Wow what a place! As many of you know a typhoon hit Vietnam just a few short days ago. Hearing this on the news I was concerned because we were going right to where the devastation was the worst – Hue.
After we crossed the boarder and cleared customs our diver picked us up and we made out way down from the pass into the valley below. Watching out the window I could see signs of flooding, but I was assured that it was normal for flooding this time of year since we are in the rainy season. There was so much to see! Rich and lush tropical forests across rolling mountains, waterfalls glistening down the rocks near the roadways. I started to see, what looked like shrines in the middle of fields and hidden by tree where you could only see the tops if you looked hard enough. As we continued our descend I noticed the water levels rising more and was amazed. Here is a country that was built to withstand floods and fury – roads built up away from normal rising water levels and homes with taller slabs of foundation to take a beating if the situation arose.
Rice fields turned to swamp lands and cemeteries along the road looked like they could have belonged on Poveglia, Italy’s “Island of the Dead” in Venice, where according to folklore the bones rise and fall with the coming tide. The family shrines looked no different..they only looked tired. Generations of family members have used the same shrines and built layers of family history with these shrines and in turn they have only survived every storm, flood and sweltering summers this country has to offer.
Time lost all meaning as I got lost in the sights of a new country. Noticing little differences from the bordering country of Laos to Vietnam. Like how the livestock here is tied up (in most places) and in Laos all the animals run free or how in Laos there are free range cats and dogs and yet here they figured out how to domesticate their pets and keep them! Small differences but differences nonetheless and fascinating to me all the same.
Our first day in Vietnam was technically yesterday but by the time we got to our hotel it was nearly nightfall and the only thing we manged to do was find dinner.
Today was an entirely different story! We enjoyed a quiet morning apparently everyone needed a sleeper day after all of the traveling we have been doing lately, whereas I spent the morning catching up on life back home.
Once we hit the streets it was like being shell shocked, we had quickly become accustomed to quiet mountain roads and less populated villages. Coming into a big city again was shocking. Now let me tell you a little bit about how shocking – forget what you thought you knew about sidewalks. Here sidewalks are a joke if you think you are going to use them to walk on, if they aren’t broken to pieces you will barely have room to walk because there will be rows and rows of motorbikes or even cars in your way. meaning you are probably walking in the road praying that you won’t be hit by the swarm of traffic coming from every direction.
Now onto my tales of the day! Hue (when you say it pronounce it like it rhymes with ‘way’) has a golden gem that I have been DYING to see – The Hue Imperial City inside the Imperial Citadel.
The formal capital of Vietnam this is elegant and secure inner city housed the royal family, extended family and members of the royal court. The citadel gave access to everything the royal family would need, food, shelter, temples and private pools – if their summers are as bad as the weather in the rain season I can see these pools being used A LOT.
These buildings are exquisite – like something out of a Hollywood set but better because they are real. Building began in 1804 the wall and moat surrounding is 10 kilometers. Stone walls with chiseled designs show meticulous time spent and attention to detail by skilled craftsmen. The vines growing on and through cracks in the walls shows the hundred of years dormant, to touch, you could almost feel the stone telling you the things it’s seen – all it’s stories.
Though the heat was beating down on us there was a stillness in the air that was tranquil and serene complete with lily pads floating calming on the water in the pools designed throughout the citadel. I am constantly astounded at the amount of detail here! Every corner of every building, every pillar, stone and wall has an amazing amount time that was put into crafting every item. All for the emperor, his family and all of the members of the royal court.
From there we wandered the city – at least until the sun started to go down. When the sun starts to set is when we see the city come alive! We found our way, of course, to a market…because why not! This market was far from the lively markets we have seen previously on this trip. Piles of trash laid next to the baskets of food, the smell of rot was inescapable, naked children playing in the gutters and if that wasn’t bad enough you were more likely to be run over by a motorbike than you were to buy something! For the sake of safety we high tailed it out of there, I will say that though you could find anything at this market the sales people are very pushy and don’t understand personal space. Persistence is their key – Your key is to keep moving and to keep your personal effects in front pockets and backpacks strapped to your front.