Hue - Who, We, Weigh, Wha..., Where, Wow, Woe
Aug 18, 2005
|Hue is a fine town - neither a Dalat nor a Hoi An in that it lacks romance, but fine
because it allowed us to explore it unimpeded.
Our first full day we rented bicycles and meandered our way down the river to the train station.
We had been debated the idea of taking the train from Hue to Hanoi thereby bypassing the dreaded overnight
bus. We find, however, that the train may be just as uncomfortable as the bus and since we have
already paid for the bus we decide to forego the gamble. We ride on, taking a local trail along the river
and crossing on the single lane bridge which requires lots of focus and steady balance. We circle around to
north part of the city where we spend the afternoon taking in the Forbidden Purple City. This was the last home
of the Vietnamese Monarchy before it was bombed into the ground by American forces during the war.
A vast complex, the walled city was a sanctuary within a sanctuary and a heavily symbolic ornament to the
Vietnamese Emperor. It is slowly being restored, but even in ruin you can see the majesty of it. A rainy day made for
a pleasant tour, as if it was any hotter it would have been much too unpleasant.
After spending some time biking about we hit the riverfront market for some light lunch and a look at the frenzy. Markets,
as it has been said before on this journal 'are in people' and although what you see in the markets here are
always much the same, it never ceases to amaze us how they operate. There is so much organized chaos,
so many smells, so much traffic, so much of everything it is hard to explain. It is just simple to say that this is an
experience and you have to be there to believe it. Some of the photos might give you an idea, but they
never recreate the smell or the noise, which are certainly the key ingredients. We have some very dodgy food
this day and are happy to share it with a few young kids who look more eager for it they we become. We buy one boy a
bowl of noodles and he is grateful enough to throw us two big hugs when he's finished. It is a very sweet moment
and he makes our day with a simply gesture.
On another day in Hue we give up the bicycle for a motorbike and make our way out of the bustle towards the country side.
We pass sweeping views of the rice flats and see the long canoes loaded with freshly cut rice stalks. It is a beautiful ride
where we encounter water buffaloes up close and personal and when we stop for a cold drink an elderly (not to
mention intoxicated) woman offers to read Mandy's palm. She is very sweet and talks our ears off well into our second soft
drink. We meet some local kids and watch the freshly harvested rice be processed at a nearby farm before being chased off
by an angry foreman, screaming we-don't-know-what in Vietnamese. Perhaps the process is a secret, or perhaps if you're working
very hard in the sun you don't like two white folks smiling, sitting on a motorbike, and maybe taking pictures of you. Go figure.
On our final day we give in to a Dragon Boat ride (we know Isaac wouldn't forgive us if we didn't go). The ride is rather bland,
compared with some of our other river trips, but the family who lives on the boat is very sweet and we are glad
to have given them the business on what seemed a rather business-less day. We sat in the bow and had a nice talk
as the sun began to set behind the buildings of Hue(pronounced maybe: hhh-way). We see again the daily life that is so vital to these river communities,
where whole families live on their boats and live from their boats.
We return to the dock with big smiles and although we say goodbye to Hue that evening we thank this kind city for
showing us so much without asking for much in return.