We like to take things slowly and retain as much fluidity as possible when we travel. We prefer covering less territory and seeing it well, to ticking off a long list of ‘essential’ stops and moving through like an express train. Further, it’s important for us to retain the option of staying longer than anticipated in places we particularly like, or shorter in those we do not, rather than being shackled to a set itinerary.
The downside to our ‘fluid’ approach is that you can end up spending longer in one place than intended (eg: Saigon for 6 days), and running short of time towards the end of your trip as a result.
Hue was our final destination. If we’d had longer than 19 days, of course we would have gone on to Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa. As things transpired, we had less time in Hue than we’d planned – only two days and nights. Turned out it was enough.
The weather was dreary, we weren’t rapt in our hotel, and we didn’t have time to tour the nearby DMZ, which is one of the reasons travellers come to Hue (and this probably accounted for the proportionally higher numbers of middle-aged Australians here than elsewhere in Vietnam).
The main tourist attraction in Hue is the Citadel (an expansive walled-off area once set aside for the Emperor and his entourage). I’d never heard of it, and had no knowledge or interest in the history surrounding it, or the architecture. We decided against signing up for a tour.
Instead, we wandered along the banks of the Perfumed River, crossed a bridge that led to the Citadel, and took an hour’s cyclo ride around the surrounding residential area. Fortunately, my cyclo driver could speak workable English – a rarity outside the hospitality industry.
It was interesting talking to him about the Tet Offensive of 1968, in which North Vietnam forces marched into Hue and claimed it. US forces subsequently mounted a counter-attack, and a bloody battle ensued – one of the worst of the war. Much of Hue was levelled in the bombing and artillery fire (including most of the Citadel, which has since been re-built), and civilian casualties were high. My driver was 10 years old at the time.
As we made our way through the streets, he pointed out bullet and shell holes in the walls and houses, and identified the houses of families who had been killed. I asked how he felt about the American soldiers, and he replied that he “didn’t like the communists or the Americans.” Like many, I suspect, his family just wanted to be left in peace to get on with their lives.
He told me that the father of the other cyclo driver who was ferrying my partner around had fought in support of the Americans.
Here are some photos I took during our cyclo tour.
In the afternoon, we had a look around inside the walls of the Citadel. Not very inspiring. Neither were my pics. Here are the two best:
For me, the most memorable aspect of Hue was the food. We tracked down some tasty and quite bizarre local specialties, but these will be covered in a coming post focusing on our food experiences throughout Vietnam.
More posts in this series on Vietnam:
Travels in Vietnam 2011: Intro
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Saigon
Travels In Vietnam 2011: The Cu Chi Tunnels
Travels In Vietnam 2011: War Remnants Museum, Saigon
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Mekong Delta
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Dalat
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Nha Trang
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Hoi An
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Sleeper Bus Nightmare!
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Eating and Drinking!
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Hype vs Reality
Travels In Vietnam 2011: Reflections & Wrap-up