Sunday, 9 December 2012

Imperial Hue

We had a lovely first day of our trip in Hue yesterday. Hue is a town in Central Vietnam that served as the imperial capital from 1802 to 1945. On the banks of the Perfume River is a large citadel, within which is the imperial enclosure, encased within a 6 metre-high wall. It was here that emperors of the Nguyen dynasty would reside and host visitors. Most of this area was destroyed over the course of two wars but reconstruction and restoration efforts are ongoing. Chris and I hired bicycles to cycle around the citadel, but went round the imperial enclosure on foot. It was delightful to explore the ruins with few other tourists around; the crumbling remnants of another era were intriguing and very beautiful.

At lunchtime we headed out of the citadel and ate streetfood at a hole-in-the-wall cafe with a welcoming owner. We ate bun bo- a delicate Hue speciality of noodle soup with meat, infused with lemongrass, and minced meat kebabs served with rice paper, green leaves and hot chilli jam to make tasty pancake rolls, and caramelised fish served bubbling in a clay pot. Chris thought he'd died and gone to heaven.
Delicious Hue street food
In the afternoon we followed the trail of the Nguyen emperors from their living quarters to final resting places. Emperors would plan their own tombs during their lifetimes and would often use them as relaxing retreats while they were still alive. There are several tombs to be visited along the road out of Hue but we went to the closest, and supposedly most impressive- that of Tu Duc, the notorious emperor with 104 wives. It is also said to be his fussy eating that gave birth to Hue's wonderful cuisine. His tomb is set in a wooded garden, in the centre of which is a small lake for boating with a man-made island in the middle that attracts rare birds and animals. We were again lucky to find few other visitors at this site, and at dusk it was lovely to walk around the peaceful lake, the temples (one of which was dedicated to Tu Duc's 'minor wives') and the woods.
It was really a whistle-stop tour of Hue but I'm sure we made the best of our day by seeing some beautiful sites and eating delicious Hue streetfood. We spent last night on the overnight train and will soon be arriving in Hanoi.

At Tu Duc's tomb

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