I have travelled on the Reunification Express with my brother, his girlfriend and their mate Dan for the last 14 hours making our way south through Vietnam from Hanoi. We arrive in the World Heritage Site of Hue (situated on the central coast of Vietnam) at 9:30am.
As we leave the protection of the Hue Railway Station we are immediately surrounded by a swarm of men, touting for business for their hotel. Brochures are being thrust into our hands from everywhere and after a hurried look at some of the brochures we somehow pick one and organise a (metered) taxi to take us there.
We settle into our rooms (ie I throw my tiny backpack down) and book ourselves an afternoon tour of Hue which includes a visit to two of the royal mausoleums.
The pamphlet reads:
“Please have lunch and enjoy buffet food
– Minh Mang Tomb
– Khai Dinh Tomb
– conical hat and incense stick making village
– dragon boat cruise on the Perfume River viewing fishing village and beautiful
Our tour takes us south to the outskirts of Hue and to the mausoleum of Emperor Minh Mang. To reach this mausoleum we are deposited at a rest stop and directed to follow a dirt track to the entry. The enterprising lady selling drinks near the entrance was a blessing as it is another hot day in Vietnam. Apparently the location for this mausoleum took 14 years to find and a mere three years to build, utilising an army of some 10,000 workers. Emperor Minh Mang was apparently passionate about architecture and the buildings created in his honour incorporate frangipanis as part of the landscaping, frangipanis being symbols of longevity, ironic for an emperor who lived to age 49.
The other mausoleum we visit today is the mausoleum of Emperor Khai Dinh and was the last royal tomb to be constructed in Hue. This mausoleum is set high up on a hill. Entry is via a series of terraces and impressive stairways with dragon ornamented banisters (127 steps in total) which lead you to the principal temple.
Emperor Khai Dinh’s building material of choice was concrete, topped with slate roof, with construction taking 11 years to complete. Inside is quite a contrast of colour to the concrete exterior, with the centrepiece being a life size bronze statue of the emperor sitting under a canopy holding his septre.
There are no landscaped gardens here but instead is surrounded by the natural vegetation the hill provides which includes quite an impressive outlook.
This busy Emperor, while only living to age 40, had two wives, 4 secondary wives and 10 concubines. It is said that Emperor Khai Dinh chose to build his tomb on difficult terrain, occasioning lots of steps, so that it would be difficult for people to get there. However, Emperor Khai Dinh increased taxes by 30% to fund construction of his royal tomb, which leads me to think it probably wasn’t so necessary to actively discourage people after that anyway… well… who doesn’t hate paying tax?
Our tour deposits us back at our hotel at 4:30pm, giving us some time to relax and sort out our destination for dinner. We decide to head to the Perfume River and find a nice restaurant by the water’s edge.
After dinner we head out to a bar for a drink while my brother and his mate Dan play some pool.
Despite only having arrived in Hue at 9:30am this morning we have managed to fit a lot in today and I am ready for sleep by the time we arrive back to our accommodation at midnight. The others leave Hue tomorrow while I will stay on one more day to explore the Citadel and Imperial City.[showmyads]
For previous Vietnam post see From Ha Long Bay to Hanoi and overnight to Hue on the Reunification Express
For next Vietnam post stay see Hue, Vietnam and its walled Citadel and Imperial City by cyclo