Imperial palaces, majestic temples and an elephants fifth (or sixth) leg
Our first overnight train to Hue proved to be quite pleasant compared to the Chinese trains although Rach did have a pretty traumatic experience with the toilets that decided to flush up instead of down! The Vietnamese also kept in line with the habit of getting up at early o’ clock so we had plenty of time to watch the beautiful scenery whizzing by.
Hué is the old capital of Vietnam and the capital of the ruling emperors. So the idea was to see as much of the old temples and the Imperial City as possible in our two days there. So after a quick recovery from our sweltering walk to the hotel we hit the mean streets of Hué in search of our first cultural hit of the day. We had formed a rough plan and it wasn’t long before we were staring up in awe at the beautiful seven tiered pagoda of the Tu Dam Temple. It rose up from the dust and noise of the street like a beacon of solitude and we quickly dived inside. It was truly peaceful and we had a great time looking around. The monks didn’t seem to mind us and left us to go as and where we wanted. It was great.
We then saw another temple, Bao Quoc, and this was even more stunning than the last with a beautiful front gate that was slowly being reclaimed by nature. We even got treated to a private showing of one of the temple rooms by a very eager monk! As it was getting late we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel stopping by on one last sight the “Notre Dam” cathedral. It was stunning from the outside but once closer we could see the signs of decay such as the smashed windows and peeling paint.
After a brilliant nights sleep, listening to the rain and praying that it wouldn’t continue through until the following day, we woke to a sky as clean as a whistle. The Imperial City beckoned and promised us a great time. And it delivered. For the price of 150,000dong ($7.50 US) we had a massive city (quite literally) to explore. There were temples, throne rooms, theatres, gardens, ruins, and much more. That it is in such a good state is due to the thoughtful (if controversial) restoration of many of the buildings that were obliterated during the various wars that ravaged the country. There was also an elephant randomly in the grounds that had the most enormous willy we’ve ever seen; it literally was dragging on the ground!
On a side note during our time in Hué we noticed that there were a lot of tourist restaurants that offered “authentic” Vietnamese food. We ate out at a typical Vietnamese street side restaurant and with the help of a local had an amazing meal that cost less than a quarter of the price of the said restaurants.
On another side, side note Hué happens to have the dubious honour of being the first place in Asia that we have seen a traffic accident, something of a miracle considering the way they drive. Luckily it appeared to be nothing more than a bloodless knock on the head.
So our time in Hué has drawn to a close and we’re now headed on to Da Nang to get to the suit making centre that is Hoi An.
Rex’s Rules of the Road
- Don’t be scared to go a little more out of the way from the usual tourist temples. You never know, you might get a private viewing.
- When eating out don’t be fooled into eating at a restaurant. Just sit down at a busy collection of plastic stools on a street corner, ask the price and eat like a king for less than a dollar!