20 Jan
Location
Home
Days adrift.  Click here to see our best and worst experiences so far.
3100
Number of flights.  Click here to go to the itinerary page.
35
Bus, train and taxi rides.  Click here to see all posts relating to transport. (56 posts)
185
Miles walked.  Click here to see all posts relating to walking and trekking. (43 posts)
581
Countries visited.  Click here to see what we think of them. (14 posts)
15
Number of species spotted.  Click here to go to our wildlife page.
1157
Photos taken.  Click here to go to the photo gallery. (97 posts)
13288
Rainy days.  Click here to find posts relating to the weather. (49 posts)
63
Number of times scammed.  Click here to read all about it!  (2 posts)
1
Otters spotted.  Click here to go to our website about otters: amblonyx.com
45
 
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

10 December 2018

Vietnam’s last imperial city

Waiting for the goal

Waiting for the goal

6 December 2018

The Vietnamese football team just beat the Philippines, causing the bar where we were eating to erupt with cheers, and then the streets of Hue to be throng with vuvuzela-tooting fans hurtling around on motorbikes with the Vietnamese flag held like a banner by their pillion passengers. Apparently this victory was quite the thing, as the Vietnamese are to football as the Italians are to rugby: very much the plucky outsiders within their region.

Our short two week brush with Vietnam has been very interesting, and I’m not sure what to make of the people at all. We’ve met friendly, fake-friendly, surly, helpful, greedy, smart, stupid, polite, loquacious, pretty much in equal measure. We’ve definitely found more sharp operators and outright scammers in Vietnam than in any other SE Asian country we’ve visited, so that stereotype rings true. Loquacity is another thing: they really love to talk. They also don’t seem to have any patience, or perhaps more accurately they just want to hustle, for everything to happen fast. At least that’s the impression we get. “Here’s the menu. What would you like?” Well… maybe we’d like to sit a minute and look at the menu?

Vinh Moc tunnels

Vinh Moc tunnels

The history of Vietnam is all about fighting off would-be conquerors, first the Chinese and then the French, and then of course the most recent scrap with the Americans which is the most well-known in the western consciousness ‘cos of Hollywood. I imagine them to be tenacious and very at home with their thickly forested, often flooded and mountainous strip of country, rather like the Afghans are in their high mountain passes.

We got a glimpse of this on our journey to Hue. We took the “DMZ Bus” which not only gets you from Phong Nha to Hue, but also stops at a couple of sights related to the American war. Most impressive were the Vinh Moc tunnels, kilometers of them carved 15m deep into the hard clay of the coast and the hiding place and home for hundreds of villages for over 5 years while the US air force rained bombs down on the landscape above.

Hue citadel gates at dusk

Hue citadel gates at dusk

Hue was Vietnam’s last imperial city. The 19th century Nguyen dynasty built a huge and impressive imperial citadel here. As they threw up these huge square walls and the neatly gridded streets of temples and palaces within them, they can’t possibly have realised that they were on course to become a feeble puppet monarchy, enslaved to France’s ambitions in the region. The imperial city today is a rather atmospheric mix of grandeur and ruin, with some key buildings nicely restored and other areas simply a wild garden of tumbled brickwork. The ruin is recent: during the America-Vietnam war the Americans unloaded a gigantic bombardment on it to shift the Viet Cong forces hiding in the citadel and razed 90% of the buildings. The important and ancient Champa ruins of My Son near Hoi An were likewise 90% obliterated because the Viet Cong decided to hide out there. Sad. But I guess if the ravages of time and human conflict didn’t knock down a lot of the remains of older civilisations we’d have a very cluttered planet and far less appreciation for what does remain, maybe?
Ruined Hue citadel

Ruined Hue citadel


Leave a Reply