Temporary Ceasefire


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, December 14, 2004 was originally posted on December 19, 2004.

DAY 423:  When historians think of Vietnam, chances are they immediately think of The American War from 1965 to 1973 — well, that’s what I think of at least.  In each entry I’ve written about Vietnam so far, I’ve eluded to The War with subtle literary devices, but for a change of pace, let’s turn to another part in Vietnam’s history.  Call this a temporary ceasefire if you will.

One may forget that before the American War or the French War, there was a time in Vietnam of emperors and dynasties, and most of the remnants of that era are found in and around the city of Hue (pronounced “hweh”) in central Vietnam.  It was this city I was headed to as I woke up on the overnight train from Hanoi that morning.

THE LUMINANCE OF THE SUN lit up the overcast sky to a light gray, revealing the beautiful Vietnamese countryside whizzing by through the train window.  Men tilled the soil with ox-driven plows.  Women in cone-shaped straw hats tended to the rice.  Fishermen set their nets out in the rivers while some villagers came by to observe our train as it crawled through their village. 

Meanwhile, inside the train car, the conductor decided to play Christmas music on the speakers and finally, after having traveled for months in predominantly Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist countries, it started to feel a little bit like Christmas.

The complimentary cup-o-ramen-noodles provided by the train staff tied me over until we arrived in Hue’s train station by late morning.  Not surprisingly, the backpackers were approached by aggressive touts and cabbies looking for a fare.  I took a breather in the waiting room but eventually had a motorcycle taxi driver take me into the tourist district of town.  He brought me to the first place he’d most likely get a commission of course, which turned out to be a decent place that I managed to bargain down a $10 room to $7.  Inside was a big bed, a TV, minibar fridge, private bathroom with hot water and something I hadn’t seen in a long time:  a tub.  In the lobby, the owner Bacdat was playing Contra on an old late 1980’s Nintendo Entertainment System clone with a fellow staff member. 

My kind of place, I thought.  I settled in.

SEVEN DOLLARS WAS STILL QUITE A LOT when I could have spent $3 in a backpacker house, but the splurge was worth it because the sore throat I developed the day before evolved into a slight fever and now I had a big bed to rest in and a hot tub to soak my feet.  With the help of some OJ and Tylenol, I managed to get over it before the day was done.

I did manage to get out to see the city of Hue — from its busy touristy neighborhoods to its quieter residential ones — and to get a glimpse of Vietnamese dynasties though, with a stroll beyond the touristy dragon boats and over the Huong River, to the Imperial City in the Old Citadel, originally created in 1805 by Emperor Gia Long and expanded later on by Emperor Minh Mang, both of the Nguyen Dynasty.  The citadel can be seen from afar with its towering Flagpole of Hue, the tallest of its kind in Vietnam, proudly waving the red flag of Vietnam with the yellow star in the center. 

I walked over the citadel’s surrounding moat via an old bridge (picture above) and entered via the Noon Gate, which led me to the Five Phoenix Pavilion, a courtyard with statues and big auspicious goldfish swimming in a pool.  Just ahead was the Palace of Supreme Harmony, where the emperor used to sit on his throne all emperor-like, and held meetings with public audiences and entertained guests.  Just beyond that were the Royal Library (being renovated) and the Duyet Thi Duong Theater, which still holds traditional music and drama performances today. 

Walking around the Imperial City of Hue, I felt like I had been there before, like in a déja vù or something, and it was no surprise when I learned that it was actually modeled after The Forbidden City in Beijing, also home of a dynasty of emperors, although not nearly as grand or maintained (or audio-guided by Roger Moore for that matter).  The inspiration from China is actually a surprising fact because four hundred years before the citadel’s foundation, the Vietnamese wanted nothing to do with the Chinese, who wanted to take over and eradicate Vietnamese culture. 

IF I WAS FEELING A BIT BETTER I might have gone off to see one or more of the seven tombs of Nguyen emperors, scattered outside the city.  I read that some were more spectacular than others, displaying “great architectural balance,” but all of them had one thing in common:  they weren’t so easy to get to in one afternoon, especially for someone with a slight fever that didn’t feel like spending any money.  Well, it didn’t say that exactly, but you know what I mean.  Instead I vegged the rest of the afternoon in my room.  Overall, it was definitely a nice break from those other kind of historical sights of a later part in Vietnam’s history.

Next entry: The Vietnamese Version

Previous entry: Good Morning, Vietnam; Bad Evening, Vietnam

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Temporary Ceasefire”

  • FIRST! Yippee!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/18  at  07:35 PM

  • Take care of the sore throat!

    Posted by Liz  on  12/19  at  03:18 AM

  • cool sites

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/19  at  03:19 AM

  • LIZ:  Thanks!  Sore throat gone; just have a sniffle…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/19  at  09:13 AM

  • up, up, down, down, left-right, left-right, B, A Start ! ... hahaha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/19  at  02:57 PM

  • SIMF2P:  A, B, B, A.  (Ikari Warriors)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/19  at  03:06 PM

  • would have been nicer if it was some good ole duck hunt…

    or slither on colecovision!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/19  at  09:50 PM

  • ... or Mario 3. I still want a Tuki bear suit!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  06:10 PM

  • sim: that code rings a bell, what’s it from ?
    for some reason i’m thinking mortal combat, but that’s genesis. hmm.

    Posted by Alyson  on  12/24  at  10:30 AM

  • Wayne: “Hue?”
    Garth:  “No hue!”
    Wayne: “Hue!”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  05:40 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
The Vietnamese Version

Previous entry:
Good Morning, Vietnam; Bad Evening, Vietnam


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