Sunday a day of rest and we had a day off in the old Imperial capital of Vietnam. As usual we woke around 6 but were able to get up leisurely and had breakfast at the hotel. We then ventured out to explore the citadel, which consists of 3 concentric enclosures – a square of huge outer walls enclose the old city. Within this is the walled Imperial City and within that the royal Forbidden Purple city.
The site of the Imperial City is vast. Most dated from around 1805 in the reign of Emperor Gia Long. However much of the site had been severely damaged during 20th century wars. Old photos showed the state of disrepair of most of the buildings. In 1993 Unesco listed the city as a World Heritage site and money started to come in to renovate the numerous pavilion and temple buildings. Some parts had been beautifully renovated but other areas had a long way to go. Just maintaining the buildings that are there must be a mammoth task. However, there was enough there to show the beautiful architecture, the grand gateways and give a feel of the hierarchical court system and how the Emperors (and their mothers) lived. Emperors seemed to come and go pretty frequently, and often lived for decades after ceasing to be the Emperor. All were venerated as gods after death unless they had voluntarily stepped down. Some visitors were still paying their respects to the alters of the emperors. The final emperor abdicated in 1945 and Hue ceased to be the capital of Vietnam.
In the afternoon we changed tack and visited the Ho Chi Minh museum. Many cities have a HCM museum but we had not been to one yet and, as the man himself grew up and went to school in Hue, we thought we would try this one. I would say the museum was of marginal interest. There were some interesting old photographs and some interesting facts (I didn’t know that he had been to London and worked in the kitchens at the Carlton Hotel) but big chunks of time seemed to be missing and of course ‘Uncle Ho’ was venerated throughout, which lost any sense of objective history.
In the evening we had a great meal out in a small back street restaurant that was extremely busy and did set menus of a variety of Vietnamese/Hue specialities. It will set is up well to get back on the trikes tomorrow and continue heading south.
2 thoughts on “Day 53: Sunday 26th February: Day off in Hue.”
New Zealand House on Haymarket now occupies the site of the old Carlton Hotel. There’s a blue plaque marking Ho Chi Minh’s stay: bit ironic given that NZ sent troops to South Vietnam to fight him. Mark Bowden’s book “Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam” is an excellent, even-handed account of what was an awful 24-day battle for both sides and especially the poor civilians caught in between.
Interesting. Evidence of veneration of both, past emperors and Uncle Ho, so close together suggests at least a balanced, if not objective, view of history.
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