Sunday, 30 September 2012

Vietnam: Hue, the world of the ancient Kings, part 2

Another early start and on our bikes at 8am for the tombs of the kings, the sun burned and a significant contrast to the gloom of the North and Hy Long bay. The rain the night before has cleared the clammy air.

We enter the countryside of Hue to explore the tombs of the kings of the 19th Century. These huge infrastructures spread across 15 - 20acres of land was a complex maze of temples pavilions and tombs built around stunning lakes and surrounded by forests. Here the king was laid to rest, in secret tombs, for his soul to wonder in the afterlife. These took decades to construct and the architectural design is phenomenal, detailed and put me in awe.

While we had little time to explore, it was enough to appreciate the wealth of this country just 150 years ago. Before the French took control, the Americans invaded and communism took its grip.

The afternoon I spent shopping in Hue before enjoying the finer cuisine.

Day 7: AM Exploring around Hué by bicycle. PM Perfume River optional.

This morning we will enjoy the peaceful leafy backstreets of this charming city, cycling out to explore the countryside around Hué. We begin with a visit to the Ho Quyen amphitheatre, where the emperor presided over duels between tigers and elephants. Continuing on to the 19th century Nguyen Tomb of Tu Duc, we will enjoy the beautiful complex of ornate temples, pavilions and tombs built beside a picturesque lake. After a visit to the eunuch tombs at the Tu Hieu Pagoda, a gentle ascent of Vong Canh Hill rewards us with spectacular views. From the pine forest atop the hill we can look over the Perfume River and the surrounding countryside and tombs of the Nguyen dynasty. We finish our morning cycling further out to the vast 19th century tomb of Minh Mang, possibly the finest of all the imperial tombs. Returning to Hué by bus around lunch time, the rest of the day is then free. There is the option to take a half day excursion along the Perfume River, visiting the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, home to the oldest monastery in the city, whose 21m high tower has become something of a symbol for Hué. Dedicated to the Manushi-Buddha, the existing temple was constructed in the middle years of the 19th century, under the auspices of the Emperor Thieu Tri, and within its confines you can find a number of superb Buddhist statues, as well as an enormous cast bell that weighs in at over 2000 kg and is reputed to be audible over 10 km away.