Hué: tombs and the Forbidden City (which should actually be called the “Forbidden Unless You Pay £4.50 City”)

Visiting Hué, Vietnam

Sunday 7th and Monday 8th February

Miles around Hué: 18

Yesterday didn’t go well. Today was going to be better. It was actually the first day of the Chinese New Year, and for the first time since we had entered Vietnam a weak, watery sunshine was shining down on damp Hué. It felt good. 

We cracked out the tandem and took a little tour. Eric is getting very good at driving “Vietnamese” style. I think he has the right kind of personality for it – you need cheek and guile to hold your own with the scooters, though I did remind him not to get too cocky! 

Our first stop off was Ho Quyen, or the Tiger Arena. This old arena is in the middle of an area of Hué’s suburbs, which I liked. Imagine living next door to this.

 Ho Quyen, the Tiger Arena 

It was built in 1830 by the emperor of the time, to house fights between tigers and elephants. The last fight was held in 1904.

 Ho Quyen, the Tiger Arena 

The story goes that the fights were always staged in favour of the elephants, with the the tigers being defanged and declawed. This was because the elephants represented the monarchy and the tigers represented rebellion. 

 Ho Quyen, the Tiger Arena 

It’s all shut up now, but after checking for any authoritative-looking types we did a quick hop over the fence to take a look at the inside of the arena. Even with the resulting adrenalin rush, I couldn’t help but notice that it was just grass.

 Ho Quyen, the Tiger Arena 

It’s a fairly plain-looking ruin, but its abandoned state makes it feel quite interesting to visit. (Though, thinking about it, someone is obviously mowing the lawn.)

Afterwards we cycled a few miles out of town to visit the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc. I liked this place a lot.

 The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc  
The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc  The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc 

It was beautifully dilapidated. 

 The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc

  The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc 
 The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc  

 Very quiet and peaceful.

 The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc  
The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc  The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc 

A bit sparse and haunting.

 The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc  
The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc 

Tickets are 100,000 dong. We thought this sounded expensive until we remembered that this is £3. 

 The tomb of Emperor Tu Duc 
I like your style, Emperor Tu Duc.

Then on we went to see the tomb of Khai Dinh. This is probably more beautiful and well-maintained, but was a lot busier. Once again, it was 100,000 dong each to enter, plus 5000 dong to park our bike (which Eric was very grumpy about: “I could just park it over there,” he said. In the end he agreed to hand over the 15 pence).

Here’s the exterior.

 The Tomb of Khai Dinh  
The Tomb of Khai Dinh  The Tomb of Khai Dinh  
The Tomb of Khai Dinh  The Tomb of Khai Dinh  
The Tomb of Khai Dinh 

Look what I saw… 

 The Tomb of Khai Dinh 
For Buddhists and Hindus the swastika is generally a symbol meaning good fortune or prosperity, though it has many subtly different meanings and uses. 

Here’s the interior, which was a bit of a visual punch in the face. But it did look impressive.  

The Tomb of Khai Dinh  The Tomb of Khai Dinh 

On the way back into town we stopped to take a look at a bonsai competition that was going on. 

 Bonsai competition in Hue, Vietnam 
There are ornamental trees and bonsais everywhere in Vietnam, and it’s got me and Eric excited (yes, let’s be honest, excited) about growing one ourselves when we come home. 

Bonsai competition in Hue, Vietnam  

We also saw some odd things… 

 A monkey pulling a rickshaw 

And two girls asked to pose for a photo with our bike. There was a lot of giggling and screaming. (Resisting urge to say “And that was just Eric”.)

 Trying out our tandem 

The next day we went to see the Forbidden City, which is Hué’s old centre. Hué was the capital city of Vietnam from 1802 until 1945, and is the city closest to the border between the north and the south of Vietnam. 

Here’s some of the outside walls.

 Hue's Forbidden City  
Hue's Forbidden City 

One of the most notorious battles of the Vietnam War was held in Hué. We were looking out for bullet holes which are said to still be visible in the walls.

Bullet holes? 

 Hue's Forbidden City 
Hué was also subject to a terrible massacre. During the North Vietnamese Army’s occupation they tortured and murdered between 2,800 – 7000 citizens that they deemed to be “rebels”. Grim. 

During our visit to the Forbidden City we learned about the reign of the Nguyen dynasty (1802 – 1945) and what daily life was like for the emperors of Vietnam. 

 Hue's Forbidden City  
Hue's Forbidden City 

They were cooked between 30-50 dishes for lunch each day, had nine levels of wives, and in the afternoon were given a “shortlist” of suggested concubines, which they would then pick from for that night. So you see, they were just regular people like you and me. 

 Hue's Forbidden City  
Hue's Forbidden City 

The place wasn’t as pretty as the tombs we saw, but the history was interesting. 

 Hue's Forbidden City  
Hue's Forbidden City  Hue's Forbidden City 

Afterwards we went to find what was apparently the best pagoda – Chua Dieu De. We stopped off at a temple first.

 Chua Dieu De, Hue 

There was a swastika made of of flowers in pots. 

 Chua Dieu De, Hue 

Then we went off in search of this pagoda, and spent quite a while wandering our way through the tiny, charming back streets. It was quite fun. 

 The streets of Hue 

After getting a bit lost, we finally realised that the temple we had visited was the pagoda! I had always thought pagodas were… you know… pagoda-shaped, so I was a bit confused about that. 

While we were in Hué we visited a few excellent restaurants. Hué has its own unique cuisine, so we made sure to try some. 

We had bo bun Hué on a street corner – a tasty noodle dish.

 Bo Bun Hue 
The soup is slightly sour, with the added ingredient of pig’s blood. 

Cafe on Thu Wheels did the best breakfast omelettes. (Poor Eric, I am always taking pictures of him when he is trying to eat things.)

  

Next door, the Family Run Restaurant had lovely staff and delicious food, and round the corner Ganesh served up an awesome Indian. 

We also ate a lot of biscuits, and developed quite the rapport with the lady at the corner shop. 

Last job of the day was to get out the bike and fit our new, questionably-attained tyre, as well as cleaning off all the crusted-on mud. We also replaced our inner tube, which had deflated sometime in the last day or two (not surprising considering how the split tyre would have contorted its shape) so we have now officially had one puncture. During our six months in Europe we had fourteen. One is fine. 

Next we’re heading south for Hôi An and a sandy beach. May the sunshine long continue… 

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