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12 January 2012 / leggypeggy

We found our way to the city of Hué

Broken pottery at the core of the designs

Hué, located in central Vietnam and on the Perfumes River, is considered to be one of country’s main cultural, religious and educational centres, and what an interesting and lovely city it is.

It hasn’t always been like that. As part of the Tet Offensive in 1968, Hué was the scene of one of the Vietnam War’s longest and bloodiest battles. Much of the area inside the Citadel (the imperial city) was devastated by bombs, artillery and brutal house-to-house fighting. About 10,000 people were killed, most of them civilians.

For the next 22 years, the Citadel’s old buildings were left to crumble and decay. They were viewed as politically incorrect relics from the times of the Nguyen emperors. But in 1990, local government officials recognised that these sites could be a boon for tourism and began to save them. A few years later, Unesco declared the monuments a World Heritage site, and restoration and preservation work began in earnest.

Built in the early 1800s, the Citadel is huge and still predominantly residential. It has a 10-kilometre perimeter and is surrounded by a moat. Within it’s walls is the Imperial Enclosure, also known as Dai  Noi or Hoang Thanh. This citadel-within-a-citadel is where the emperor of the day carried out his official functions.

Poor John and I were keen to see the Imperial Enclosure, but it seemed to be closed. We met two Dutch tourists at a large gate and they told us their rickshaw driver had said the enclosure was closed on Sundays. He then offered to pedal them around town instead. They declined and it’s good they did. We walked around the corner to find the main gate open. We later learned that rickshaw drivers pull this scam in the hopes of extending the time you spend with them. Luckily we never encountered this problem because we always walked.

But I’m glad we started at the wrong gate. It’s covered in mosaics and when you get closer, you see that the designs are created from broken pottery.

The Imperial Enclosure has many parts, including the Thai Hoa Palace, Halls of the Mandarins, the Nine Dynastic Urns, the Forbidden Purple City, the Emperor’s Reading Room, the To Mieu Tmple,  the Dien Tho Residence and two lakes. I hope they get around to posting explanatory signs on each of these, because the only thing I was sure that I was looking at was the palace and one of the urns.

We spent most of a day exploring the Citadel and its many parts.

Also don’t forget to pick a number before 29 February 2012.

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