Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Historic Path Through Hue

"Enjoy a Bun Bo Hue for me!" my friend said to me when I told her I'd safely arrived in Vietnam, and knowing I had Hue on my list I decided to hold off on that until I got there. It's amazing how many variations of beef soup you can find in this country, and this amazing dish with banana flower, morning glory and bean sprouts sure did not disappoint. Yum!

It was raining when I arrived in Hue, but after settling in I decided that I didn't care and headed out to explore with the $2 umbrella I'd picked up months ago in Indonesia (best purchase ever!). The Imperial City and the Hue Citadel were less than a mile away so I set out that way to get things started...after stopping for the previously mentioned bowl of Bun Bo Hue. I mean you can't expect me to walk for miles on an empty belly, can you? It ended up being a really good idea because there weren't too many tourists out and about due to the rain and I had most of the Citadel more or less to myself. The grounds are expansive and everything is surrounded by a lotus filled moat that is fed from the Perfume River. The grounds contain numerous gorgeous gates, temples, courts and gardens, and while for the most part everything is fairly empty it still took a few hours to explore and visit all the nooks and crannies. A massive fire burned down most of the buildings back in 1940's and a lot of what remained was neglected until 1990's, but since then a lot of structures have undergone restoration and hallways such as the one below look lovely with the fresh coats of paint. 

On my second day I booked a boat tour with my hotel along the Perfume River with stops at a historic mansion with a gorgeous garden full of all the local flowers and fruit trees, three royal tombs (Tu Duc Tomb, Khai Dinh Tomb and Minh Mang) as well as a quick stop at a roadside incense maker where we learned how to make incense by hand. Just walking the streets though, this town looks no different from others. A large part is dedicated to tourism with sales people vying for your business around every corner, a few parts feature lovely statues and manicured gardens, but most of the rest is crumbling and dirty. The people seem happy and find ways to enjoy their breaks by meeting friends for a drink in cafes or by taking their kids to the small parks with rides and trains lit by an abundance of neon lights. Maybe I was starting to feel sick, or a bit lonely, or the rain was getting to me, but despite friendly people and interesting sights I just wanted to curl up on a comfy couch somewhere and sleep.

The grounds are vast so if you're not interested in walking you can take a buggy

A few workers were hiding out from the rain in an archway and using the 
bit of free time to do each others hair.  

People still come and leave incense and offerings, though it's not 
the best maintained site around.

Even the rain couldn't dampen the bright colors on this gate

A few locals were wandering around taking pictures despite the rain

Our dragon boat on the Perfume River

It's not a sinking boat, it's designed this way to carry soil and supplies up
and down the river. There are even sleeping quarters in the back.

Strange tropical fruit can be found in random gardens around town

Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest pagoda in Vietnam

Kind of looks like a game of hide-and-seek

Thich Quang Duc drove this car from Quang Pagoda to the intersection of 
Phan Dinh Phung and Le Van Duyet streets in Saigon on June 11, 1963.
When he got out of the car, he sat down in the lotus position and burnt
himself to death in protest against the Ngo Dinh Diem's regime's policies
of discriminating against Buddhists and violating religious freedoms. 
The car remains as a symbol of his martyrdom. 

Local worker showing how to roll incense paste around painted bamboo sticks.

Freshly rolled incense drying in the sun. 

I stopped at a backpacker bar for a burger to wait out the rain and noticed that
you get a bit more than you bargained for if you want to browse the web at this place.

Local kitty with a bad cigarette habit. Who knows, it could be true.

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