July 9th, 2009

Hue is a relatively small city, with a population of just over 250,000, situated on the Perfume River. Hue has somehow missed the economic growth that other cities have experienced and, as a result, retains its original charm. In 1802, during the Nguyen dynasty, the capital was moved from Hanoi to Hue and therefore contains a large citadel, the remnants of the Imperial City as well as several Royal Mausoleums.

We arrived in Hue early in the afternoon and immediately went for an orientation walk (yet another) mainly designed to take us for a spot of lunch. After lunch we split in to two groups, one group heading for the beach and the others, of which I was one, headed off to the citadelTo the Citadel! for a spot of sightseeing. The citadel is pretty sodding massive encompassing 6 square kilometres in total. Based on the forbidden city, in Beijing, it is enclosed by a moat and comprises three walled enclosures, with the forbidden purple city at the centre. Unfortunately a fire in 1947 destroyed much of the city and of the original 148 buildings only 20 have survived. Despite this the citadel is a worthy visit as the grounds are stunning and those buildings that did survive are (pretty) nice.The Empress' Relaxation RoomThe majority of the next day was dedicated to a scooter trip around Hue and the surrounding countryside. As everyone was doing this we all got up early to get downstairs ready to start a 14 person procession through the city. Charles told us that the guys driving the scooters were experts and to just go with what they say. Taking this to heart I got on the scooter with the last guy available - one whose eyes didn’t exactly follow each other - feeling slightly sorry for him given that noone else wanted him. I assumed that it was merely visual and that everything would be ok. The ride started fairly well, with a bit of car and scooter slalom, before heading out in to the countryside. About 5 minutes in to the trip the fun began. My “guy” went over a fairly hefty divot a little too quickly and the rear tyre completely burst forcing us to skid to a stop. A short stint on the back of Charles’ scooter, as well as some gay banter, and we were at our first stop where, alledgedly, my “guy” would catch us up with a new bike. The first stop was certainly interesting; an 80 year old spritely woman seemingly dedicating the rest of her life to demonstrating the old art of rice growing. Crazy Rice WomanFollowing this we got back on the bikes and headed off again. At this point I started to realise that my “guy” was awfully keen on making sure that I stayed as far away from the back of the bike as possible and, consequently, as close to him as possible. He had a nasty habit of pulling me in closer everytime he thought I was too far away. Not only was this annoying, in itself, it was also quite literally a pain. Too many years of playing football mean that neither my groin nor my back is comfortable in that sort of position. Not speaking a word of English and seemingly not taking no for an answer he kept pulling me in. Anyway, heading on we revisited the citadel before going to Thien Mu Pagoda, the oldest pagoda in Hue and a site famous for Buddhist protests against oppression. In 1963 it hit international news when one of its Monks, Thich Quang Duc, burned himself to death in Saigon. He drove all the way to Saigon in his Austin before adopting the lotus position and lighting himself on fire. The car is on display alongside the pagoda.The Austin of Thich Quang Duc

After that we headed off to visit the perfume river before then going to visit a hat maker. On going through the back streets of Hue I then realised that my “guy” was also fairly useless at riding a scooter nearly taking my knee caps off several times. Had it not been for Emma constantly laughing at me I think I would sacked it all off and walked back to the hotel. Despite all that, and the foul mood I was in, I actually tipped the guy, feeling a bit sorry for him.

Once we’d grabbed some food and sandwiches we headed off to the train station for the trip to Hanoi. Another night train but a good one nonetheless.

Author: Mark Jerzykowski Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
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