Susan's Shanghai Blog - Week 114

We headed to the airport that evening for a short flight to Hue. Between 1802 and 1945, it was the imperial capital for the Nguyen Dynasty and is in Central Vietnam. The capital was moved to Hanoi when Vietnam split. Emperor Bao Dai abdicated and the communist government came into power in North Vietnam with Hanoi as the capital. Bao Dai was briefly back in power (although not fully recognized) in the South with Saigon as his new capital. Hue held a key position during the Vietnam war as it was near the border between North and South Vietnam. In the Tet Offensive in 1968, the Battle of Hue took place and the city was damaged quite a bit.

We arrived late and basically checked in and out of the hotel with a brief sleep in the middle. Our first stop of the morning was the Tu Duc Tomb. Emperor Tu Duc was the 4th emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty and ruled from 1847-1883. His tomb is considered as one of the most beautiful and largest works of architecture of Nguyen Dynasty's royal palaces and tombs. It took 3 years to build and required so much money and labor that it caused the workers to rebel. You start by entering through this massive gate.

Once through the gate, you enter into an area with a large lake, the Luu Khiem Lake. On the lake are Xung Khiem Pavilion and Du Khiem Pavilion where the Emperor used to come to admire flowers, compose poems, read books, etc. The pavilion is undergoing quite a bit of restoration, as you can see.

Then up a set of steps and through another gate into the Hoa Khiem Palace. It was used as the Emperor's working place, and is now the altar devoted to the Emperor and the Queen. As with much of the architectural styles in Asia, the roof contains nice decorations.

The emperor also had his own little theater where he would sit up-top and watch shows.

And the throne.

Coming back out, you can see the lovely view of the lake that the emperor had (as they say .. it is good to be the Emperor!) We headed around and saw a few other buildings, and then came across these statues, which seem to be a popular spot to take pictures!

Although the various buildings have not been fully restored, you can still imagine how lovely they would have been back when the Emperor and his Queen were walking around the grounds.

The Perfume River runs through Hue and gets its' name from the perfume-like aroma in the fall when flowers from orchards upriver from Hue fall into the water. A bit of trivia: the Perfume River is featured in the 1987 war film Full Metal Jacket; the action in the second half of the film occurs around the city of Hue and the Perfume River. Today, it is the starting point for a lot of tourist boat tours on the river.

Across from the tour boats is the entrance to the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is the unofficial symbol of the city. With 7 stories, it is the tallest pagoda in Vietnam. There are several buildings in the area of the pagoda and a large bell.

The temple also contains a statue of a large marble turtle, a symbol of longevity, with a stone stele on its' back.

The colorful warriors that guard the entrances

There are several buildings and temples on the grounds.

Thich Quang Duc was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist Monk who burned himself to death on June 11th, 1963, in the middle of a busy intersection in Saigon to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the government. The car that he rode in to the intersection that day is stored here. It was the first of a series of self-immolation's by members of the Buddhist clergy, which brought the plight of Buddhists to the attention of the international community.

The Imperial City is the walled fortress and former palace. The Imperial City was surrounded by a wall 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers as well as a moat surrounding the wall.

This is supposedly damage from the Vietnam war on the citadel walls.

There are multiple gates going into the Imperial City. Once inside, it is a sprawling complex with lots of very colorful gates and buildings (as well as fish ponds).

Not sure if you can see this well, but this is an elephant (well, a bush in the shape of an elephant. And then a bird ...and a fish.

We walked around the grounds and saw all of these really nice gates, like these. Mind you, they are in a little bit of disrepair, but you can see all of the detail, the carvings and inlays, the bells hanging on the upper roof lines.

This was it much better shape, having been repaired. The pictures don't really do it justice but we tried to get enough pictures so that you could try to imagine. The colors are bright with very intricate details.

I won't attempt to give commentary on the next set of photos, as they were all just miscellaneous buildings throughout the imperial enclosure called the Purple Forbidden City in Vietnamese, a term similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing.

In this large building is a large theater, and then the last picture in this group is the front of the theater.

And then out another gate. I've said this a few times, but can you picture how this would have looked back when the Emperor was here, and these were large, elaborate gates that shone and glimmered in the sunlight.

Lunch was at a restaurant that was set in the middle of an asian garden called Y Thao Garden.

They started by bringing us a set of sauces and a cup of flower tea.

First up was probably the most impressive from a presentation point of view. They are vegetable spring rolls decorated in the form of a peacock, although it looks more like rooster to me personally. The head and wings are from carrots with a lot of attention to detail (you can see how they have little tiny pieces that look like hair on the neck) and the body is a pineapple shell. They then stick the fried spring rolls in using long toothpicks. Inside of the pumpkin body is actually a small candle to keep things warm.

It seems pumpkin is much more popular in other countries as a soup than it is in the US, where we basically only use it for pies around the holidays. Here we had a pumpkin cream soup and then Shrimp grilled and sauteed with garlic. On the plate with the shrimp was this carrot-flower, which has amazing detail .. to think someone cut that out of a carrot!!

This one is a Hue speciality pan cake with a sauce, and then a mixed fig salad with pork and shrimp. The salad came with little white crackers that you put the salad on to eat it.

A few little friends showed up just next to us in the garden.

This one is grilled beef wrapped inside of lolot leaves. Piper lolot is a flowering vine that are grown specifically for the leaves, which are used in Lao and Vietnamese cuisines as a flavoring wrap for grilling meats. You can see the flower motif going through many of the garnishes.

Mixed steamed lotus rice with small mixed vegetables.

I must admit, I wasn't a fan of the Royal roasted duck, but then again, I don't really eat duck.

This one was interesting, along with fresh fruit, they served green bean cake formed fruit, which was then skewered onto what looked like flower stems in a pot.

From there, we headed down the coast to Da Nang and I took some pictures as we drove, showing the coastline and the South China Sea. During the Vietnam War, the city was home to a major air base that was used by both the South Vietnamese and United States air forces. The base was considered one of the world's busiest airports during the war, with an average of almost 2,600 air traffic operations daily, more than any airport in the world at that time.

This is called the Dragon Bridge because, well, it was designed and built in the shape of a dragon. It is in Da Nang and cross the Han River. It is 666 meters long (not really a good number, huh?) and has 6 lanes of traffic. It is relatively new, only opening in March 29th 2013, which was the 38th anniversary of the liberation of Da Nang City..

Then we got to the beach! A bit of trivia, the My Khe beach in the city of Da Nang (this beach) was nicknamed "China Beach" by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam war. This gave the title to the TV series, China Beach, which aired from 1988 to 1991. I believe the tall white statue across the water is the 67 m tall statue of Quan The Am.

The marble mountains is one of the main attractions in Da Nang and it is a group of mountains which include Kim Son (Mountain of Metal), Moc Son (Mountain of Wood), Thuy Son (Mountain of Water), Hoa Son (Mountain of Fire), and Tho Son (Mountain of Earth). And as you would imagine from the name "marble mountains", there is alot of marble that comes out of the mountains and they make lots and lots and lots of marble statues (that they sell all along the road).