The Imperial City
Trip Start Jan 11, 2011
60Trip End Jun 01, 2011
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Where I stayed
Tran Ly Hue
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
It's a nice ride to Hue through some of the most scenic areas of Vietnam. I would have preferred to have taken the train as it passes around the mountains instead of the bus which uses a tunnel, but to do that we would have had to take a taxi to Danang and get the train there.
When we arrived in Hue we didn't see anyone waiting for us which proved to be more of a problem than we thought since we could not find the hotel card and had not written it down anywhere. We were getting ready to call our old hotel for help when this kid ran up holding a sign with our names
Our new hotel again is very nice with a great location and room. Another good one recommended to us from our hotel in Hoi An. We hope the recommendation for Hanoi works out as well.
We had the afternoon free, so we walked around Hue and crossed into the Citadel which defined the boundary of the old city. While there we took a bicycle trishaw ride around the city for a hour to familiarize ourselves with the layout. The gentleman who drove us around lost his father during the war and dedicated his life to Buddhism at a very young age. He took us to a few temples and pagodas and explained to us the basic tenants of Buddhism. Very interesting.
The next morning we arranged some motorcycles (with drivers) to take us to the royal tombs and temples outside of Hue. Getting on a motorcycle here is a little dicey, but they don't drive very fast and there are certain rules of chaos that dictate what each driver will actually do. They started out driving on the fast side, but after we told them Sonia was "nervous" on motorbikes, they slowed it down and the rest of the day wasn't an issue.
The first tomb we visited -- down a road with major repairs going on, dodging all sorts of construction vehicles -- was dedicated to Khai Dinh.
It's an imposing tomb with several levels of staircases. At the middle level there are statues of mandarins, soldiers, a horse and elephant
On the way to the second tomb Ming Mang we stopped near a hill overlooking the river to visit one of the US strong points. Several concrete bunkers overlooking the river -- which had amazing views. Unfortunately the weather was overcast, but the views were still good. I'd have loved to see what it looked like on a clear day though. Ming Mang tomb was our favorite. Beautifully laid out with lakes and meandering paths through the woods. It also was wonderfully quiet which was a pleasant surprise given the mobs that we'd seen at the previous tomb. The one unfortunate event was that this place was teeming with birds and we'd forgotten to take the binoculars with us.
Our last tomb was the tomb of Tu Duc. This was supposed to be *the* tomb to see in Hue but it was actually our least favorite. It didn't have the flair or the style of either of the other tombs.
It was different in that it was more palace than tomb. It was actually meant to be a secondary palace so it had more buildings and a more formal air. It's not really a tomb either in that the king is not buried there but in a unknown location (supposedly with a lot of treasure). It is a little known fact that the 200 individuals to accomplished the burial were immediately beheaded to keep the secret upon their return. Apparently this happened in the mid-late 1800s.
We then visited two temples. Tu Hieu Pagoda was unremarkable except for when we first arrived we were swarmed by women trying to sell us water and trinkets. Amazingly aggressive to the point of grabbing your shirt. This did not make Sonia very happy to say the least. When you enter, there is a nice pool with huge carp and catfish swimming around. The temple itself was scenic enough, with a nice location, but just not much was going on!
Our final temple was Thien Mu Pagoda which is the temple for Hue. It's a beautiful location on the river and gets many tourists. It's also a hotspot for protests even today. The major claim to fame here is the monk Thich Quang Duc who publicly burned himself during the Vietnam (they say American) War was from this temple. The car which transported him to Saigon is here. In the text describing him they refer to him as "The Venerable".
That evening we were fairly exhausted due to lots of temple, hill and stair climbing. We worked on these blog entries and then crashed.
The next morning was bright and sunny -- great day for touring the Imperial City. We got some bikes and headed over.
The Imperial City is located with the Hue Citadel -- so you could say it's a citadel within the citadel
The fighting to retake the city was savage -- this is the city where the comment "We had to destroy the city in order to save it" comes from. Large artillery barrages and napalm drops leveled much of the Imperial Palace.
But one thing that isn't mentioned here is that when the VC took the city, they had pre-prepared lists of "collaborators" and went house to house rounding them up. Soldiers, politicians, intellectuals and artists. And when they were being pushed out of the city, they tied them all together and shoved them off a crevice to their deaths.
All three thousand-plus of them....
This is well known here, but not exactly talked about.
Vietnam's Imperial City reminds us much of the Chinese Imperial City in Beijing. Not surprising given Chinese influence. They've rebuilt a substantial amount of the buildings, although there is doubtless decades more work to be done. Many areas are simply piles of ruins.
We spent the majority of the day there -- it's a big place; touring the buildings, bird-watching and just generally hanging out. Afterwords we biked around the Citadel complex just seeing the city and then headed back to the hotel for the evening.