Hue is a city of one million people in central Vietnam. It’s a cultural centre, known for its poetry, its imperial citadel from the times of the emperors, and significant French colonial presence.
We flew in yesterday morning from Hanoi — were impressed with the airport, airplane and all other travelling details, including having a driver waiting for us as arranged. Our hotel (“Hue Romance”- appropriate for Valentine’s Day!) is lovely. If it were hotter, we’d enjoy the rooftop pool, and the breakfast this morning rivalled something you’d find on a luxury cruise ship — amazing selection.
Our time here has been divided between wandering the neighbourhood near where we’re staying — lots of hostels and restaurants — and visiting some of the historic sites nearby. We spend this morning with a local guide, visiting the tomb of “the first second king” (?) – gorgeous and peaceful;
a Buddhist pagoda that is a gathering place for monks from throughout the country (we were fortunate to be there during a prayer ceremony today);
and the citadel that was once home to the royal palace complex of over 100 buildings. Many of the structures were bombed by the Americans in 1968 while others have simply degraded due to the humid weather. Reconstruction is ongoing (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site — our third in a week), but it’s a huge and likely never-ending task. (The lake shown below was the king’s swimming pool for his concubines, we were told. We also learned about “shrines to naughty boys” in Hue homes today — the exact meaning was a bit fuzzy but made for funny dinner conversation).
We drove into the “mountains” today (not the Rockies by any stretch). It was sobering to hear of some of the history of that area, including a spot called “Hamburger Hill” where many Americans were slaughtered during “the American War.” Apparently the local soldiers knew how to hide/survive in the jungle better than the US army did…I’ve been reading a book called “A Wavering Grace” by British journalist Gavin Young. It’s set here in Hue and provides a helpful overview of the history of Vietnam over the past several decades. So timely to be travelling these roads while reading his accounts — we are learning a lot. I so wish my History classes in school had covered more than Canadian history!
We are a bit weary today, as our day started at 4:40am with cheery Asian show tunes and announcements blaring from a loudspeaker for a full hour. We heard mixed reports as to what it was, but the most reliable explanation is that it marked the promotion of some local recruits into the army and the whole city was celebrating and being notified, courtesy of the PA system at the stadium behind our hotel.
We had a few good laughs today. We’ve actually been recording the “laugh of the day,” but have realized that not many of them translate well into the blog — most fall into the “you had to be there” category. Today we had several translation struggles — we feel as though we’re being given a few puzzle pieces and we have to fill in the rest,without knowing if the few bits we think we’ve understood are even accurate. So we spend time comparing notes with each other about what we think we understood.
We’ve taken to calling Hannah “Mandy” — short for Mandarin, who are known here (in translation) as ‘those who pass difficult exams.’ We figure it will be a fitting title once she aces her LSAT later this year.
We at heart-shaped pizza for lunch, amidst Merry Christmas and Happy New Year decorations.
We’d made dinner reservations for tonight at a local place that came highly recommended by some, but was discredited by our guide as the place where the tour buses go. We arrived as planned to find it completely full. When Tim spoke to the guy holding the reservation book, they both agreed that we had a reservation and that it was written in the book, and that the restaurant was full and we needed to leave. Oh well — we found a tasty alternative.
We head to Hoi An tomorrow morning. I’m excited, as we’ve heard it will likely be our favourite stop of the trip. We’ll keep you posted.