Saturday, April 20, 2013

Historic Hue

The view along the Perfume River in Hue

We decided to take the 4hr train from Da Nang (just north of Hoi An) to Hue - largely because I'd heard it was a beautiful journey. While the scenery was absolutely stunning, the clealiness of the train (I believe it was number S4) left a lot to be desired. Happily, the was not the case for our following overnight train (S20) up to Hanoi. That one was pristine.

The Thien Mu Pagoda (1601). Famous as the site of monk Thich Quang Duc's self immolation in protest of then Southern Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem's anti-Buddhist policies

Located around 70km south of the Demiliterized Zone established between North and South Vietnam after the 1954 Geneva Conference, the Vietnamese city of Hue (pronounced 'hoo-way') is probably best known to the slightly older generations as one of the main sites of the Tet Offensive - during which it was held by the Viet Cong for 25 days. Tet is the traditinal Vietnamese New Year and, in 1968, the communist Viet Cong used the holiday to attack unsuspecting South Vietnamese strongholds, turning the mental tide of the war and making it clear to those back home in America that the anti-communist forces were not as assured of victory as they were being told.

The gorgeously sprawling mausoleum of Emperor Thu Duc (r. 1847-1888). It took three years to build. It also houses the remains of his empress and mother and was used as his retreat for the 16 years prior to his death. I can't really imagine living in my mausoleum, but to each their own...

More of the same.

Although the city was largely levelled during the counter to the Tet Offensive, leaving the present city looking largely like any other, there are still a great number of beautiful historic sites located along the banks of the Perfume River - largely elaborate imperial mausolea dating from Hue's time as the Nguyen Dynasty capital (1802-1945). Most of these are located in different directions on the outskirts of town, so although bicycling them is do-able, it can make for a long hot day - I got a scooter.

The ruined floor of a no longer existant building of the imperial citadel.

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