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The Nguyen Tombs

We checked-out of the Platinum II Hotel around 4:00 and headed for the airport to catch the 6:30 flight to Phu Bai airport in Hue. We were going to spend the day in Hue because we had read that it was a historically important city and worth the visit. Personally I don’t think it was worth it… I mean it has a lot of monuments and is has replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing, but it wasn’t worth the time and money spent. On top of this we hadn’t practically slept (I slept for 2 hours) and some of us continued to have a fever.

Hue is the capital city of Thua Thien, Vietnam.

The Nguyen Tombs
Between 1802 and 1945, it was the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. As such, it is well known for its monuments and architecture. Its population stands at about 340,000 people. Hue originally rose to prominence as the capital of the Nguyen Lords, a feudal dynasty which dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th to the 19th century. In 1775 when Trinh Sa captured it, it was known as Phu Xuan. In 1802, Nguyen Phuc Anh (later Emperor Gia Long) succeeded in establishing his control over the whole of Vietnam, thereby making Hue the national capital.

Hue was the national capital until 1945, when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated and a Communist government was established in Hanoi, in the north.

The Nguyen Tombs
While Bao Dai was briefly proclaimed "Head of State" with the help of the returning French colonialists in 1949 (although not with recognition from the Communists and the full acceptance of the Vietnamese people), his new capital was Sai Gon (Saigon), in the south.

In the Vietnam War, Hue’s central position placed it very near the border between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The city was located in the South. In the Tet Offensive of 1968, during the Battle of Hue, the city suffered considerable damage not only to its physical features, but its reputation as well, most of it from American firepower and bombings on the historical buildings as well as the now infamous massacre at Hue. After the war's conclusion, many of the historic features of Hue were neglected, being seen by the victorious regime and some other Vietnamese as a "relic from the feudal regime", but there has since been a change of policy, and some parts of the historic city have been restored.

The Nguyen Tombs

When we arrived we had a private mini-van with chauffer ready to pick us up. The driver didn’t know a word of English and most of our communication was done in sign language. Every time he didn’t understand he would call his boss up on the cell phone, pass it to me and then I would pass it back. Then his boss would translate what I said.

We started off with a visit to the Nguyen Tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty.

The Nguyen Dynasty was the last ruling family of Vietnam.

Happiness!
Their rule began in 1802 when Emperor Gia Long ascended the throne after defeating the Tay Son Dynasty and ended in 1945 when Bao Dai abdicated the throne and transferred power to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, ruling for a total of 143 years. During the reign of Emperor  Gia Long, the nation officially became known as Viet Nam, but from the reign of emperor Minh Mang on, the nation was renamed Dai Nam. Their rule was marked by the increasing influence of French colonialism; the nation was eventually partitioned into three, Cochin China became a French colony while Annam and Tonkin became protectorates which were independent in name only.

The Nguyen family had been one of the major families in Vietnamese history, dating back to the days of the Hero – Emperor Le Loi. Due to a civil war and the weakness of the later Le Dynasty, the Nguyen and the Trinh (another of the major families) joined together in opposition to the Mac. Nguyen Kim, the leader of this alliance, was assassinated in 1545 by a servant of the Mac. Kim's son-in-law Trinh Kiem, took over the alliance because Kim's sons were too young.

The Nguyen Tombs
In 1558, Nguyen Hoang, the eldest son of Nguyen Kim was given lordship over the southern, newly conquered provinces of Vietnam. He ruled from the city of Hue for the rest of his life and established the dominion of the Nguyen Lords in the southern part of the country. While the Nguyen Lords, like the Trinh, paid tribute to the Le Emperor, the reality was they ruled, not the king. Nguyen Hoang and his successors continually expanded their territory by making Kampuchea a protectorate, and by invading Laos, Champa and many small countries in the area. The Nguyen lords styled themselves as lord.

It was Nguyen Phuc Nguyen, Nguyen Hoang's son, who started the Nguyen Phuc family name. 200 years later, Nguyen Phuc Khoat was the first ruler of the line who styled himself King, as the Tronh Lords began to do so in the North.

Nguyen Anh finally united Vietnam for the first time in 300 years.

