The Imperial City

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Mar 08, 2010

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We get an early start to try and beat the heat. Our first stop is the Citadel. After a short bus ride, we offload for a walk across a narrow bridge through the gateway to get there- and let me tell you, walking across a street is no casual stroll- we make like sticky rice and surge together. We did see a cab hit a girl on a bike- luckily, it was just pulling away from the curb and not going fast enough to cause injury.

The VN version of the Forbidden City is a fortress "city" within a city, where the Nguyen kings resided starting in the 18th Century with their mandarins, eunuchs, concubines, wives, and children. We're able to visit a small part only- some of the structures and fortress walls near the gate. The Chinese influence is very apparent. Parts of the Citadel were destroyed by the French and are being rebuilt. There is an optional elephant ride that Ron takes. We're informed that there are very few elephants left in VN. This one is chained to a tree after the ride.

We take the short bus ride back to our hotel to cool off and free time prior to our lunch at 1pm. We stop by the Thien Mu Pagoda before the cruise. Its built along the side of the Perfume River in a pine forest. We have a steep flight of stairs to walk up to enter the compound to view the 7-tiered pagoda and turtle mounted Stella like we seen before. We walk though multiple entrances with temple guardians. They do look a bit spooky - with hair glued on for beards and mustaches. Thien Mu has an active monastery and we see the young novice monks with their interesting hair cuts- shaved heads except for patches that are allowed to grow into long hanks. And a diversity in which section of their heads have the hair.

We walk back down the stairs to board our dragon headed boat for a trip back up the river to our bus. The boat is actually a floating department store- selling clothes, postcards, etc etc. It isn't really much of a cruise; not very scenic and short- the Perfume River section we're seeing is pretty much sided by the city itself. But the breeze is extremely welcome!

We're dropped off at a pier near our hotel. We leave at 5 for the airport. Traffic is good and we get there early- the place is pretty much shut down- no air conditioning. Looks like a one horse airport and when the horse isn't there... sounds like that old riddle about the tree and the forest...obviously, the tree didn't actually fall.

It's a short flight to HCM City. We land at 8pm but exiting is delayed- something about a power unit? Might be a translation issue. We eventually get off and head to the hotel.
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