So I love history and the culture that surrounds it and different religions, but as my memory ain’t as good as it used to be don’t expect me to be able to recount much from today. It was 5 hours solid, but mesmerizing. And the good news – it was 5 hours without the noise of scooters or honking horns as it was traffic free! However it wasn’t tourist free – I know I’m one of them but it irritates me when they are in my photos!! Hence there are a lot of photos of roofs – not just because they are so ornate, but because tourists can’t climb! Many of the roofs are illustrated with poems and scenes from Buddha’s life
I love my religion and wouldn’t be anything else, but what strikes me is the contrast in the buildings of worship here – maybe its just Far East v West but the temples here as so calm and tranquil. The pride they take in the surroundings and the gardens just make you want to stay. They sculpt rivers, ponds, even where the water lilies and lotus flowers float. The whole just exude serenity – not something I can say about the synagogues and churches that I have visited. Here the temples are just ornate but it is born from simplicity. See if you can spot the topiary elephant and turtle in the photos
So we started at the Thien Mu Pagoda, with its 7 levels – apparently like the 7 leaves of a lotus flower and then went to the Citadel and the Imperial City. What struck me here, and at the tombs, was the contrast between what they had renovated, what hadn’t been renovated and what had been destroyed in the Vietnam/American war. There are some photos, one particularly showing a wall which depicts all three in one continuum. There is something authentic about some of the unrestored and even damaged areas – they add to the sense of history, of passage of time and are history in themselves. Whilst some renovation and re-construction is to be welcomed and is essential, I think caution needs to be exercised here.
The bits that I can remember are typical for me – one Emperor had mumps and hence no children, but it didn’t stop him having nearly 150 concubines. Another had 500 concubines and died at 49, presumably from exhaustion. Chinese medicine had viagra long before Pfizer, looks like they needed it. Women were kept separate, had their own houses and compounds and all the generations lived together. I learnt a lot about the end of the Vietnamese dynasties and the French rule here. Also whilst seven is a special number, so is three. Symbolising heaven, earth and humility and when all three are aligned it brings luck. apparently
Particular photos of interest are the one that looks like a red telephone box – its not, its a building to protect a bronze unicorn. The bronze water urns, show bullet holes, but all have different handles. There is a photo of ancient guttering – the shape of the roofs sculpted deliberately and the water flows out of a fish mouth – better than black or white plastic!! Most of the steps had dragon sculptures running down the sides.
The tour ended with a ride on one of those bike things. Watch the bike ride in Hue and admire how the traffic swarms round us. Thankfully it was midday so hardly anything on the road at the time.
After that we went to two Royal tombs, Tu Duc and Khai Dinh. They started building these before they died so they could see them. As it happens Tu Duc isn’t even buried there. He is buried somewhere secret and those that had the honour of burying him were killed so no-one knows where he is. Some honour.
The two tombs are completely different. Tu Duc has acres of beautifully sculpted gardens and lakes and a stone tomb. Khai Dinh has a very small footprint by comparison. It’s up 127 steps but I’m pleased to report both feet and ankles intact!. It’s all black and grey, with some mother of pearl inlay. But inside is a complete contrast – highly decorative and ornate in 3D relief.
There was a surreal moment on the journey back to the hotel. We stopped at a level crossing. Scooters swarmed all around us to the front, covering the whole width of the road. Nothing new there with scooters on the wrong side. But because of the length of time the barrier was across, the traffic was quite deep. Of course this was mirrored on the other side of the barrier and when the barriers were eventually removed it was one battle to reclaim the road. As the two sides met in the middle, which just happened to be on the railway line, I was grateful that the trains didn’t come along that often!
There are some more photos of the Saigon Morin Hotel and a video of the ride in the outside lift. Yes someone does really change the lift carpet three times a day.
This is actually being written at 28,000 feet as we take our last internal flight to Ho Chi Minh city. Four flights down, four to go. If you’re reading this then you know we’ve landed safely 🤣