The Nguyen Tombs
He started a dynasty and styled himself Emperor Gia Long. After Gia Long, other rulers of the dynasty would soon run into problems with Catholic missionaries and, subsequently, the involvement of Europeans in Indochina.

Emperors Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tu Duc and Hiep Hoa, were opposed to French involvement in the country and tried to reduce the growing Catholic community in Vietnam at that time. Their persecution of missionaries was the primary pretext for the French to invade and occupy Indochina. Much like what had occurred in Qing China, there were also numerous incidents involving other nations (European) during the 19th century.

The last Nguyen Emperor to rule with complete independence was Tu Duc. After his death there was a succession crisis which allowed the French to take direct control of the country and eventually gain complete control of the monarchy.

The Nguyen Tombs
All emperors since Dong Khanh were chosen by the French and had only a symbolic position. The nominal reign of the Nguyen Dynasty firmly came to an end in 1945, when the Communists or Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh staged a revolt, after the Japanese surrender. After receiving a "request" for his resignation, the last emperor, Bao Dai, abdicated the throne and handed power over to the government of President Ho Chi Minh; in return, Emperor Bao Dai was then named "Supreme Counselor" to the new government. Bao Dai left shortly afterward since he did not agree with the policies of the Viet Minh and went into exile in Hong Kong.

In 1948, the French persuaded Bao Dai to return as "Chief of State" of the "State of Vietnam” set up by France in areas over which it had regained control, while a bloody war with the Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh continued. Bao Dai spent much of his time during that conflict enjoying a good life either at his luxurious home in Dalat or in Paris, France.

The Nguyen Tombs
This came to end with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

After Vietnam was divided into North and South Vietnam, the South Vietnamese prime minister Ngo Dinh Diem, in a referendum claimed by many as to have been manipulated, overthrew Bao Dai in 1956. Diem then assumed the position of President of the Republic of Vietnam, once more ending Bao Dai's involvement in Vietnamese affairs — this time permanently.

Bao Dai went into exile in France, where he died in 1997 and was buried in Cimetière de Passy. Crown Prince Bao Long succeeded on the death of his father Emperor Bao Dai as Head of the Imperial House of Vietnam, July 31, 1997.

The Hue Citadel

We left the tombs and headed for the Imperial City, Hue’s main attraction.

The Imperial City is a walled fortress and palace. It was intended to be a copy of the Chinese Emperor's Forbidden City in Beijing, China. The grounds were surrounded by a wall 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers, and the walls were surrounded by a moat. The water from the moat was taken from the Perfume River that flows through Hue.

The Hue Citadel
This structure is called the citadel. Inside the citadel was the Imperial City, with a perimeter of almost 2.5 kilometers. Inside the Imperial City was the imperial enclosure, called the Purple Forbidden City in Vietnamese. The Purple Forbidden City was reserved for the Nguyen royal family. Interestingly, this is the same name that the Chinese gave to their palace complex, the Forbidden City. A moat was dug around the Purple Forbidden City. The Purple Forbidden City included many palaces, gates and courtyards.

In June, 1802 Nguyon Phúc Anh took control of Vietnam and proclaimed himself Emperor Gia Long. His rule was recognized by China in 1804.

The Hue Citadel
Gia Long asked geomancers what was the best place for a new palace and citadel. The geomancers chose a site in Hue. Gia Long wanted his palace and fortress to be a smaller copy of the Chinese Forbidden City. In 1804, tens of thousands of workers were forced to produce a wall and moat, 10 kilometer long. Initially the walls were earthen, but later these earthen walls were replaced by stone walls, 2 meters thick. The citadel was oriented to face the Huong River to the east. This was different than the Forbidden City in Beijing, which faces south. The Emperor's palace is on the east side of the citadel, nearest the river. A second set of walls and a second moat was constructed around the Emperor's palace. Many more palaces and gates and courtyards and gardens were subsequently added.

The rule of the last Vietnamese Emperor lasted until the mid-1900s. At that time, the Purple Forbidden City had many buildings and hundreds of rooms.

Pedro taking a nap after our lunch
It suffered from termite and cyclone damage, but was still very impressive. American bombing in 1968 in response to a communist takeover of Hue flattened most of the city. Only a few buildings survived, such as the Thai Hoa Temple, Can Thanh Temple, The Mieu, and Hieu Lam Cac.

