Thursday, January 3, 2013


We took another night train (our third in seven days… yikes) from Hanoi to Huế (pronounced Hway), arriving about 13 hours after leaving the capital. Our stay here was brief, just two nights, barely sufficient to skim the surface of some of the cultural and architectural wonders here, including the Citadel (Huế was the capital from 1802 to 1945), numerous pagodas, and tombs of former emperors. The sites are scattered around the city, so we rented a scooter again to get around. It was a bit more harrowing than driving around Vang Vieng and Sapa, but it’s definitely the quickest and cheapest way to get around. I had no idea the tombs would be so vast! We only had time to visit two: Tự Đức and Khai Dinh.

The first was where Emperor Tu Duc went to escape the bustle of city and work, and is a lovely walled complex tucked among pine and durian trees, with a moat-like lake, and various pavilions. The burial tombs for himself, his first wife, and adopted son are just three of the many decorative buildings.

Outside the walled complex, we were waved into one of the many food stands and shown a menu. Soup for 80,000 dong ($4)?! I don't think so! So we walked away, and she called us back and showed us another menu. This one was identical except the prices were more than half that of the first menu. Ok, that's better. I'm sure there was still another strata of menu she never showed us, as we've heard about the tiered pricing system in Vietnam: the price for locals, the price for expats, and the price for tourists (otherwise known as the FU price).

Khai Dinh is a singular, multi-level compound, with elaborate statues and dragon-protected staircases all building and leading to the top tier of this gigantic wedding cake, where the palatial building is a fantastic mix of Asian and European influences. Inside, in the central throne room is completely encrusted with scenes made of colourful tiles; similar to Wat Arun in Bangkok, but even more dimensional and elaborate. The effect is visually stunning. When I am emperor, you can be sure my tiny tumbleweed home will be tricked out in a similarly overwhelming display of tile.

Detail of the Citadel grounds.

Citadel. Hue, Vietnam.

Monkey-proof: durian trunk.

The grounds of the Tu Duc tomb complex.

Baby durian.

Lovely treed grounds.

I love how these tree roots look like a pot of soup bubbling over...

Khai Dinh tomb across the field.

Statues of the Mandarins at the ready to serve the emperor.

Lavishly decorated walls.

Detail of tiled walls.

Detail of tiled walls.

The emperor's throne chamber.

1 comment:

  1. Hey friends!
    Pete and I are following your adventures! Can't believe you're already in Hue. I don't know how you guys are doing it, but I love that you're posting that often, it's amazing. Love your pictures!
    We went to Mui Ne in Vietnam, I don't know if you'll have the chance to go, but it was great (great beaches, dunes, salt springs), we definitely recommend. Also, Nha Trang - we went for one dive there and it was fantastic.
    I wish you two an amazing year 2013 :)