We took a flight from Hanoi to Da Nang, from where we had a driver take us the three hours to Hue. I should mention that this whole first part of our trip was largely planned with the aid of a travel agent, so we were travelling in style! Drivers picked us up at each airport, with little “Mr Shaw” signs, and delivered us directly to our prearranged hotels. This was a pretty new experience for me, since I’m used to travelling without really planning anything, but it was all-around very pleasant. I’d much rather be driven from place to place by private car than have to figure out the weird vietnamese local buses. The cars that hotels and travel agencies arrange for you are a bit weird too since there’s always one Driver, who is silent and doesnt speak english, and one Other Guy, who speaks (questionable) english and handles talking to you and pointing things out along the way. I think that makes sense for larger groups where the Other Guy would be busy helping everyone with their arrangements, and checking tickets and stuff, but when it was just me and Jessica, it was a bit awkward since you’d have to make smalltalk. And those of you who know me are familiar with my smalltalk prowess. I dont see why they cant just have one driver who speaks semi-english (and doesnt talk to you) but they almost never do. Even on local buses here there’s a driver and a conductor who checks tickets. They like working in teams in Vietnam. Good for them I spose.

Anyway, Hue was an okay town, but I think we both felt it really wasnt as great as all the guidebooks make it out to be. The central vietnam region around Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An was where American soldiers first landed in the sixties, so there’s lots of decaying remnants of american bunkers and airbases and whatever else. This is where “China Beach” is. And Hue is essentially one big reminder of American aggression.

The main attraction in Hue (pronounced something like “whey”) is the massive Citadel, located along one side of the Perfume River. It’s a fortress built around a large part of the city in the 1800s by the emperor of vietnam, back when Hue was the seat of government. Basically just a big stone wall that encloses the old part of town, and kinda boring-looking I thought. The only interesting part was this big part in front which featured the tallest flagpole in vietnam:


Inside the citadel is the Imperial Enclosure, which was the royal residence and grounds, modelled on the forbidden city in china. It’s a pretty enormous area, and I imagine it was pretty spectacular at one time. But the American military bombed the vast majority of the imperial enclosure, so now it’s mostly rubble with a few intact cool-looking palaces and pagodas and whatnot scattered around.




What remains is enough to give you a sense of what the place must have looked like once—grand and gaudy and beautiful I’m sure. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, and it being slowly restored, but they’ve got a long, long way to go. Currently it feels like part mysterious ruin, part construction site, and part abandoned ugly field.

On the whole I think Jessica’s and my reaction to Hue was basically “eh”. It’s nice enough, but there were a million aggressive touts in the tourist areas, and there’s not too much to do other than the imperial enclosure business. And the weather was either annoyingly humid or rainy (but that seems to be par for the course in this country). Granted, we were only there for a day, and the countryside nearby is supposed to have ton of cool pagodas and stuff to visit, but by and large we were nonplussed by Hue.

Check out my Hue photos below. Incidentally, do people like this flash-based flickr plugin I’m using? I feel like it displays the photos weirdly, and I dont know why it puts such a big space between the post and the flash. I’m open to anyone’s ideas for other wordpress flickr plugins… anyone? Is only my mom reading still? ?

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  1. Mom
    Oct 6th, 2007at11:39 am

    Hi Taylor – Yes we were a bit concerned when we heard from Jessica’s mom about the typhoon and the 400,000 people evacuated from the coast, not knowing where you two were at the time. As a member of the generation who fervently (and in my case luckily) sought to avoid the hellhole that was Vietnam, it struck me as a little ironic that I had a son who was an MIA there – some sort of delayed karma perhaps. It seeems kind of silly now that we know you were toughing it out on a tropical beach – but still, do try to avoid all typhoons, earthquakes and tidal waves the next month or so! Fatherly Advice from Dad

  2. cameron
    Oct 6th, 2007at8:00 pm

    i was reading that comment under the pretense that, as it says at the top, “Mom” was writing it, and thinking “gee, this sure sounds like Dad’s overly-stately rhetoric.” and then i got to the bottom and lo and behold, i was right.


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