Next stop Hue

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hue here I come. The next stage of my bus journey takes me 140 Km to this ancient city with a war ravaged history. This is where some of the heaviest fighting took place during the war. I leave after lunch and arrive and arrive in the city centre in the early evening. The bus takes us past some picturesque rural scenery and most of the farms have plenty of water buffalo as well as hundreds of ducks swimming around the rice paddies. After a slow trip up and over a Rocky Mountain pass that is clogged with trucks and buses we eventually roll into town. 

 I find a great place to stay in the main tourist street called Why Not Inn....why not indeed! Within minutes of walking down the street guys on scooters approach me wanting to know if I want weed, cocaine or hookers. After 20 minutes at least 10 guys have approached me. Is it the way I look? Once again the street food is awesome and even some of the restaurants are reasonable priced for a budget backpacker

In the morning I walk down to the riverside. It's another grey cloudy day that is threatening rain. The city straddles the Perfume River which is dirty brown swirling colour. There are some beautifully carved and painted wooden boats waiting to take tourists on a river cruise but there are not many people around. Three long bridges link the two river banks and I head over to explore the cities main attraction which is the Citadel. There are numerous people selling old artifacts, that are laid out on the pavement. Lots of old china bowls and plates, stone carvings and one even has an old rusty bazooka. Explain that to airport customs when you leave!

Construction of the Citadel started in 1804 and was modeled on the Forbidden City in China. The grounds are spread over about 520 hectares and are surrounded by a 10 km moat and wall which is about 6m high and 21 meters wide. Inside this enclosure is another wall and moat surrounding the Forbidden City and a further wall and moat around the Purple Forbidden Palace. It took thousands of workers nearly 30 years to complete this royal enclosure which at the time was used as the capital city. Once completed it had about 160 buildings and structures including palaces, accommodation, theaters,temples and various other buildings. It was occupied up to the mid 1900's when the reign of the last Vietnamese emperor ended. By this stage it was starting to deteriorate due to cyclone damage and termites. In January 1968 a combined force of Viet Cong  and North Vietnamese attacked the Americans who had control of the city. Allied forces were told not to bomb or damage this ancient city but as the fighting intensified so the Citadel took more damage. Of the 160 structures only about 10 remain and you can still see bullet holes around the site. There is a huge renovation program underway and in 1993 it was declared an Unesco Heritage Site. History lesson over back to now.

When I get to the entrance there is a board displaying the entrance fee. I just want a basic entry into the grounds with out all the guides and extras that they sell. When I explain what I want according to the price list the lady insists that there is only one price which is the most expensive ticket. After 10 minutes of arguing because I know she is trying to rip me off she says "you want to see....you pay. Otherwise go!" Anyway I pay maximum price but don't get any guide or extras. Later I met some other travelers who had the same experience and it is even mentioned in one of the major guide books that this woman scams western tourists.

It must have been an impressive place in its heyday. The buildings that are still there are very impressive and there is very informative video showing a graphic reconstruction of what it looked like. Hopefully the restoration work carries on and they complete the project. I spend a good few hours walking around and getting lost and as there are 10 exit gates inside this very geometric structure it all gets a bit confusing. Especially when I walk out of one and realise that it is on the opposite side to where I want to be and when I walk back in an extremely aggressive soldier starts yelling and flapping his arms at me while waving his rifle around. It's only when I show him my ticket that he calms down and allows me to re enter. The weird thing is that I had only walked passed him 10 seconds earlier and he must have seen me walk by! Anyway these Emperors and their families sure knew how to live in grand style. 

Outside the Citadel is a huge square with a massive Vietnamese flag flapping in the centre. Apparently this is still used for public and political gatherings. The contrast between this side of the city and where I'm staying is vast. This old section has wide tree lined streets and lots of green areas and just across the river it is all tall buildings, narrow noisy streets crowded with cars and scooters. There is a military museum displaying American tanks and planes that were captured during the war but the gates are all locked and I can only peer over the wall to have a look

On my way home I pass a supermarket and go in to have a look. This may sound strange but I have come across very few supermarkets in Asia, besides in major cities. Most people buy their groceries from local shops and markets. In S E Asia it is a luxury for the average person to have a fridge so food is bought on a daily basis or they eat at cheap local street restaurants. One of the most popular and common shops are 7/11's. They are everywhere and sell everything from cheap take away meals, usually micro waved and soggy to snacks and alcohol. I think some less adventurous western tourists survive solely on these outlets. Back to the supermarket.... One of the things I really miss on my travels is good cheese. A few shops sell those packets of plastic tasting processed slices and if you do find proper cheese it is ridiculously expensive. Luckily I  find  some reasonably priced Camembert and a fresh crunchy baguette so I head of to the park to indulge myself. Heavenly. 

The rest of Hue is not very exciting and I have had my fill of temples and palaces so it's time to move onto the final stage of my bus trip heading to the big city of Hanoi.


PS. Sorry that the photos don't tie in with the paragraphs but I can't change the order on my smart phone. Once I get to a computer I will sort this out.
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Comments

GabonPhil on

Good one Gus. Enjoying your travel blog. Keep them coming. Cheers, Phil.

Roach/Rachelle on

Im loving your posts please keep them coming!

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