What is common to Nara (Japan), Gyeongju (Korea), Luang Prabang (Laos) and Hue (Vietnam)? All these towns were one-time capitals of powerful kingdoms and are today on the UNESCO World Heritage List of sites that form our cultural heritage.
The push to preserve Hue's historical heritage is a recent phenomenon from the 1990s. The Citadel lies north of the Perfume River while the tourist hotels and restaurants lie south. A pair of bridges are used by pedestrians and motorists to make the crossing. Tour boats cruise on the idyllic looking river. Tourists attempting to cross the bridge are harassed by cyclo (pedicab) and motorbike taxi drivers pursuing you and warning that the Citadel is several kilometres away and not good to walk on this hot day. Brushing past these touts, we crossed the river and spent a couple of hours in the massive walled complex complete with gates, halls, courtyards and palaces that that seems aimed to match the Forbidden City in Beijing. Behind the palaces, the very center of the Imperial Enclosure is even named the The Forbidden Purple City. Sadly, large parts of this imperial city and several palace buildings are in ruins, thanks to the belligerents in the Vietnam war, all of whom contributed to the wreckage. The French wars did their bit earlier as well.
The architectural style is based on the Chinese model with a little difference here and there. The roof ornamentation is much more eye catching here than anywhere in China. The dragons on the roof dominate the skyline much more. It was occupied by the last royal dynasty in Vietnam, the Nguyens, who ruled from 1802 to 1945, when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated to Ho Chi Minh's government. Whatever is remaining of this city within a city makes pretty viewing. Restoration work is in active progress. The massive Flag Tower at the entrance facing the river is VIetnam's tallest flagpole at 37m.
Our 2 day stay in Hue was relaxing and mostly uneventful except for some comical miscommunications that a young waitress at a restaurant had with all her patrons one evening. Despite getting every instruction (spelt out slowly by every diner) wrong, she cheerfully carried on with her work punctuated by several "Oh, Solly!" exclamations. If only the Vegetarian restaurant attached to the nearby temple had been open, we could have been spared this interlude.
Mmmm. I rather fancy Emperor Gia Long looked down benevolently on two adventurous travelers who came all the way to his domain.
Are there many foreign tourists in Vietnam these days ? From , on Jul 24, 2012 at 06:39AM
@Ramesh - In every place we have been to in Vietnam so far, we have seen a fair number of foreign tourists - both the backpacking variety and families out to have a good time while escaping the rainy summer in parts of Europe. From, on Jul 24, 2012 at 07:06AM