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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Good Morning Vietnam, Part 6: The Way to Hue! Royal Treatment!

As my readers know from my previous blogposts, Dan and I just came back from a wonderful month in Vietnam, thanks to my winning a trip on Facebook from Vietnam Central Coast Tourism! We started our trip in Hoi An, where we spent 6 amazing days, and from there, railfans that we are, we took Vietnam Railways north along the coast to Hue, the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, 1802-1945.
At our "Royal Dinner" in Hue!


Train travel in Vietnam is VERY INEXPENSIVE and the trains are really great! You can sit in the dining car and watch the scenery over good food, coffee, and beer, and on the short trips there are lots of food and beverage coaches to get yummy snacks from! In 2008 we took a 2-night sleeper train all the way from Saigon to Hanoi, and it was great fun! Taking the trains you get to meet Vietnamese people, and see how "real people" travel, as opposed to tourists! We highly recommend taking the trains to travel along the Vietnam coast! (We only wish the trains went inland to the Highlands, too!) We boarded the train to Hue at the Danang train station (which has WiFi!):
On the way to the Danang Train Station: KFC?!

Danang Train Station



All aboard!

Munchies from the Roach Coach! LOL

State of the art comfort!





















The train was several hours late, but the engineer REALLY BOOKED and made up a LOT of time! We were expecting to arrive at 4pm and we arrived at 2pm!






Rice paddies...

The coast of Vietnam...



A drink on the Perfume River!



















We checked into the four-star KHÁCH SẠN MƯỜNG THANH Hotel in Hue (which the Nam Hai Resort concierges graciously helped us arrange), which has a really nice bar with delightful bartenders- one of whom LOVES American country music! :-) - and a lovely outside patio on the Perfume River, and had a cool drink... and perusing the bar menu I discovered Mihn Mang Royal Liqueur, the Health Tonic of the Nguyen Emperor!  Minh Mang dates from 1820, and is based on rice wine, and includes 19 precious herbals; it was initially made for the Vietnamese Royal Families only! "Minh Mang's Liquor increases vitality and virility. It is a perfect aphrodisiac without chemicals, without any side effects". :-) Having enjoyed a little Minh Mang, we decided to start our stay in the Royal City with a Royal Dinner, to which I wore the Ao Dai that Dan has made for me in Hoi An! The Royal Dinner was fairly amazing, a 9 course repast with an incredible assortment of specialty dishes and fabulous presentation!
Chef Dan, enjoying a Royal Dinner!
Delightful, fanciful food presentation and delicious dishes...
Minh Mang Royal Liqueur and the Menu!

Incredible, yes?







Continuing our "Royal Tour", the next day we took a tour to the Thien Mu Pagoda (see article on Thien Mu Pagoda) and three of the opulent tombs Hue is famed for. The Pagoda was built in 1601 during the reign of Nguyễn Hoàng (1525-1613), and according to an old legend, a Holy Lady predicted a popular leader of the country would one day establish a pagoda on this hill to bring peace and prosperity to the people; this pagoda (Pagoda of the Heavenly Woman) was built to fulfill that prophecy.
The tombs, by contrast, are much newer: the Minh Mang Tomb (see article on Minh Mang Tomb) in on Cam Ke Hill, on the Perfume River. Emperor Minh Mang (1820-1841) was the second son of Emperor Gia Long, who founded the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the last dynasty in Vietnam’s history; the tomb is renowned for its architecture. The Tu Duc Tomb (see article on Tu Duc Tomb) is one of the most beautiful, lying in a lush pine forest, & is known as Emperor Tự Đức's (1848-83) final resting place. The Khai Dinh Tomb (see article on Khai Dinh Tomb) for Emperor Khải Định, who ruled 1916-1925, is built on the slope of Chau Chu mountain; started in 1920, it took 11 years to complete! At the time it was built, however, it was criticized for incorporating Western architectural concepts, which was considered an attempt to denigrate Vietnamese culture. The mosaics and murals throughout Hue are spectacular, and basically everywhere you point your camera there is something incredibly beautiful to photograph...
One of the interesting things was to see so many Vietnamese lighting incense and praying at the shrines by the Nguyen family tombs; Nguyen is the family name of many Vietnamese... 




The tour went by bus one way, and back by "dragon boat" down the Perfume River, which was delightful! Dan and I try to take "alternative transportation"- boats, cyclos, motorcycles, elephants!- every chance we get!













School kids on a field trip!

Apparently these were NOT tall guys...

Pilgrims...






Amazing mosaics...









It's nice, for once, not be considered"short". LOL






Swan boats...








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The following day we took a delightful, private little  dragon boat from the hotel to the Citadel...


And later that day we took cyclos from the hotel to the Imperial City, which resembles the Forbidden City of Beijing. The cyclos waited for us while we ambled through the city, and met us on the other side. We then "cycloed" through the tree-lined streets of downtown Hue, residential neighborhoods, and the fascinating market, on our way back to the hotel. We love taking cyclos in Vietnam, but it is VERY important to remember to agree on a price BEFORE the trip begins!











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On our tour of the tombs, we got to stop at a craft market to see how incense and the classic Vietnamese conical hats are made by hand, and we bought some delicious-scented cinnamon incense to take home!

Making incense sticks...

Elisse & Dan, in matching cyclos!
and conical hats...
Hue's market...








Elisse in her cyclo!


Koi pond...



2 comments:

Walter Mason said...

Beautiful Hue! How I love it - fantastic pics :-)

Elisse Goldstein-Clark said...

Thank you for your kind post! We LOVE Vietnam- as you can probably tell! Hope you enjoy my other posts on Vietnam, too- more are coming- we had a AMAZING "foodie chef's tour" in Saigon with "Back of the Bike" tours that I will be writing about shortly! I'd Love if you would follow my blog! :-)