We only had one full day in Hue before we travelled back down south to Hoi An, so our second air conditioned taxi tour in as many days was justified. It was justified further when you consider that it was 38 degrees outside and around 80% humidity, and we wanted to spend a full day exploring the Imperial City without ending up with heatstroke.
We were staying at the Holiday Diamond Hotel, and had arrived the previous day to a welcome of fresh fruit, cold towels and thirst quenching juice. The lady on reception kindly sat us down and took us through the various tour options, though at no point did we feel pressured to pick one. We chose a full day tour of the Imperial Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda and the Imperial Tombs of Tu Duc, Khai Dinh and Minh Mang which cost $45 and, I can say with complete honesty, that it was the best $45 we have ever spent.
The whole city evokes an atmosphere of quiet contemplation; of respect for the Nguyen Dynasty of days gone by. A heady perfume of incense floats through the perfectly symmetrical archways. Architecturally, Hue is stunning, so I’ll let a few pictures do the talking. Let me just say one thing though- visiting an imperial tomb with stone floors and stone walls that sits in the searing, unrelenting heat all day long is akin to being a jacket potato, wrapped up in tin foil and popped on a BBQ. As I said, that air conditioned taxi waiting for us in between each stop was well worth the money.
On a side note, that evening we at at the Family Home restaurant close to our hotel and it was spectacular. Try the squid with green chilli, you won’t regret it! 🙂
One particularly sobering moment was when we came across this car in the Thien Mu Pagoda. It elicits a confused chuckle at first, as though you have stepped out of Vietnam and into Memphis, the birthplace of Elvis Presley. On reading the plaque fixed to the side of the wall, however, you realise that this is the car in which, on the 11th June 1963, Buddhist monk Quảng Đức travelled to Saigon to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the government at the time. Quảng Đức was so overwhelmed by the treatment people were subjected to that he set himself on fire. As someone who has (thankfully) never had to deal with any sort of prejudice, it really took me aback to think that someone could be moved to such extreme self sacrifice in order to force a change to better the lives of others. It shouldn’t have ever had to happen (neither should those who felt compelled to follow him as reforms didn’t come as a result of his sacrifice); but as it did, is sure as anything shouldn’t be forgotten.