Thursday, 4 March 2010

Wednesday 3rd March

Booked a day tour (boat & bus) of the sites surrounding Hue. Having been the capital city there is a multitude of royal and wanna-be-royal tombs and monuments. Unfortuantely our tour is of the pile it high and sell it cheap approach...bad choice on our part - but is only a day. First stop is "highly recommended optional extra" (i.e. run by tour guide's cousin) martial arts performance. We gave this a miss - too much fan waving -not enough action. Next stop Nam Giao temple - a seven storey stupa set amidst pine trees on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. A lovely setting. Even better - it was a buddhist festival so we were encouraged to join the communal feast - food was delicious. A good thing since the complimentary lunch was cold rice and beans.

First tomb of Minh Mang after lunch was more a funerary complex. Statues of elephants, mandarins and foot soldiers lined up in the court yard are reminiscant of the terracota army.

The second tomb of Khai Dinh was far more interesting; this belonged to the last king - who was a puppet controled by the French viceroy. He even had to have French approval to raise taxes to fund the tomb and to import the cement to make it. While powerless in life he was obviously keen to outdo his ancestors in death and the tomb is amazing. Beautiful pottery mosaics cover the entire building. He even had an extra row of soldiers to increase his immortal army - and gave some of them Caucasian faces. Subtle he wasn't!

On the way back to Hue we stopped at a village making incense sticks and the local conical hats (if you haven't noticed these in the photos look much harder). The sticks are made in a variety of bright colours, coated in a mixture of cinnamon, sawdust and local gum and then laid out to attract the attention of passersby. Some of the arrangements are quite pretty!

Sustained by 10 tartes au citron (The French left some great legacies) we caught the late plane to Hanoi arriving at 11pm. Amusingly the hotel chauffeur was clearly practicing for his driving test, he had not quite got the hang of matching gear to rev's but don't think he would have welcomed comments from the back.

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