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Friday, 27 January 2012

And "Hue" We Go

Hue was the capitol of Vietnam between 1802-1945 during the reign of Nguyen Dynasty Emperors. It still has old world charm and is a UNESCO heritage site. We resided at the Saigon Morin Hotel which was European in design and had a wonderful garden for al fresco dining.

It was temperate, but overcast and occasionally rainy during our stay. We began our tour the first day with another boat ride, this time down the Perfume River. This was somewhat different in that no one is allowed to live on the edges of this river and it was quite garden like. With our informative tour guide, We, we explored the beautiful Pagoda of the "Heavenly Lady". We also spent several hours touring the "Citadel" an elaborate "planned city" built by several Kings. It was subdivided into distinct areas for the King, his Queen, his concubines and then the various officials and common people.

We were in Hue just a few days before the New Year celebration and people seemed to be in a buying frenzy. Along the street there were flower mongers everywhere and inside the market it was shoulder to shoulder pushing and elbowing to move along. After 10 minutes we had enough and felt claustrophobic and left, but not before haggling over a souvenir and seeing the butcher shops. We felt a bit "cheap" moving the price from $4 to $2, but this is the normal game and the shop keeper seemed to enjoy it.

Best of our experience in Hue was the food and wonderful service at the restaurant at the Saigon Morin. We ate two dinners there and each was superb. The first night we tried a "Hot Pot", essentially a simmering broth (on top of a gas hot plate) in which meat and seafood is immersed . Our waiters seemed taken by our foodie interests and stayed with us helping us to eat the food the proper Vietnamese way. It was delicious. The second night we tried boiled pork with fermented shrimp paste. We also had small rice pancakes, each cradled in its own small bowl ( 9 of them) filled with shrimp paste. Just wonderful. Our waiter insisted before we left for the night that he prepare us a special Pho soup "Hue" style the next morning for breakfast. Yum.

On the day we departed our guide and driver took us on a 3 hour drive to Hoi Han (see next post). Along the way we saw wonderful vistas of the South China Sea. At the mid point between Hue and Hoi An we stopped at the top of the Pass and saw the American Bunkers along side of ancient watch towers from a previous era. It was surreal to see the bullet holes deeply marking them.

We then drove through Da Nang the third largest city in Vietnam. It seems less hectic than either Hanoi or HCM, with only about 1 million inhabitants. As we drove along the new ocean view road (on China Beach) we saw many new luxury resorts being built on the ocean side just opposite the helicopter hangars used by the American Forces. Again a bit surreal.

Hue and Da Nang were at the center of the US conflict here and there were many horrible things that people had to endure. A lasting legacy is that people who were on the "wrong side" had many years where they were not able to get jobs to feed there families. This seems to fading into the past as modern Vietnam moves forward,


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  2. Oh, and it's "hangars", not "hangers", like a Hangar Steak -- hard for Google to index correctly...