AsiaVietnamHue

Show me the Hue!

Hue Travel Blog

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Along the drive with a few members of the group ahead of me
We pulled up to our hotel in Hue (pronounced "way" incase you missed my previous entry and are wondering about the title) in the early afternoon. It didn't seem to be the great cultural and historical city it was described as. After Marble Mountain and the scenic drive through the Hai Van Pass that morning, I thought the day couldn't get better. It did.

We put our stuff away and then headed to lunch around the corner from our hotel at Mandarin Cafe. I ordered chicken (forgettable) and sauteed morning glory (fantastic). After lunch, most of the group went off to explore Hue, but five of us hung around in the hotel lobby, chatting and poking around on the free internet. We started to feel like we were wasting time so we asked the staff at the hotel to arrange a motorcycle tour.
We had no idea where the tour would go, but we figured we had to get out and see something. The drivers came to pick us up and we went off in search of Hue's attractions.

We turned off the city streets onto paths that were too small for cars through forests and quaint neighborhoods. We stopped briefly at a Buddha statue. It wasn't too impressive, but we all had huge smiles on our faces. The ride was great in itself and we were now convinced of Hue's beauty. We headed off to the next surprise.

We stopped in the forest where there appeared to be ruins. I thought it was great. But according to one of the drivers, we still hadn't quite reached our point of interest. They lead us down through the gates of an incredible  monastery where monks and nuns were meditating and chatting amongst themselves.
Path we drove through to get to the Buddha
There was the sound of percussion, bells and voices coming from somewhere nearby. We all started going off in different directions to explore. But our drivers said there was something we needed to see. They led us to the source of the wonderful sounds- monks in the middle of their daily chant. We felt so grateful to have arrived at the perfect time to see this, it was a beautiful experience.

We roamed through the monastery and then headed over to a shop where they had these great scrolls with sayings like, "Enjoy Your Breathing." My favorite simply said, "Be Free Where You Are." I later learned that where we were is called Tu Hieu Temple and the monastery there is where Thich Nhat Hanh, a well known Vietnamese monk first studied.
At the Tu Hieu Temple
Be Free Where You Are is a book of his teachings based on a talk he gave at a prison in Maryland.

The next stop was obviously a shopping stop. Along each side of a peaceful road were vendors selling cone hats, artwork, and mostly incense. You could tell it was geared towards tourists. If you want, the sales people will let you try to roll some incense. Most were laid back about selling to us. One sales woman had a different approach. She had seen someone in our group take a picture of a kid. So as we walked by, she told a girl, who I assume was her daughter, to sit at the table and roll the incense. She eagerly pointed at the girl so we could see and hopefully buy incense from her. She was very obviously trying to use the girl's cuteness to sell us the incense.
It was annoying. We looked around for a bit and then asked the drivers to take us to the next place.

As we approached our next stop, we sped up the hill through a grove of interesting looking pine trees. We parked and walked to the top which had a stunning view of the Perfume River. After enjoying the view, they lead us slightly down through some bushes to a former American military bunker.

On the way to our last stop, we zipped along a zigzagging narrow path through rice paddies. It was exhilarating. Thankfully, no one veered off into a rice field and we all arrived safely at our destination. It was Ho Quyen, a former tiger and elephant fighting arena. It's been over a century since the last fight, so don't worry about this still going on! The fights were staged by kings who had the tigers' teeth and claws removed.
At the beginning of the chanting ceremony
The elephants were supposed to represent the kings and apparently they won every single time. After this stop, we headed back to the hotel, fully convinced of Hue's reputation as a historical and cultural city. I felt like in a few hours, we were able to experience many aspects of Hue's history.

We showered and headed to dinner at La Carambole. It was cute, but another one of those places that's supposed to be good yet I have no recollection of what I ate. What I do remember was how I ordered "Coco Punch" and it was taking forever for them to bring it to me. The waitresses assured me that it was on its way. I saw them coming with it from a distance and hoped what I saw wasn't for me. Sure enough, they brought the huge coconut beverage with all sorts of accoutrements to me.

After dinner we walked down the streets and looked in some shops. I was excited to find an inexpensive silk sleep sheet that I could use on the overnight train. I didn't know what a sleep sheet was before the trip, but they are really handy when dealing with questionably clean sleeping situations!
sybil says:
la carambole almost sounded like candomble. haha!
Posted on: May 30, 2008
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Along the drive with a few members…
Along the drive with a few member…
Path we drove through to get to th…
Path we drove through to get to t…
At the Tu Hieu Temple
At the Tu Hieu Temple
At the beginning of the chanting c…
At the beginning of the chanting …
Dining room
Dining room
Incense for sale
Incense for sale
Former U.S. military bunker
Former U.S. military bunker
Inside the bunker
Inside the bunker
Entrance to the arena
Entrance to the arena
My driver. They were all picking p…
My driver. They were all picking …
A cell where animals were held
A cell where animals were held
Path along the top of the arena
Path along the top of the arena
My attempt to capture the sunset a…
My attempt to capture the sunset …
Me and the coco punch
Me and the coco punch
Hue
photo by: Paulovic