Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Hue: Part 2

On our second full day in Hue, we took an amazing boat trip, organised by our hotel. It was private, just the two of us, on a fantastic tourist long boat - bright aqua, with red and yellow dragon detailing. The boatman and his wife lived on board, so while we the front part, which had open windows on three sides and an open deck just behind the prow, we could see in the back to their tiny kitchen and living space.

We set off quite early, onto the Perfume River. First, though, we crossed to the Citadel-side bank, so the owner's wife - who I'll call Nana from here, because she never told us her name even though she clearly thought I was awesome and wanted to adopt me - could go into the market and get supplies for lunch. (To do this, we crossed towards the bank, met a long, low boat, she boarded that boat which took her to the bank, and we did a long, slow u-turn and a few circles, and picked her up when she came back.)

We headed upriver. It was great to be out of the city for a while, and there's nothing like a boat trip to make you feel like you're doing something when really you're just relaxing. The Perfume River and surrounds are really beautiful - the riverside land is full of grasslands, bamboo, farmlands and reeds, and then there's hills and blue mountains in the distance. We lucked into some amazing weather, as well - clear and fresh.

The point of the trip was to visit four historical sites upriver from Hue - a far more interesting trip than it sounds, even just to compare and contrast the different styles of mausoleum and temple. Lunch was included, and also, we got to go on a boat trip. Total price? $20 each. Only in Vietnam.

The extensive grounds of the first temple site.
We were headed to the furtherest mausoleaum first, so Nana whipped out the tourist prints and souvenirs. We looked through everything to pass the time, and I did buy an awesome little wooden carving of a man-turtle thing. (I still can't work out who he is - my Google-fu is still failing me.) Then we arrived at the furthurest mausoleum, and we got to spend an hour or so walking through the grounds and looking at the temples. The grounds of these places are huge - this one had a man-made lake, weeping willows everywhere, three temple buildings, and very ornately carved stone. The overall impression is quite European, actually, mixed in with the expected Chinese and Vietnamese elements.

The second temple site.
The second site was incredibly different - a small temple, built hugging a mountain, perched up above the river. It had spectacular views, but the temple itself was comparatively modest. We were back on the boat after about 20 minutes, headed to the third site.

To get to the third temple, we had to get off the boat, then Nana had to hire to motos to get there! We perched precariously on the back of the bikes, and got a ride through the countryside, to perhaps the most ornate temple yet - this one had a lake as well, and had been built in two sections, one for the emperor and his family to live in while he was alive, and one for him to be entombed in after death. I can't quite imagine living next door to your grave, can you? The complex included a pavillion over the lake, where the Emperor apparently used to sit and compose poetry. I quite liked this complex, not for the pavillion but because of the way some of the buildings were unrestored, unpainted or painted in dark colours - I liked the contrast between the dark interiors and the hot, bright sun outside.

Back on the motos, and back to the boat! While we were gone, Nana had made us an amazing lunch - she somehow produced about six delicious dishes in her tiny, tiny kitchen, and she insisted we finish all of it! She re-filled our bowls a few times, and she was very happy we ate so much (we couldn't exactly say no!).

The fourth and final site was actually a monastery, also set above the river but on a much larger site. And it was actually a working monastery, with monks and everything (it seemed rude to take pictures of them...). It was a very beautiful and different complex, with a front courtyard full of huge trees and turtle steles, with a beautifully painted entry gate and a great view. Once inside, the grounds were also lovely, with treed areas along the length of the complex and open courtyards in the centre. The temples were very clearly being used for worship, so it didn't seem polite to take pictures of them, really, or go inside without the intent to pray, but walking around was interesting enough.

In one of the side buildings was a very famous car - the Austin sedan that carried Thich Quang Duc to Saigon, before he burned himself alive in 1963 to protest the persecution of Bhuddists by the (Catholic) South Vietnamese government.

Once done, we headed back down to the boat. On the ride back into Hue, Nana came to chat with us. She had 7 children, including a daughter about our age, and she was interested in the photos I'd taken. (61 years old, and you should have seen her on this boat! She was bendier than I've ever been in my entire life...) The couple were, overall, some of the nicest locals we met, and we both agreed it was one of the best things we did the whole trip.

The lake and pavillion at the third temple site.

Shady interiors at the third temple site.
Close-up of a tortoise - he's carrying a huge stele. (This was at the monastery.)

Not sure who this colourful guy is... (also the monastery site.)

The front courtyard of the monastery, with view.
Back to Hue: Part 1

1 comment:

  1. Totally ranks in my top 10 lunches of all time. Delicious, fresh, the setting was amazing, company, everything. An all round amazing lunch.

    The rest of the boat trip was nice too.


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