with gold leaf (well on later inspection it was a gold paint). No one (except the servants was allowed inside of the Central Pavilion, this was reserved for the Royal Family and only them.
It is interesting that two of the renovated sections are two of the tourist money spinners, the Ta pavilion converted to a souvenir shop and the Huu Vu a mock throne room, you can get dressed up and get your photo taken as the Emperor on the throne and no I did not!
Outside are two monstrous bronze urns weighing 1.5 tonnes each, these are wonderfully embellished with birds, wild animals plants and flowers in relief magnificent pieces of art.
|A restarator at work|
|Some of the finished restoration|
|An area of the purple gardens flattened by shells and bombs|
|And leaving via the gate that I had tried to enter yesterday|
The Mandarin's House
It was time for a quick dash to the only Pagoda within easy reach of the city, this is the Thien Mu Pagoda, the Elderly Goddess Pagoda, and this is the finest pagoda in Hué and is situated on the North Bank of the Perfumed River. It was built in 1601 by Nguyen Hoang a governor of the city. The story goes that he was approached by an old lady who said that this site had supernatural powers and he should build a temple there. This he did and it is the best kept and oldest temple and monastery in Hué. In the central Court yard after you climb the entrance steps is the 7 story tower, the Happiness and Grace Tower (Phuoc Duyen), each story has an altar to a different Buddha and the tower is adorned with a water pitcher to catch the rain, water being the source of happiness, well we certainly had a lot of rain that day and I didn't see a lot of people happy about it.
I decided to take a walk along the river and took some shots of cows grazing willy nilly on the verges, i also paid a few dong to use a toilet.
After lunch it was up to the area which most of the Emperors have their tombs, each Emperor built his Pagoda during his lifetime, they were built out of the city walls in an area full with Chinese graveyards, they often uprooted the existing tombs to make way for their pagodas.
|The Chinese graves and tombs|
It is too far to travel on foot and it is just do-able on a bicycle, but why strain a gut when the guided tours are so cheap.
First we visited was the tomb of the second Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty Minh Mang, he was much opposed to the French and was a follower of the Confucian Orthodox way of life. This led to a civil war and the first partition of Vietnam; he later overcame the South to reunite Vietnam again. He also defeated the Siamese who had tried to usurp Cambodia (then under Vietnamese rule) thus returning his rule to a reunited area in South East Asia of Vietnam. He lived between 1791 and 1841, he succeeded his father Gia Long the founder of the Dynasty, but as we didn’t visit his tomb, I shall not dwell on the subject.
|The court yard that leads to the actual burial tomb, locked and barred to us mortals|
|Inside of this stela pavilion is a carved eulogy to the emperor written by his son|
|How much does a Vietnamese Urn (sorry couldn't resist)|
|The Sung An temple dedicated to Minh Mang and his wife|
Though he built a magnificent mausoleum and tomb, he isn't actually buried here, his final resting place is thought to be in Hué, but as the 200 gravediggers lost their heads after returning from the final interment no one actually knows.
So once more onto the bus and the final stop of death the tomb of Khai Dinh.
After having a good look around the grounds, temples and sculptures, I visited the place of self edification, he certainly liked himself. This part of the temple is supposed to show the world what he actually accomplished in life (he certainly bought a lot of gold and done plenty of trips in the Western World (mainly France).
The very last Kaiser of Vietnam, was Boa Dai, Born in 1913 and died in 1997, in between he succeeded to the throne after the death of his father in 1936 to become the 13th and last Kaiser (unlucky 13). During WWII he was accepted by the Japanese (who overran Vietnam) as Titular head along with the Vichy French who under German and Japanese ran a puppet Government. This ended once again in 1945 with the return of French rule proper, The struggle between the French and the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh ended with the Communists taking power in Hanoi, he was given the post of head advisor. He once again changed his spots in 1949 after the French formed another government in Saigon and became the head of this Government. After the Indochina Conference in 1954 that split Vietnam in two, he once again became Head of State but this time of only the South, he saw the writing on the wall and went to live in Paris. A wise move as the next year a military putsch brought Ngô Din Diêm to the position of President and head of a Nationalist Government.
While the rest purchased their souvenirs, I went outside and took a few photo's of the real village life, chickens, beans and other food of life, though I suppose they earn more from the tourists than they do eking out a living with their gardens.
We then crossed to the perfumed river, there was waiting for us a dragon boat to whisk us down (or was it up) stream to the landing places near the statue garden that I had visited yesterday. I had had a very informative and entertaining day, if it had not been for the rain it would have been a perfect day, saying that if it hadn't been for the rain it would have been over crowded so rain does have its good points, besides watering the paddy fields.
|Boarding this fearsome dragon boat|
|The not so comfortable seating (loose plastic chairs)|
|Being overtaken by a speedboat|
|Passing the citadel our starting point that morning|
|The captain of this sturdy vessel|
I dined on a set menu, it had been ordered for me by Lyn, I had no option, after all she was running the joint and was my go between to the cook.
I had menu no 2.
|Notice the swimming fish|
Cá háp ngu lieu- Tuna fish in a five spice sauce, crunchy stir-fried vegetables and rice.
|Mixing a nice fruit salad|
Next day was my last full day in Hué, I was booked on the evening sleeper bus to Hanoi and I wanted to do a bit of last minute shopping, those silk scarves for the girls back home, remember.
As I was leaving I heard some drumming and cymbal playing close by, rounding the corner, I saw a dragon dance in full swing, I asked what it was all about (I had seen many in the past in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Singapore and at various military tattoos), I was informed that this was to honour a large Chinese wedding that was taking part.
I saw who was obviously the bride and her entourage, I asked politely if they minded if I took some photographs of this happy occasion, they were overjoyed and insisted on doing a few poses and when the groom appeared, he was also informed that he was in on the act.
I was invited in but I only stayed to take a few photos, I didn't want to impose on the couples happy day.
|The brides and grooms parents|
|The dragon dancers going to strut their stuff|
|Enter the Bride and groom|
|Followed by the maids of honour and an umbrella carrier|
|The Happy Couple, mum and dads ( not smiling as they are paying)|
I then headed along the embankment of the Perfumed River towards the imperial City, on reaching the bridge I saw a monument, I crossed the road and read all about it. The monument is set up outside a large school complex, it is dedicated to the anti-tax movement of 1908 in which Ho Chi Minh took part, it was here that the French Résident supérieur had his residence, he being the head of the government bore the brunt of the demonstrations, it is no longer there but in its place a seat of learning.
It was now getting on towards lunch and as it was sunny I decided to head back and have a spot of lunch sitting on the veranda at Hot Tuna, this is at the junction of three streets and is an excellent position to watch the locals going about their daily business.
Sitting outside in the warm sun, I ordered a beer and let the world go by, not a lot doing today!
|What has she got there|
|Her cargo of birds|
They catch the birds in the morning and then sell them at the market, The buyer then releases them to bring good luck, The next day they are caught again and the story repeats itself, now is that good business or what?
I selected the speciality of the house a Tuna Burger and French fries, not too heavy as I had a long trip ahead of me and if traveling I tend not to eat, as it can have dire consequences due to the interaction between food and my diabetic tablets, but I shall not trouble you with these.
So it was goodbye Hué now for the next leg of my journey Ha noi and my friend Viet An.
|Goodbye Hóng Thién|
Phew that was a long one!!!!!