Hue : Of grey skies and Kings, Citadels, Tombs and things.
Hue Travel Blog› entry 142 of 268 › view all entries
Midday. In Hue. Itâs a little grey. Sad to say. Hey, that all rhymes; âIâm a poet but I jusâ donât know it!â etc, etcâŚ so yeah, a few hours further north from Hoi An ( âHow I miss you already Hoiiiii An!â ) I have arrived at the former Imperial seat of Vietnam, Hue. The dayâs half gone and the weatherâs brewing up a little uncomfortably in the grey clouds that frown down from way up There so for once I do just succumb to the haranguing, haggling requests from moto-taxi guesthouse touts and step onto the back of one to get to the accommodation zone in town a coupla kilometres over the river here. Itâs quite fun just to let these guys do the haggling for you.
Nguyen tri Phuong street more or less equidistant from either of the Trang Tien or Phu Xuan bridges over the river, crossing over from the Citadel side of the city. Thereâs a tiny street cluster of affordable guesthouses (as little at $3-4 for dorm) so you can always walk away and choose somewhere else following from your free moto-taxi ride.
The main focal point of sightseeing attraction in the main city of Hue (depending on your taste and prerogatives of course) is the walled Citadel heart of the city. The outer circuit of the citadel is almost 3 kilometres square but the main Imperial heart of Hueâs citadel is the smaller royal enclosure of the âForbidden Purple Cityâ. For the right to enter here itâs 50,000VND ($2.85). An impressively large flag mast and super-size Vietnamese flag flaps in the increasing breeze before the regal main southern Ngo Mon Gateway entrance to the âPurple Cityâ.
The âForbidden Cityâ was the final Imperial seat of the Vietnamese monarchy. Home for a century and a half only - in the main - to the Nguyen dynasty which ended with Emperor Bao Dai when ruling powers in Vietnam were handed over the to the Vietnamese Revolutionary Government on August 30 1945. Hueâs Citadel was very badly damaged by American bombing during the Vietnam âConflictâ and it is clear that the heritage recovery process has been a slow and lackadaisical process to date.
Rain is threatened all of the time today I am in Hue but fortunately apart from mild drizzle, will not fall on my wanderings about the city until much, much later this evening by which time Iâm safely tucked away with Mike (my Cambodia pal, parted in Phnom Penh but coincidentally to be bumped into again later today) and a good number of beers. The greyness and dampness of the atmosphere adds an almost appropriately sombre air to the delicate state of dilapidation that the Purple City exists in right now.
After several hours I depart the inner sanctum of the âPurple Cityâ (I have no idea why it is called the âPurpleâ city of all colours?) and stroll around the water lilly choked moat exterior circuit of its periphery.
My following day in Hue also will be concerned with the architectural epitaphs to Vietnamâs former rulers.
There seems to be an unusually large contingent of Brits on board today. Of course the inevitable flood of French too to be found all over Vietnam for obvious reasons of colonial nostalgia. A middle-aged couple (who will strangely not enter one single site we visit the whole entire day long?!) sit and chew the fat, whinging and talking cr*p behind me in a highly grating cockney accent provide me with one of my most amusing eaves-dropped conversations for a while :
Mrs [Reading with studious difficulty but enthusiasm from her guide book] : "...' this was the site of a pivotal battle in the war.' Pivotal? Pi- vo -tal? I never 'eard of it!"
Mr : "Pivotal?"
Mrs : "Yeah, says 'ere, Pivotal.
So there you have it my friends and TB pals. Your history lesson for the day. The little known (but presumably pivotal) battle of Pivotal. It's okay, I know stupidity is mercifully not unique or confined to my home nation LOL
First stop (if you exclude some random martial arts show that I decline to pay to enter) is the Thien Mu Pagoda. The only sight on the trip that does not come with an entrance fee so grab this one whilst you can. Itâs pretty enough with its seven-tiered pagoda tower. The main sites on the float down this river though are the various tombs of the kings that range along the river bank lands here to the southwest of the city. Bear in mind when you do your research that each of these carries and entrance fee of 55,000VND ($3.
I visit the first tomb, the tomb of Minh Mang (ruled 1820 - 1840) and the last tomb of the day the interesting and impressively landscaped grounds of the tomb of the artistic, decadent and strategically unsuccessful Emperor Tu Doc (not sure of dates?). The frangipani covered grounds containing a pleasant lake and lakeside theatre (as well as private hunting, island zoo) where he would take time away from his hundreds of wives and concubines to lead a life of leisure. Fishing and suchlike. The hard life of an Emperor. The weather bursts lacklustre rain on us from time to time but nothing too troubling. After 7 months and more on the road though today is only about the third time Iâve had call to consider taking my waterproofs from my backpack.
Back in town. A bit of a snack and getting back together with Mike. Here too, ever so briefly we are reunited with my South Korean pal Gray (whom Iâve had sporadic contact with in Hoi An and now here) and whom I will not see again on my travels in Vietnam. One of the nicest, and by far the longest standing travel companion I have had on my journey so far. All good people I am lucky to be meeting. Onwards to Hanoi for Mike and I. We board the amazingly arrayed bed-scape of the night bus. Itâs cramped but itâs okay. The beds are Stevie sized so I shall doze along the way!