Travel Journal

Hue Thurs 14 –Fri 15 July

(Wednesday 3 August 2011) by Julia Bartholomew
Hue was once the capital of Vietnam and has the remains of the Emperors’ citadel, which suffered a lot of damage from the Americans during the Vietnam war. It’s in a similar vein to the forbidden city in Beijing, with its geometric layout of elaborate buildings with attractive red tiles, details of dragons, houses for mandarins, concubines and the rest of the entourage, all surrounded by a moat. I cycled round a tangle of streets north of the river, around the citadel and through a vast bustling market, seeking out backstreets with fewer motorbikes to endanger vulnerable cyclists. Even when I did get stuck in the middle of a great mass of motorbikes on a bridge, I found that I was swept along with the traffic like flotsam and the skill of Vietnamese drivers is such that no matter how close they get to one another there is never actually contact. Hue is bisected by the perfume river which is all lit up at night and dragon boats (boats with large plastic dragon head on the bow) take people gently up and down it. I visited the imperial tombs, which were grand estates of land on which Emperors had constructed their mausoleums, but also used them as summer retreats during their lifetime. This is perhaps a maudlin past-time, but it also seems rather sensible to enjoy the place you’ve put so much money and effort into constructing while you’re still alive.

 


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