Friday, 30 September 2011

Hue City Tour

Apart from the Citadel most of Hue's interesting structures (Emperor's tombs, palaces etc) are out of town so I took a city tour which visited them as well as the Citadel & a boat on the Perfume River - $12US plus $6 entrance fees, with lunch included.

Although I'm no arbitor of artistic quality I don't think they're high art like Angkor Wat although in the case of the Citadel this may be down to poor restoration after the American's bombed & fought over it. Few Hue historic building date earlier than the late 1800's & some, like the impressive looking Khai Dinh Tomb, are actualy built from concrete.

Out of all of them I found the Tu Duc Tomb site to be the most impressive because its not just a tomb but a royal countryside retreat for the Emperor. Despite having over a hundred wives & concubines Tu Duc had no children so he built it as his own epitaph. Its a characterful crumbling ruin of steps, gateways, terraces, canals, lotus filled lakes, pine forest & lakeside pavilions where he composed & recited poetry to his concubines. This is a place full of atmosphere that has the feel of people having lived here rather than just being buried.

Just before the rather diappointingly ordinary boat trip on the Perfume River that ended the tour, our guide took us to the Thien Mu Pagoda, which I almost opted out of but it had an interesting although gory surprise.

Deep inside what is actually a temple is the iconic Austin Westminster motor car that Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk from Hue, drove to Siagon & subsequently set himself on fire.

This was 1963 & the image is one of the most iconic Vietnam war era photographs - that's widely referred to as the burning monk. Many people think his protest was about the war but in fact it was about the persecution of Buddhists by the Catholic minority that held sway in South Vietnam - supported by the Pope in Rome & the American administration in Washington. A fabulous example of double standards - supposedly fighting for the freedom of some whilst at the same time persecuting people for their religious beliefs.

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