In Hue we visited the main historical sites: the Imperial City, the Thien Mu (Linh Mu Pagoda), the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang, the Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, and the Tomb of Khai Dinh. There were additional Tombs to visit but we passed on visiting them on this visit.
The Imperial City and Citadel suffered during both the First Indochina War (French) and the Second Indochina War (United States). The military forces of both countries shelled and fought battles with nationalist forces in Hue. As in the case of My Son, both sides in the wars chose to use these historical sites as battle grounds. The battles combined with wooden building, termites, looting, weather and general lack of maintenance have resulted in major devastation. Two reconstruction efforts, one in the early 1990's and one currently ongoing have stabilized the existing structures, and restoration/reconstruction is evident. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|An ever present ticket collector|
The Imperial City
The Citadel is located on the north side of the Perfume River (Huong Giang). It is an easy, but hot walk from the main hotel district on the south side of the Perfume River. Inside of the Citadel is the Imperial City, and withing the Imperial City is the Forbidden City. This roughly parallels the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. The Hue Imperial City and the Forbidden are under major reconstruction.
|Entry Gate to Imperial City|
Entrance to the Imperial City is via the Royal Gate. International visitors must use the gate on the left side of the Royal Gate. Once inside are two fish ponds are separated by the "Golden Water Bridge". You can feed the fish, but buy the fish food. Proceed north to ascend into the Dai Trieu Nghi and the Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony). This is a well preserved building. In the back of the building is a model of the Imperial City and a well made video animation. If you are interested in reconstruction techniques you will be rewarded. Panels for long covered porticoes were being rebuilt and reinstalled, But major building remain as "terraces and platforms" within the Forbidden City. Strangely, the royal tennis court is fenced in and appears to be in use.
Thien Mu (Linh Mu Pagoda)
Several km west of the Citadel is Thien Mu (Linh Mu Pagoda). It is accessible by road or via the many boats on the Perfume River. If you use the boats, negotiate carefully, and include all conditions (waiting for you while in the Pagoda) in your negotiations. Be sure the boat operator is aware of your conditions as the touts are reputed to make all sorts of promises. (Our boat ride was uneventful as the wife of the operator traveled with us.)
The Pagoda is on a hill overlooking the Perfume river. It consists of several building, including the Pagoda built in the 19th century, and very nice formal gardens. In reaction to the Republic of Vietnam's (South Vietnam) persecution of Buddhist monks at the nearby Tu Dam Pagoda in 1963, a monk from the Linh Mu Pagoda committed suicide by self-immolation in Saigon. He is memorialized with the Austin car that he used to travel to Saigon.
Tomb of Emperor Minh MangThe Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang is located about 1/2 hour drive from Hue. From the parking lot it is a 10 minute walk along the wall surrounding the Tomb. Restoration work is underway on some portions of this complex. Key elements of landscaping are being dealt with, as well as preserving the structures. The complex has many architectural elements drawing the visitor from one area to another.
|One of the bridges towards the tomb area|
Construction of the Tomb began (1840) before the death the death Emperor Minh Mang (18410 but was completed (1843) according to his plans by his son Emperor Thieu Tri.
Tomb of Emperor Tu Doc
This tomb was built by Emperor Tu Doc from 1864 through 1867. Tu Doc did not die until 1867, but spend most of last 20 years of his life residing in the tomb buildings, and palaces. He retreated here after an attempted coup in 1866. This coup was caused by the Emperor's use of corvee labor and taxation to build the tombs.
|The Stela Pavilion|
The Emperor had over 100 wives and concubines but sired no successor. He was succeeded by his nephew who lived only 7 months and is also buried in this tomb complex. Since the Emperor had no son, he wrote his own epitaph. His biggest regret was allowing the French a foothold in Vietnam.
Despite the lavish tomb complex, Emperor Tu Doc was not interred here, but in another secret tomb in the city of Hue. Over 200 laborers died to protect this still secret location.
Tomb of Khai Dinh
Emperor Khai Dinh, was not last emperor of Vietnam, but was the last to have a royal tomb. With this tomb construction materials change incorporating many western items including glass and porcelain decorations on the walls. Our guide informed us that the Emperor received permission from the French colonial administration to raise taxes by 30% to build the building. In the end he was considered to be a "salaried employee of the French Government". The building was completed in 1931, six years after his death in 1925.
|Tomb of Khai Dinh|
My take on the tombs: they increasingly represent the decay of an autocratic state, started by Vietnamese Emperors and ended by puppets of a colonial power.