Today we did a somewhat guided tour of some of the most important sites in Hue. Hue is a city that originally rose to prominence as the capital of the Nguyen lords. It is based around a 19th century citadel, which we visited last today. All the places we visited were the most impressive things we have seen so far, though we do not have pictures of everything as you are not allowed to take pictures inside most of the temples and the weather was quite bad today so it was hard to take pictures of some of the outside areas.
We were picked up from our hotel not by car as we expected, but by motorbike for a heart-rate increasing (and helmetless) ride to the boat station on the Perfume river. I don’t mind playing in traffic when I’m in control but being a passenger is hard for me! We took a boat ride down the Perfume River to the Thien Mu pagoda, the tallest in Vietnam.
We then went to three different tombs, the tomb of emperors Minh Mang, Tu Duc and Kai Dinh. All three were quite different owing to different eras and the different personal tastes of each emperor. Kai Dinh is the only emperor where the location of his burial is known, but he is under 9 metres of concrete. Both Minh Mang and Tu Duc have a tomb that you can see, but they may not be buried there, they may be somewhere else on the site. All the men who carried them to their final resting place were beheaded (which they volunteered to), so nobody knows exactly where they are buried.
Lastly we visited the Imperial city. This is an immense site with multiple temples, the royal palace etc. Both interior and exterior of the buildings are amazing, ornate carving, gilded details etc but you are not allowed to take photos inside of most places – same with the museum that has a lot of artifacts owned by various emperors. Rather than worshipping gods, there seems to be a lot of ancestor worship. Each emperor in the main temple had an altar dedicated to him which would be worshipped by emperors that followed. Some of the city was destroyed in the Tet offensive of the Vietnam war, only half to two thirds of the buildings remain, but some have been restored or rebuilt.
If you ever go to Vietnam we would highly recommend visiting Hue and seeing these places for yourself. Photos do not even come close to doing them justice.