Uncle Ho and
This was "the city" until the early part of the 20th century. Here you are going to find a Vietnam that is wonderfully simple and beautiful. We hit the street and other than the van from the hotel you could hardly see a vehicle. Everywhere there were bicycles and motorbikes but you might not see a car for minutes at a time. The streets are small and everything flows so smooth, like the Perfume River that cuts through the middle of Hue.
The north bank is the site of the Citadel, a ten kilometer wall that defined the old city. Inside is the Palace that was the home to the 13 Nugyen Emperors. Above the Citadel flies a gigantic Vietnamese flag from the flag tower that was built in the 1830's. It was from this tower that the Viet Cong flag flew during the takeover of the city during the Tet Offensive of 1968. The horrible battle to retake the city resulted in the destruction of much of the palace, but the restoration is remarkable.
What else that dominates the city is the greenery. Everywhere it is grass, flowers and trees. One feels that they are in the middle of a jungle not in a city. Our hotel sits right on the banks of the river and we can sit on our balcony and just watch the constant change in the life on the river. Many families live on their boats and life goes on day and night. It was really wonderful.
We had a guide, Tam, a 31 year old woman who had trained as a history teacher but now works as guide. Her English was extremely precise and she was a tremendous resource. The Citadel / Palace were extremely impressive. Built on a model of the forbidden City in Beijing it was so impressive because of the greenery in which it was set. Lakes and gardens added so much to the experience.
The Nugyen Emperors each built themselves elaborate tombs on the outside of the city. These were to be their resting places for eternity so each tomb was a complex of gardens and lakes also. One of the Emperors finished his tomb sixteen years before his death so he decided to move into the complex to live out the rest of his life. He brought an entourage with him. (due to family nature of this report will not go into details on who some of the 500 in his party were).
Each of the tombs we visited was about as peaceful a setting as you might ever be able to imagine. Here also there were people selling drinks and souvenirs but here also they could not venture beyond a very confined space. Outside of that it was absolute peace and serenity, a more wonderful place is hard to imagine.
We took a day boat trip up the Perfume River to visit some of the distant tombs and to see the life on the river. We had done a trip on the Zambesi in Zimbabwe and this trip in so many places was just like that. The landscape is like a jungle and except for the odd farm or temple there is nothing but green. Huge water buffalo bathed in the river and we kept looking for the elephant. It was indeed one of the most enjoyable boat rides we have ever experienced.
Can we find anything about Hue that is not wonderful? Well they say it rains all the time, but we brought blue skies and enjoyed it for the three days we were here. Food is great and the cost of everything is embarrassingly inexpensive. We ate at a small vegetarian restaurant one night and had a great meal for less than $6. We ate a great meal at our 3*** hotel and the cost was less than $6. No matter where you buy anything it costs exactly the same - maybe there is some communism left in the system - at least in Hue.
We head off tomorrow for Hanoi and everyone has told us that we will really enjoy it there. It will be hard to imagine anything to rival Hue - you all must come here if you ever get the chance - but I'm afraid that the sooner the better.
LOIS & JOHN
© Copyright 1999 Lois and John Hassan
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