Rain, rain go a-Hue!

Trip Start Nov 29, 2008
Trip End Jan 18, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, December 26, 2008

We departed Hoi An early in the morning, boarding a public bus for the last time this trip for our four hour trip to Hue. To give you an idea of the road conditions, the distance is only 120 kilometers! Numerous hairpin turns, windy roads, and an area around a bridge so potholed that we were moving more side-to-side than forward meant very slow progress.

After a 1 pm arrival in Hue, we had a few minutes to recuperate in the hotel before heading out for lunch and a tour of the city in the light rain. We boarded a traditional dragonboat and slowly sailed down the Perfume River for about half an hour before disembarking at the historic Thien Mu Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hue and the symbol of the city. Still a working Buddhist temple today, it also houses a rather morbid artifact: the car that the monk Thich Quang Duc rode in to Saigon to set himself on fire, as seen in the famous photograph.

Back on the boat, we sailed for another half hour or so before landing in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. But a small muddy footpath materialized as we approached. We bade farewell to the boat crew and walked up the path to our waiting motorcycle drivers, who escorted us to the tomb of the Emperor Tu Duc. The good Emperor kept himself busy with over 100 wives and concubines, but never had any children due to a case of the pox as a child which left him sterile. Also, no one knows if he's actually buried there, as fears that a subsequent dynasty would unearth the remains of the formers' kings made hide-the-corpse a popular game among Vietnamese rulers.

Next was meant to be another historic pagoda (Bao Quoc, I think) where the emperors themselves worshipped, but it was past five and it had just closed. So we hopped back on our motorcycles and rode through what was now a rather intense rain back to our hotel.

That evening, four of us enjoyed a "royal dinner," a fancy dinner complete with singing and music, foods cut in the shapes of birds, and even dressing in traditional royal costumes. A bit pricy, but a fun (albeit campy) experience.

The next day we walked to the Imperial Citadel, and wandered around most of the morning and into the afternoon. The grounds are vast and it's impossible to see everything, but I managed to get in most of the highlights despite the perpetual drizzle. That afternoon, we boarded our second overnight train, a massive thirteen hour journey to the capital Hanoi.
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