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Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 3 – 6, 2013 Hue, Vietnam

Hue, situated along the Perfume River, is an amazing city with a rich cultural as well as violent history. It was the royal city, the capital city, and the spiritual center; ruled by emperors under the Nguyen Dynasty for many, many years resisting French involvement until 1945, when communist rule took over and the capital was moved to Hanoi.  (This information was given to us by a local so don't quote me on it but it seems to be accurate.) There are many lovely and historic sites here including ancient tombs, pagodas and, of course the Citadel.

Evening views from our hotel room
Daytime views

Our hotel was situated just a couple of blocks back from the river, giving us a view that was breathtaking.
We were overwhelmed from studying the travel guide, so on our first evening we decided to just take off walking. Although we normally avoid these kinds of places we stopped at a popular western-style restaurant/bar. We were tired from traveling and just wanted a brainless evening. We managed to grab a table on a corner of the upstairs balcony that provided the perfect vantage point for people watching. There was a lot to watch. Local hustlers were at work among the throng of tacky, rude and drunken tourists on the streets below us.
We spent most of the first full day at the Citadel that houses the Imperial City, which again encloses the Forbidden (or Purple) City where the Royal family had resided. The Citadel was contained within a 2.5-kilometer wall and moat. Sadly it was all but destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive. What remains, however, has been preserved in a way that we could still sense a flavor of the magnificence of the former palace, surrounding grounds and outbuildings. Some of the remaining statues and structures are stunning in the detail of craftsmanship.
The Imperial City

One of the Gates at the Citadel
dragon at top of gate archway

the moat
main entrance to Citadel

Forbidden city

Royal Theater

By mid afternoon we were roasting in the sweltering heat, and so sought the cool comfort of our hotel for an air-conditioned break and since it was such a highly rated hotel, decided to just grab a late lunch there. Big mistake. The food was extremely average to poor and the prices were out of site but at least we were out of the heat! We decided to have a dip in the pool until the heat of the day passed, only to find that the pool was closed for repairs. In the height of tourist season!?!

Back out on the street we meandered, following the most shaded areas using that as our master sightseeing plan. There are so many Vietnam War relics scattered about the town; American and Russian tanks, aircraft and heavy artillery were found in clusters of fenced off areas.
 Little museums housing Royal and religious artifacts were abundant.

All along the streets (as in Cambodia) we found hundreds and hundreds of military artifacts for sale: ammo, medals, hashish pipes, opium pots and personal effects that had been owned by locals and soldiers. Anything and everything was for sale. We ended our day with a massage before freshening up for dinner.

Friday we headed out for more sizzling hot touring of the famous pagodas and sightseeing. The heat and humidity really did detract from our ability to truly enjoy the sights.

 By 10:00 AM you could feel yourself boiling from the inside out and all we wanted to really do was to get into the pool that was of course closed. The most impressive and famous pagoda is the Thien Mu Pagoda that remains a working monastery today.

It houses the car in which a monk named Thic Quang Duc drove himself to Saigon in 1963, where he disembarked, sat down in the lotus position on a busy intersection then poured a can of gasoline over his head and burned himself to death in protest of the Nao Dinh Diem regime's policies against religious freedom, particularly persecution of Buddhists.
That night we treated ourselves to a 5-star dinner at the Les Jardins de La Carambole.

Early Saturday we boarded a train to the Danang airport to catch our flight to Hanoi.

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