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Amazing Hue

Friday, March 28, 2014

During the ride to Hue the sun came out and played for a while. It was the first time in six weeks I had seen anything more than a short glimpse of it and it’s amazing how it lifts your spirits. I had taken the scenic route following the beach and then riverside through some great scenery and taken pictures with my iPhone, which failed to give me any decent landscape images. I would have to address this problem very soon.

My first priority was to get something to eat and then find a hostel, so I headed for the backpacker area, crossing the Perfume River over the Trang Tien bridge and turning north to the south bank area around Le Loi street. There seemed to be more westerners than locals and I knew I would have difficulty finding a dorm in the more popular hostels, which proved to be the case with the first two I tried. Walking down to the end of ‘backpacker alley’ I came across a small hostel called Hue Amazing Homestay, where for $5 I could have a bed, breakfast and a beer. It was a nice family run business with the owners speaking some English and I met up with a group who were staying there, including another Brit, an Irishman and a couple of American girls. We sussed out the cheapest local restaurants and had a couple of meals together. This is what I love about my trip – meeting up with other travellers and sharing stories.

Hue Imperial City and the Royal Tombs

Map & legend of Hue Imperial City

Next morning I planned my tour of Hue, which would start with a walk around the Imperial City. Once again the sky was grey and overcast, but I did manage to get some usable images. I have to say though that I was a little disappointed with the Imperial City, maybe because I’ve been very fortunate in seeing other sites that impressed me more, but I think mostly because many sections were being repaired or renovated and were out of bounds. There was however a great photographic exhibition on display which obviously for me was the highlight!

One of the passageways displaying the photographic exhibition.

The stone carvings on the steps caught my eye too, as the detail is amazing. Here’s a small selection of the images I took:

Inside Hue Imperial City

Inside Hue Imperial City

Inside Hue Imperial City

Once I’d finished my tour of the city, it was time to visit the Royal Tombs. I had chosen two distinctly different types of tomb to try and add some variety to my photographs, but having just the iPhone I found I was very limited to what I could capture and the resulting quality was not great. My first stop was Tu Duc Royal Tomb which was built between 1864 and 1867 as a tribute to the fourth Nguyen Emperor. Tu Duc is the longest reigning Nguyen Emperor on record.

Hoa Khiem Palace, Tu Duc Royal Tomb

The forecourt was lined with a honour guard of stone mandarins, a horse and an elephant (on both sides). The mandarins are smaller than usual – this was on purpose, as the Emperor was a diminutive man.

The honour guard, Tu Duc Royal Tomb

Tu Duc’s first wife, Empress Le Thien Anh is also honoured in Hoa Khiem Temple.

Archway leading to Empress Le Thien Anh’s tomb

The tomb of Empress Le Thien Anh

The Emperors Sepulchre, Tu Duc Tomb

The grounds surrounding this tomb are very extensive and require a good amount of time if you want to walk around. It’s a nice peaceful spot, even with the bus loads of tourists disembarking regularly. While the architecture is not as striking as the next tomb I visited, I spent an enjoyable couple of hours here wandering in the gardens.

Dragons were everywhere!

In another part of the grounds I discovered a separate temple (Chap Khiem) dedicated to Tu Duc’s adopted son, Emperor Kien Phuc, who reigned for just 8 months and died in 1884 aged just 15.

Chap Khiem Temple

The next tomb was a good few kilometres distance away, but not a problem on a bicycle except for the heat, as by now the sun had reached it’s peak in the sky and the temperature was soaring. It was impressive. From the roadside as I peered up through the gates of Khai Dinh Royal Tomb, I knew my decision to choose this particular tomb was the right one.

The impressive gateway to Khai Dinh Royal Tomb

Khai Dinh’s tomb was purposefully designed to be difficult to visit as the tomb was built on the side of a mountain. Its inner sanctum is reached by climbing up the 127 steps from street level and court officials were required (on pain of death) to climb the steps and pay their respects to the late emperor.

The Stele Pavilion, Khai Dinh Royal Tomb

The tomb began construction in 1920 and took eleven years to complete, and was still unfinished when the Emperor Khai Dinh died of tuberculosis in 1925. His son, the last Emperor of Vietnam Bao Dai, finally completed the tomb in 1931.

The Royal Guard, Khai Dinh Royal Tomb

Looking down on the Royal Guard

The emerald eye caught mine!

Another flight of stairs takes you to the elaborate Thien Dinh Palace, which must be entered by a side entrance (on the right) as the front is kept locked.

Thien Dinh Palace

The Emperors Crypt, Thien Dinh Palace

The Emperor’s successor Bao Dai became the last ruling Nguyen emperor, for a time becoming a puppet head of state for the Japanese, then the French, then finally the South Vietnamese government based in Saigon. The end of the Nguyen dynasty also ensured that Khai Dinh’s Royal Tomb would be the last constructed in Hue.

I had planned on telling the story of my journey to Da Nang and my time spent there in this blog post, but as I have some nice images to show (my Nikon camera was somewhat fixed in Da Nang) and this post is already image heavy, I’ll leave it till next time. More soon…

Monday, March 31, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Hi Derek! Thanks for the blog update again. The Talk Vietnam video that you posted on your facebook wall really made my day. Very inspiring and I will definetely make most of my life! I’ll write you an email on how I’m doing as soon as possible. Safe travels! -Hansi

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 7:23 am

Hi Derek, Anne Garrad ex-Harrisons and I have been following you throughout your journey but sadly I have some sad news Anne passed away on Sunday 30 MARCH of cancer.
dave Garrad,husband

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Dave, I am so sad to hear this news, Anne was always so kind to me and a very warm hearted lady. My deepest condolences to you and your family.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 5:58 am

Hi! Good luck for your trip. I’m now living in Hanoi. Welcome you to Hanoi

Thienanh Le
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Wow, so I’m so surprised when reading your blog… wow how amamzing you are… by the way I’m now living in Ho Chi MInh City, welcome to our country!!!

Queenie Tran
Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 11:24 pm

U got my ultimate respect, D! And your photos of Vietnam are so beautiful, they make me miss Vietnam dearly! Thanks for sharing and best of lucks to your upcoming journeys.

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