It’s early on the vernal equinox when our ship is docking in Chan My. Back in 2012 when our ship attempted to dock here, the fog was so thick that we couldn’t come in to the port, so we sailed away. This morning there is only a little bit of haze. Excited to be here. This is the port for the cities of DaNang, Hue and Hoi An. So much history here from the Vietnam/American war. My brother was deployed to Vietnam during the Tet Offensive and was stationed/fighting the war in this area. He served for one year and received two silver stars for his bravery during that year. There are several men on this cruise who are returning to see Vietnam again for the first time since the war. Steve’s brother did two tours in the Gulf of Tonkin, we both lost many friends in that struggle, and Steve trained a number of Vietnamese soldiers at Fort Sill in the complexities of artillery weather support.
Tours are available to visit all of these cities. Our day is spent traveling on a bus for an hour-and-half to the city of Hue. Hue has been UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1993. We were most interested in seeing the Imperial City and Perfume River that runs alongside this historical area of the Nguyen dynasty. Hue was the capital of Vietnam until Vietnam was split into North and South around 1954. Maybe we’ll visit DaNang and Hoi An another time…..
The Citadel and Imperial City known as the Forbidden Purple City (to distinguish it from China’s Forbidden City) were built starting in 1802 when Emperor Gia Long ruled the Nguyen dynasty. The various buildings within the six-mile-long perimeter wall were totally damaged during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Major restoration started soon after the war ended to bring the many of the buildings back to their original state.
We learned that the Emperors lived in the Imperial City from 1802 – 1945. The city was walled to protect the women who lived with the Emperor from outside influence (other men). The number of concubines varied over the ages. For example, the 4th Emperor had over 100 concubines. The City has every kind of building from living space, a treasury, a library and of course temples.
While restoration is still going on, there were also some signs of war in the walls.
Next we visit a Pagoda and temple that have stood on a hill overlooking the Perfume River for hundreds of years. The Pagoda has also been rebuilt but not because of war; it has suffered from typhoons over the ages and been restored.
The Perfume River because it was at one time lined with flowering trees that dropped their petals in the water and created a nice fragrance in the air. There are boat rides available which our tour did not include.
At the Hotel Saigon Morin we enjoy a traditional Vietnamese buffet lunch.
After lunch we explore the tomb of the 4th Emperor. He built it 16 years before he died and spent time here while he was alive fishing and enjoying the gardens. Apparently though when he died, he wasn’t buried under the tomb. He was buried somewhere but he didn’t want anyone to know where. Slightly crazy? Well, not if your culture believes that you must rest peacefully for eternity, and you have enemies that wish to torment you forever.
Oh, by the way, they celebrate the anniversary of their relatives death and not birthdays. Another BTW, in order to hide the location the emperor’s tomb 200 people who might know where he was buried were beheaded. And, we didn’t find out what happened to the person who knew who the 200 people were. One brutal history story in a country that has many brutal and carnal stories. Yet they look so kind and peaceful trying to sell us stuff everywhere 🙂
Last stop was at a small shop where they are making the cone hats that the Vietnamese wear and want to wear as well. They are also making sticks of incense by hand – full employment in this country.
Our tour guide is filled with many stories about Vietnam traditions and superstitions. She tells us many on our drive.
At the end of our drive back, she sings a song and asks us to join in. “Que sera’sera” – yes, the song Doris Day made famous. She says she wants us to leave Vietnam happy and go back and tell all our friends what a beautiful country it is so they want to come and visit. We agree – this part of Vietnam is still traditional, interesting and the people are friendly and happy. We might just mention though, the temperature is near 100 and so is the humidity with no breeze. You might just melt! Especially if you are European and came for the sun, not the heat.
Good-bye Vietnam (yes, they were selling T-shirts that say “Good Morning Vietnam!”)