In Hue - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

November 21, 2016

In Hue

Rest Days in a former Imperial City

In Hue

November 18 -21, 2016

We had been talking about spending some time in Hue relaxing, so, that’s exactly what we did. The spider bite or whatever is itching Andrea's hand is getting more pronounced every day so we thought we should rest. We ate the famous regional foods, explored the bustling city, became real tourists, ate more fun foods and generally found the city a joy to visit. We did have to cope with 98% humidity amidst 90+ degrees. The staff at Valentine Hotel were some of the best ever. One of them even took on the job of knitting back together the wire for my bike computer which had snapped because of rough handling by the bus guys. They situated the bikes on top of the bus ignoring my directions on which way to lay them down. They did not want to be told a thing and kept directing me to get on the bus and they would take care of everything. My last glance was of my front wheel swinging wildly all the way around.

I really don’t like taking buses with our bikes and all our panniers. It’s not only all the many panniers that have to be dealt with, it’s the loss of freedom that bugs me. I have become committed to riding bikes and think it’s just not right to get on buses. As I gaze out the bus window I say to myself, ‘Either this is a bike trip or it is not.’ The bus is in between. But time is always the culprit. Too often visas dictate. Visa time frames almost never correspond to ours. Logistics are tricky. Sometimes a 30 day visa running out necessitates getting a bus to the border quickly. But I still don’t like having to take a bus, not with a bike.

The son of the owner of the hotel fixed my bike computer wire and we went out to explore Hue.

Fun little touches at Valentine Hotel
Heart 1 Comment 0
Hue street scene - shrine underneath a sacred Bodhi Tree.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Street scene
Heart 1 Comment 0
A small street-side Hue market.
Heart 2 Comment 0

The biggest attraction in Hue, besides it’s regional cuisine, is the old Imperial Citadel which we walked about for most of a day in the stinking heat. The great majority of the buildings had been wiped off the face of the earth by the war and the few that survive made me hate war more than ever. I’m no fan of imperial anything but since it did in fact exist, it is nice to see the art and architecture such wealth produced in the past. It’s history and I’m also not a fan of wiping out history.

At the Citadel - Hue.
Heart 1 Comment 0
At the Citadel - Hue.
Heart 0 Comment 0

The main building in the Citadel’s complex, theThai Hoa Palace, has architecture which, to me, is surprisingly similar to that of a Shan temple (N.E. Burma). These odd similarities pop up throughout S.E. Asia hinting at past times when rulers and armies washed over the land this way and that bringing with them their own styles, designs, cultures, religions and architecture the influences of which are not only evident in the ancient buildings but still influence life today.

Basically I just love old wood Asian buildings. The Thai Hoa Palace has 80 old-growth ironwood pillars; hard as steel. Actually I was surprised how much survived both the French and American wars. The gold encrusted throne for instance and even the emperor’s writing utensils!

In the Emperor's library at the Citadel.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Citadel
Heart 0 Comment 0
Citadel
Heart 0 Comment 0

It’s all very interesting and to be able to walk in the shoes of emperors of bygone eras, even in the stinking heat and sweaty feet, was a real treat for me. I was happy that so many Vietnamese tourists were visiting their sites. It’s a sign of affluence taking hold - leisure time and money with which to travel.

There were many walls like this at the Citadel using lots of broken pottery.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Detail of broken pottery.
Heart 0 Comment 0

As impressive the Citadel was we were as impressed with the Imperial foods that Hue is known for. It’s hard to name a favorite but the ground pork wrapped around lemon grass stalks and barbecued won’t be forgotten soon. After barbecuing and taking on subtle hints of lemon grass, the pork is pulled off the stalk and placed in rice paper with greens, other vegetables and sauce. I’m hungry just writing this. It’s called Nem lui.

Nem Lui for the first time. Hong Mai Restaurant.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Vegetarian restaurant, Lien Hoa, in Hue. Excellent, cheap food and beautiful setting.
Heart 0 Comment 0
The pond at Lien Hoa Restaurant.
Heart 0 Comment 0

We have certainly not been without good food in Vietnam, even way out in the country, but the foods of Hue had delicate, subtle flavors and did indeed seem more elegant - the foods of royalty.

Hanh Restaurant - Hue. A favorite place for Vietnamese (and us).
Heart 0 Comment 0
Hanh Restaurant - Hue
Heart 0 Comment 0

Hue also represents the first place in Vietnam, on our way south, where more English is creeping in. A few store signs have a little bit of English now. A few more people know a few words of English. And it’s the first place we have seen banana pancakes and fruit shakes on menus. We found the cheapest shake place and returned there several times. I mean, who can resist a mango or papaya shake for less than 75 cents? Especially in sticky heat. All we wanted to do was lie around drinking shakes one after another. The only thing better would have been if servants would have brought them to me without my asking while I lounged around in my palace in front of the water. I guess that imperial thing really made an impression on me.

Then one day we got up enough energy (actually, forced ourselves is more like it) to ride our bikes ten miles out of town to other emperor’s tombs. The effort was well worth it because the interior of Khai Dinh’s tomb was decorated to the max with colorful tile designs. The colors were vibrant and joyful, the ceiling painting seemed ultra modern, abstract, fantastic. We loved the inside of the tomb building so much it was hard to leave and get on our bikes to go a little further to visit Ming Mang’s tomb.

Khai Dinh's Tomb. Emperor Khai Dinh is embalmed and rests 16 meters directly below this statue of him.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Khai Dinh's Tomb building interior.
Heart 0 Comment 0

The center of attraction at Khai Dinh’s was definitely the interior whereas Ming Mang’s tomb was more an outdoor experience with moats, bridges, koi and frangipani trees. And, unlike Khai Dinh’s tomb, Ming Mang’s was not jam-packed with tourists. We could stroll through nature and enjoy birdsong which is quite nice in Vietnam. There were several buildings and again they were reminiscent of Shan temples like at the Citadel. Again, Ming Mang’s belongings were on display. But the focus was to continue on through the buildings back, back, over stone bridges and stone walkways, on towards the grand mound at the end, where Ming Mang’s tomb actually resides. A very peaceful place indeed. Cows were eating the grass around the tomb.

Arriving at Ming Mang's tomb.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Andrea collecting a little extra cash.
Heart 0 Comment 0
At Ming Mang's Tomb.
Heart 0 Comment 0

We thoroughly enjoyed Hue. In ways it reminded me of Chiang Mai 30 years ago, that is, if you take away the millions of motorbikes. Our little lane where Valentine Hotel was was quite similar to a lane within the moat area of Chiang Mai. I felt at home. And all night frogs in neighbors’ ponds croaked loud, low thump-like croaks. Frogs are very cool creatures, if you ask me, and somehow those croaks were soothing and welcoming. I bet Ming Mang liked frogs too.

lovebruce

Walls at the Citadel - Hue.
Heart 0 Comment 0
The walls around here are like backdrops or paintings.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 20 miles (32 km)
Total: 426 miles (686 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 0
Comment on this entry Comment 0