The city was made a UNESCO site in 1993. The buildings that still remain are being restored and preserved. Unfortunately, most of the site was destroyed by the Vietnam War and so is now covered with rice paddies.

After the visit to the Imperial City we went off for lunch.

Thien Mu Pagoda
I had read at Virtualturist.com that there was a nice restaurant in Hue called Lac Thien that had depth waiters serving! I asked our driver to drop us off, but he suggested we eat lunch at another restaurant, more tailored to Western tastes… it wasn’t that great.

After lunch we headed for the Thien Mu Pagoda which is considered to be the most famous pagoda in Vietnam. The name of the pagoda comes from a legend: a long time ago, an old woman appeared on the hill where the pagoda stands today. She told local people that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country's prosperity. Lord Nguyen Hoang, on hearing that, ordered the construction of the pagoda of the "Heavenly Lady". The pagoda is situated on Ha Khe hill, on the left bank of the Perfume River, in Huong Long village, 5km from Hue city. It was built in 1601, and then Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan had it renovated in 1665.

Thick Quang Dac who burned himself to death in Saigon in 1963 traveled on this car
In 1710, Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu had a great bell cast (2.5m high, 3.285kg) and in 1715, he had a stele (2.58 m high) erected on the back of a marble tortoise.

Several kings of the Nguyen Dynasty such as Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri and Thanh Thai, all had the pagoda restored. Phuoc Duyen tower was erected in 1884 by King Thieu Tri. This octagonal tower has seven storeys (2m high). Dai Hung shrine, the main-hall, presents a magnificent architecture. As well as bronze cast statues, it shelters some precious antiques: the bronze gong cast in 1677, the wooden gilded board with Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu's inscriptions (1714). On both sides of the pagoda are a room for the bonzes and a guest-room for visitors. The pagoda is surrounded by flowers and ornamental plants. At the far end of the garden stretches a calm and romantic pine-tree forest.

The pagoda was heavily damaged in 1943. Bonze Thich Don Hau hence organized a great renovation of the pagoda that lasted for more than 30 years.

Dong Ba Market
Nowadays the pagoda is very well-maintained and very welcoming to all visitors. There is a small temple behind the pagoda in homage to a Hue monk called Thick Quang Dac who burned himself to death in Saigon in 1963, in protest against the South Vietnamese Government’s pro-Americanism.

At the end of the tour we headed for the Dong Ba Market, considered to have the best conical hats in Vietnam. I decided to stay in the van sleeping because I wasn’t feeling any better and it began to rain. Around 18:30 we returned to Phu Bai airport. We were suppose to leave Hue on a Vietnam Airlines flight at 20:10, but the flight was late and we ended up leaving at around 21:20. We spent about 5 hours playing cards and eating snacks and I spent most of the time measuring my temperature.

Playing cards at the Hue airport while we wait for our plane
After a 1 hour flight we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), got ourselves a ride on a mini-van taxi and checked-in at Saigon Riverside Hotel which reminded me of the haunted Hotel in the cult movie “The Shinning”! The Hotel was spacious, but very old. It had a classical French style, but was in desperate need of renovations.

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The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
Happiness!
Happiness!
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
Pedro taking a nap after our lunch
Pedro taking a nap after our lunch
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thick Quang Dac who burned himself…
Thick Quang Dac who burned himsel…
Dong Ba Market
Dong Ba Market
Playing cards at the Hue airport w…
Playing cards at the Hue airport …
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
Susana at the Nguyen Tombs
Susana at the Nguyen Tombs
Theater of the Hue Citadel
Theater of the Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
Some kind of meat rolls
Some kind of meat rolls
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
The drivers one dollar bill. Must…
The driver's one dollar bill. Mus…
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
Hue Citadel
Hue Citadel
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
The Nguyen Tombs
João and a God in The Hue Citadel
João and a God in The Hue Citadel
Boy is it sunny!
Boy is it sunny!
The Hue Citadel
The Hue Citadel
Elsa & Happiness
Elsa & Happiness
Kung Fu Pedro
Kung Fu Pedro
Happiness
Happiness
Hue
photo by: Paulovic