We braved the ‘hard seat’ option for our 3 hour train journey to Hue – travelling like the locals! The seats were very hard, and it was pretty warm in there too. You can’t see from the photo but there were kids just lying on the floor playing around, sacks of rice stuffed under any available seat. At times pretty chaotic!
We arrived in Hue at 8pm, and the humidity hit us straight away. We are definitely turning the temperature up a few notches now – Russia seems a distant memory!
Hue is a very beautiful city, and is a World Heritage Site as it is the capitol of the Nguyen emperors. It is a city full of architectural attractions including the Citadel and numerous royal tombs.
Our first day was spent exploring the Citadel – Vietnam’s version of The Forbidden City in China.
The Citadel was built between 1804 and 1833, and unfortunately due to both the French and American wars much of it was either destroyed or severely damaged by bombing. Only 20 of the original 148 buildings survived. Currently restoration work is in progress to save the damaged buildings.
The two main sections of the Citadel which were the epicentre of Vietnamese royal life were The Imperial Enclosure (where the emperor’s residence, temples and palace was located), and the Forbidden Purple City (unfortunately this was almost entirely destroyed during the wars).
In some of the buildings which had been restored there were pictures of past emperors, detailed family trees of the royal family, and information on the daily life inside the royal walls. Thoroughly interesting – for instance a very famous emperor called Emperor Tu Duc had in total 104 wives and many concubines, although no offspring.
Thank goodness times have changed!
There were some very quiet and secluded areas which were nice just to take some time out and take in our surroundings – much more different than our experience in the Forbidden City which was just full of people, selfie sticks and people posing.
The following day we hired out a motorbike and set out to visit one of the royal tombs on the outskirts of the city. Our first stop however was to an old Buddhist temple out in the sticks. After pulling up on the bike instantly we have a lady telling us we need to pay to park – another typical tourist scam that we continually come up against out here. As there is nowhere else to park we do pay, after some haggling of course. The rule is – if there is no official written price you must haggle. So for anything, like parking, buying fruit, bus tickets,even water in the small shops, you have to haggle otherwise you will get ripped off. For instance we wanted 4 satsumas the other day, the guy wanted 50,000 Dong (£1.53), and we got him down to 10,000 Dong (31p). The locals will still get it for cheaper.
So, the lady has her parking money and we are all happy.
It was a very old and beautiful temple, we spent more time exploring the surrounding grounds as it had a great tropical feel to it – many butterflies were fluttering around and we found some creepy crawlies!
It’s amazing what you find when you look closely enough!
Again, the air had a wonderful scent of incense, and the quietness of the place was a refreshing change to the busy streets.
We eventually made it to the tomb of Minh Mang, after getting a little lost! We ended up on a very rural lane which was basically a giant muddy puddle. I had to get off the bike and dodge the stinging nettles on the road side whilst Paul ploughed through the mud on the bike!
Another episode of ‘is this a scam or for real’ – 2 ‘official’ entrances which we were being shouted at to use by people. Obviously we didn’t and drove straight past them. Another rule we have come up with – if in doubt follow the tour buses!
So, we are at the official entrance, another person trying to get money out of us for parking. We refuse this time and walk on through.
After the rigmarole of getting here we can now relax right? No more scamming…..except if you want to but an ice cream that is.
Enough sarcasm now as the tomb was pretty impressive. Minh Mang actually planned his tomb himself during his reign (1820-1840). It is built in a quiet, natural setting, away from the city. It was nice just to take a walk through and enjoy the tranquility.
We enjoyed our time in Hue – a city full of history which was fascinating to see. Another short train journey to take us to Hoi’An is our next stop.