Traversing Vietnam By Motorbike: Day 9 – A Rest Day in Hue, Kay?
Bike Condition: Taking on new parts
Driver Condition: Soaking in history
Despite having just had a rest day in Hoi An, Hue was another city where we wanted to spend an extra day. In an effort to unite northern and southern Vietnam, in 1802 Emperor Gia Long founded the Nguyen dynasty and moved the capital from Hanoi to Hue, which is situated roughly in the center of Vietnam. Here, a Citadel was constructed between 1804 and 1833. As the focal point and heart of the city, the Citadel included palaces, temples, royal residences, gardens, administrative buildings, military facilities, halls, pavilions and other spaces, all housed within impressive border walls, grand gates, and wide moats.
Hue would prosper for a time, though eventually struggle under the growing influence of French colonization in the late 1880s. Hue, and particularly the Citadel, suffered immense damages from extensive bombing during both the French and American wars, and featured prominently in the Tet Offensive, when Hue and the Citadel were taken by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong in a major turning point of the Vietnam (American) War.
We took some time to tour the Citadel grounds. While many structures were destroyed during the wars, many impressive buildings still stand and restoration efforts are ongoing. In addition to many impressive gates, palaces, gardens, and other buildings and spaces, the Citadel is home to the Nine Dynastic Urns. The large bronze urns, each weighing 2.1-2.9 tons, were commissioned by Emperor Minh Mang and cast from 1835-1836, each dedicated to one Nguyen sovereign and decorated with landscape, river, flower, and water designs representing the unity and beauty of the country.
Dotting the landscape around Hue are the tombs of many of the emperors that resided at the Citadel. After a tasty lunch, we visited the Tomb of Tu Duc, one of the more impressive of the mausoleums. The grounds included a small lake, pavilion, temples, a stunning stele pavilion with a remarkable 20-ton stone tablet, and courtyards in addition to the tomb, however, Tu Doc was not actually interred here, but rather buried in a secret location with his treasures. To ensure that the location remained a secret, all 200 of the servants that buried the king were beheaded. So there’s that. Nice guy.
On the way back to our hotel, we made a brief stop at the Tu Hieu Pagoda, hidden way in a pine forest… no really, we had a really hard time finding it. A peaceful gem amidst the trees, the quiet complex was built in 1843 and today is the home of about 70 monks, many of whom wondered the grounds cleaning while we visited.
There are so many spectacular sights in and around Hue, though with time constraints in our travels northward, we had to pick and choose. Also, with individual entrance fees to each tomb, as budget backpackers you have to make decisions, decisions! We really enjoyed our day exploring the city, and we even had time to stop and get Ruby Toots some new parts. Over the last day the exhaust pipe had started rattling pretty bad and with a piece loose inside, we had to replace it. On top of that, her battery had pretty much been shit from about day two onwards, so we went ahead and replaced that as well. FINALLY, I CAN USE THE STARTER BUTTON AGAIN!! Fingers crossed these fixes have her running well for the rest of the journey!!