Sunday, September 7, 2008

Off the Beaten Path in Hue... Way Off

Liz and I are not ones to take the easy tours with the large buses and packed itineraries. We scoffed at the proffered (shrieked) tours and explored Hue on foot, on DragonBoat and en cyclo.

First, we hit the big one, the Imperial City, which is quite impressive, despite being partially in ruins. It is also shockingly Chinese-influenced. There is not much Chinese influence in the South, but as we get further northits more and more clear how much Vietnamese culture, writing, religion, trade, and politics were historically influenced by China.

My favorite building was the refurbished court theatre, the backstage of which was left both unlocked and unattended. Didn't they know I was coming? It took all my willpower (and a reminder that i am in a communist country) to NOT put on the costumes and prance across the stage.

After exploring the Imperial City, we contracted two cyclo pedalers to take us to a couple of outlying tombs - which we estimated were 20-30 minutes away on a bike. More like an hour, into the hills. These poor dudes pedaled us about five miles in all - happily. The six bucks we paid them is more than many Vietnamese office workers make in a day. (And we got out and walked ont he big hills - by the end of the day everyone was jovial)

The day ended with an excellent temple where I meditated with a very beautiful buddha statue, followed by an incredible gastronomic dinner of seven courses. On to Ha Noi!

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