Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Saturday, April 04, 2015

29. Da Nang (Hue), Vietnam

Da Nang (Hue), Vietnam
River Traffic

At the most narrow spot in Vietnam (30 miles wide) is the harbor city of Da Nang and not far away is Hue, the old Royal Capital of the last King of this country. We paid a visit to Hue,
Fishermen in Strange Round Boats

naturally taking a bus. I never really noticed how I don't like sitting on a bus. The seats are narrow, the legroom poor at best. People bump into me when I sit in the aisle seat to be able to stretch my legs somewhat.
Moated Citadel
It took 2 ½ hours to reach The Citadel, the old Palace in Hue, a moated, wall fortified complex that must have been impressive in its day. Unfortunately most of the original buildings were destroyed during the last war.
There was close, door to door fighting at The Citadel for 25 straight days leaving the Palace mostly in rubble.
Shell Holes in the Walls
From the Fighting

Efforts have been made to restore some buildings but those restorations look and feel like modern antiques. Read fake. I was disappointed. The original splendor can be felt but can not be seen. The layout of the Palace on a map

One of the Original Gates

showed me how it used to be but very little is original. The complex is large, spreading over an area of some 5 square miles. But we were given only about 50 minutes by the tour operator to explore and it was way too little time.
Renovated Section

Ceiling in the Renovated Section

All I had time for was to walk the new antique section. So what can I report about The Citadel? That it is a ruin?
Decoration Over the Arch

It sure is not what I anticipated. I was told it is a representation or even copy of the Chinese Emperor’s Palace, but I can not really say because there was not enough time to explore and there was too much destruction.

Naturally we had to visit a temple. This one, the
Thein Mu Pagoda

Thien Mu Pagoda, was actually very different and interesting. Again, not enough time was allowed to see items in detail and to relax while wandering around the site.

Carving Inside the Pagoda

A seven story, octagonal brick pagoda stood near the entrance and even though I asked people, I never found out its significance. The location of this monastery, right on the shore of the Perfume River, was picturesque. Vivid colored dragon-boats sat at the shore line waiting for tourists.

Dragon Boats

The buildings were set in a park-like setting, nicely landscaped and trees were expertly trimmed and formed into bonsai shapes. You guessed it, not enough time was allowed to explore in depth.
The Most Venerable Thich Quang Duc

This monastery had a car in storage we all know well from an old newspaper picture. It was in the news all over the world. Remember the Vietnamese Monk who set himself on fire in the 1960’s to protest the Government's policies?  He was protesting the Government's discrimination against Buddhists and their violation of religious freedom.

The Monk's Blue Car

In the background of the picture is the blue car he used to get to the place where he set himself alight. The monastery was displaying the actual car he used. It was an odd model car I have never seen before.

Silk Embroidery


We stopped for lunch, stopped at a pearl seller shop, stopped at a silk embroidery factory, stopped at a “factory” selling incense sticks and straw cone hats.

Silk Embroidery

Working on Embroidery

Making Cone Hats

We had time for all of that. We were given no time however for the reason we took this excursion, to explore the antique places. I felt a bit like being used to buy stuff in Vietnam to help the economy, rather than educating myself about Vietnam; like I intended to do when I started this trip.

Mausoleum of King TuDuc

King TuDuc's Crypt
Our final stop was the burial site of King TuDuc. His mausoleum sits on a hill inside a Royal park amid old looking buildings. When I asked if the King’s body is really inside the mausoleum I received the response that nobody really knows where the king was buried. What? So we climbed stairs, looked at walls of  old stones, saw monuments erected, walked for miles in fairly hot weather to find that there is nobody really buried here? Never was buried here? Not my idea of the real thing. I felt used and mislead on the whole trip.

Another 2 ½ hour bus ride back.

What was informative was the fact that this was the 2nd day of the New Year’s Festival. The roads were packed with travelers. It is customary for people to go home at this time of year and honor their dead, honor their ancestors and to bring back gifts for their living relatives and to eat, drink and be merry; and, to invite the spirits of the
Yellow Flowers Bring Good Luck at New Years
dead ancestors to participate in the festivities? All along the bus trips, looking out the window, I saw hyper activity. Traffic was tremendous. Yellow chrysanthemums were being sold to bring good luck and fortune for the coming year, the year of the goat. In some shopping areas there was a field of yellow. Bargaining was tried by many but the prices, because of the holiday, were higher than usual. Two potted plants sold for about $10. - US. This is a lot of money when your monthly income is just around $300. - US on average. These pots are placed left and right of the house entrance to allow good luck to enter. The yellow color represents the color of gold. So let gold or good fortune flow in this house, is the message to the spirits.
Everyone is Bringing Home Flowers

Nobody cooks for the 8 days of the New Year’s Festival; most people just eat sweet snacks, drink lots of beer and go to a restaurant for dinner. It is an expensive time of year, celebrating the arrival of a new Zodiac period. The travelers and the family who welcomes the travelers pay dearly. The gifts, the food and drinks add up to a large expense for all. Yet most celebrate and most would not miss this Festival. It is an ancient tradition and we were smack in the middle of it all. This was the real life of Vietnam but unfortunately I only saw it through the windows of a moving bus, there was no time to stop and see real Vietnam life, we had to get back to the ship. The tide and our ship wait for nobody. 

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