14.06.2015 - 18.06.2015
Well as usual time as slipped away from us, but here is our take on Hue.
After farewells to our friends in Hoi An, we caught the SE2 train from Danang to Hue, which took about 3 hours and was along some of the best Vietnamese coastline (which was the reason why we decided to take the train). It was lovely, the mountains covered in jungle came right up to the water. We could see secluded little beaches every now and then, which would have been just paradise if you could find your way to them (unfortunately the photos just don’t do it justice and we couldn’t escape the power lines). Train is the best way to travel around Vietnam, there are internal flights of course, but you miss all the extra scenery and it’s a lot safer than travelling on the roads!
Our taxi ride from the train station to the hotel gave us our first impressions of Hue. It’s a very nice city, maybe about the size of Geelong and located on the Perfume River (love that name!). It was were the Emperor reigned over Vietnam from 1802 until 1945 when the long line of Emperors finally ended (incidentally control of the country was transferred to Ho Chi Minh). They choose that area based on the landscape providing security against invaders and then built a massive citadel to keep invaders out.
The sights to see are all a result of that reign, and we made use of a good day tour to get around and see some of the best while we were there over a couple of days. We saved a tour around the Citadel for a separate day. We didn’t want to stay in Hue for too long, we have one month left on the Visa and we still want to see the Phong Nha Caves, Hanoi and Sapa, so we decided to have a concentrated time of sight seeing and then move on.
We visited the tombs of two Emperors, Tu Duc (12th emperor) and Minh Mang (2nd emperor), both very different in their style but both amazing. Apparently when Minh Mang died his 500 concubines (yes, 500) had to all move out there and live there for 3 years, after which they all went home to their families. We thought later, what would have happened to the 140 plus children from the Emperor when he wasn’t there anymore? Here are some photos of the Minh Mang tomb.
The Tu Duc tomb was fascinating, a lot smaller area than the Minh Mang tomb but a lot more colourful (on the inside at least), covered in gold and ceramic dragons, with gifts from all of the French ambassadors for the Emperors 40th birthday (the French were weasling their way into Vietnam by that stage).
The tour we went on included a visit to a pagoda, and a ride on a dragon boat back to the city (which is always nice, a trip along the river is a great way to get a different perspective of a place).
We saved the Citadel until the next day, because we’d heard that it was a huge area and that turned out to be right! This was basically a separate town within fortified walls, in the middle of Hue. The Emperor spent his entire reign inside, he didn’t need to leave since everything came to him! It was great to walk around and learn more about each of the 13 Emperors, the kind of people they were (which was sometimes amusingly honest) and the way that the Citadel operated in its prime. Sadly, this was bombed extremely heavily in 1947 and 1975, so there’s a major project underway to restore the Citadel fully to its former glory. Looking at the model of what used to be there, and what is actually there right now, the people working on the project have a major job ahead of them!
It’s amazing how many people you meet and chat with when you’re travelling, even in our short time in Hue we had great chats with a mother and son from Belgium (the Mum lives in Florida now, and the son is teaching English in Saigon), an American who is travelling through Asia after spending time working in the vineyards outside of Adelaide, a young family from Brighton, UK, who are travelling around the world with kids even younger than ours, and numerous retired or semi-retired Australians who’ve made Vietnam their second home. It just brings home the point that it’s a big world and there’s so many things to experience.
Next stop, Dong Hoi and the Phong Nha National Park to see some amazing caves!