Hue: Nov 1-5, 2015

We took a small bus from Phong Nha to Hue via TNT (Tan Nhat Travel). It was a fairly pleasant four hour trip, most of it through heavy rain. We booked a room at the Jade Hotel ($20/night including breakfast). It is a nice hotel, and to our great joy we found an Indian restaurant about a half-block away that serves up excellent thalis.

We woke up to heavy overcast and rain. This is normal for this time of year in Central Vietnam and it is good for the farmers, not so good for us. We are thinking that it may be best to head for the Mekong Delta sooner than we planned, then come back to Central Vietnam in December-January after the rains. We are also thinking that we will need to extend our visas since they expire on December 7 and we still have a lot of the country to see. We could easily be here well into January at the rate that we are going.

During a break in the rain we toured the Imperial Enclosure within the Hue Citadel. Hue was the capital city during the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), and the Imperial Enclosure was the Emperor’s residence and administrative center during that time. There were 13 emperors in the Nguyen dynasty. The last one (Bao Dai) handed over power to the Viet Minh, the communist resistance movement headed by Ho Chi Minh, following the Japanese surrender and retreat from Vietnam at the end of World War II (see historical note at the end sf this post).

One stop shop from food to laundry.

A helicopter from the American War.

One of the many elaborate doorway in the times of the kings.

One of the many elaborate doorway in the times of the kings.

 

The ancient engraving is interesting on the elaborate archways!

The ancient engraving is interesting on the elaborate archways!

 

We wandered for hours around the Citidel.

We wandered for hours around the Citadel

 

We had breaks in the rain to wander

We had breaks in the rain to wander.

 

Plenty of opportunities for photos!

Plenty of opportunities for photos!

 

Outdoor hallways leading to amazing Buddist temples.

Outdoor hallways leading to amazing Buddist temples.

 

The kings royal stamp is the dragon.

The kings royal stamp is the dragon.

 

The royal urns.

The royal urns.

Royal walkways of the kings.

Royal walkways of the kings.

 

Explosion of colors!

Explosion of colors!

Complimentary colors shine!

Complimentary
colors shine

 

Denise is wet but not discouraged! Rainy season!

Denise is wet but not discouraged! Rainy season!

Many of the structures in the Enclosure were damaged or destroyed as a result of the heavy fighting that took place in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive, though portions have been restored and the restoration work is continuing. The remaining/restored structures are beautiful and the setting is quiet and peaceful.  We spent a half-day here, but it would be easy to spend a full day or more exploring everything. We were lucky that for the most part the rain let up while we were wandering around.

The next day we took boat tour on the Perfume River, which runs through the center of Hue. The boat captain started the motor, which appeared to be as big as a 6-8 cylinder car engine, with a hand crank. He gave me a thumbs-up and a smile when it turned over. Though it rained most of the afternoon we were able to have a nice ride on the river and toured the Minh Mang tomb; he was one of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors.

Denise on the Perfume River.

Denise on the Perfume River.

 

Life on the river is happy!

People on the river are happy to live and to give!

 

Pete hanging out with the boat man.

Pete hanging out with the boat man.

Here is part of the Mihn Mang tomb.

Here is part of the Minh Mang tomb.

Incredible skills for sleek designs!

Incredible skills for sleek designs!

We also took a private tour to a couple of places near what used to be the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) during the American War. First we went to see the Vin Moc Tunnels. These were built to protect the seaside village from American bombing. The tunnels extend to a total length of about 2 km, have three levels varying in depth 10 meters to about 30 meters, and included space for the village families (about 60 to 90 families, depending on which source you look up) and soldiers, cooking facilities, and a medical unit (hospital). All this was dug by hand through the limestone rock.

We explored the tunnels and found some examples of how people lived in them.

We explored the tunnels and found some examples of how people lived in them.

We followed the tunnels for about 1\4 kilometer to emerge out of a different hole. It is amazing that people actually lived down there!

We followed the tunnels for about 0.5 kilometer to emerge out of a different hole. It is amazing that people actually lived down there!

Our guide miraculously appeared and he showed us a photo of himself as a child in the museum. He was obviously disabled and of the correct age to have been injured in the war.

Our guide appeared and he showed us a photo of himself as a child in the museum. He was obviously disabled and appeared to be of the correct age to have been born during the American War.  We think that he was trying to tell us that he was one of the children born in the tunnels, but we are not certain of that.

We also visited the Mine Action Visitors Center Museum in Dong Ha, which is jointly operated by Project RENEW and the Vietnam Department of Foreign Affairs. We spent a lot of time talking to Mr. Phu, the Center Director, who explained to us the extent of the problem of unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from the American War and measures that Project RENEW is taking to educate the local population of the dangers of UXO and how to identify and report the location of UXO so it can be safely removed or detonated, and to help assist victims of UXO explosions. The hope is that the model of Project RENEW, currently focused on Quang Tri Province, can be extended to the other Provinces in Vietnam where UXO is still a problem. Please visit the Project RENEW web site (http://landmines.org.vn/) for more information, and please consider making a tax-deductible donation to this very worthwhile organization.

Unexploded ordance as it was discovered by this wonderful organization

Unexploded ordnance removed by Project RENEW.

Here are the many types of artificial liimbs worn in Vietnam today. People of all ages are still being blown up due to these hidden unexploded bombs.

Here are the many types of artificial liimbs worn by victims of UXO.  People of all ages are still being injured and killed due to UXO, though efforts by groups like Project RENEW have sustantially reduced the death/injury rate in recent years in Quang Tri Province.

An old bombed church from the 1960's we discovered on the way to the other war sites.

An old bombed-out church from the 1960’s we discovered on the way to the other war sites.

Map

Map compiled from information provided by the US Government showing bombing strikes in Vietnam and Laos (red dots).  Note heavy bombing in the area around the DMZ and Mekong Delta.  Bomb strikes are also concentrated along what I assume are branches of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  Maps such as this are used to help locate areas with high potential for UXO.

 

Pete is standing next to the machine that digs up unexploded ordnance once it is suspected to be in an area.

Pete is standing next a machine that digs up unexploded ordnance once it is found.  In many cases machinery such as this cannot be used, in which case it must be unearthed and removed by hand.

The overcast and rain continued for the five days we spent in Hue, but we did manage to see some sights between downpours.

 

Historical Note:
According to our Lonely Planet guide book, “Between 1944 and 1945, the Viet Minh received funding and arms from the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS; today the CIA). When Ho Chi Minh declared independence in 1945, he had OSS agents at his side and borrowed liberally from the American Declaration of Independence.”

3 thoughts on “Hue: Nov 1-5, 2015

  1. This is amazing Denise! I can’t believe the adventure you and Pete are in. What a lesson in history! I remember as a child hearing about the Veit Nam war and the Mei King Delta that out fear into me when I was about 13. And you’re visiting there. The tunnels were surreal and I can’t believe there are still UXO’s there. How sad. Hope you and Pete stay dry! So fascinating to read your blog 🙂

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