Hue

Huế was the capital of the Nguyễn Lords, a feudal dynasty which dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th to the 19th century. In June 1802 Nguyễn Phúc Ánh took control of Vietnam and proclaimed himself Emperor Gia Long. Gia Long confided with geomancers to decide which was the best place for a new palace and citadel to be built. After the geomancers had decided on a suitable site in Huế, building began in 1804. Thousands of workers were ordered to produce a wall and moat. Initially the walls were earthen, but later these earthen walls were replaced by stone walls, 2 meters thick. Huế remained the capital of Vietnam till 1945 when Emperor Bao Dại abdicated and a communist government was established in Hanoi. One can still see in the satellite photograph that the grounds of the Imperial City were surrounded by a wall 2 kilometers by 2 kilometers, surrounded by a moat. The water from the moat was taken from the Perfume River that flows through Huế. This whole area is called the citadel.

Inside the citadel was the Imperial City, with a perimeter of almost 2.5 kilometers, which I have ringed in yellow on the satellite photo. Inside the Imperial City was the imperial enclosure called the Purple Forbidden City. The enclosure was reserved for the Nguyễn imperial family. The Emperor's palace is guarded by a second set of walls and a second moat was constructed. Only the emperors, concubines, and those close enough to them were granted access to the Forbidden City; the punishment for trespassing was death. Today, little of the forbidden city remains.

In the Vietnam War, Huế was in South Vietanm, but very close to the border between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. In the 1968 Tết Offensive the city suffered considerable damage. The American bombing in 1968 flattened most of the Imperial City. Many bullet holes left over from the war can be seen on the stone walls. Only a few buildings survived, such as the Thái Hòa and Cần Thanh temples. Marine Captain Myron Harrington who commanded a one-hundred-man company during the battle questioned rhetorically: "Did we have to destroy the town in order to save it"? In a 1981 interview, Harrington answered in the affirmative, saying "I think in the case of Hue that it was required, because the NVA wanted it"

After the end of the Vietnam War, many of the historic features of Huế were neglected because they were seen by the victorious regime as "relics from the feudal regime"; the Vietnamese Communist Party doctrine officially described the Nguyễn Dynasty as "feudal" and "reactionary." There has since been a change of policy, however, and many historical areas of the city are currently being restored. The city was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. The buildings that still remain are being restored and preserved.

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It was a two day trip south to Da Nang, we missed the intermediate stop because of bad weather, but were bused back to Hue, which had been our intended excursion
It was tipping down with rain when we got to Hue, so did not see the old capital at its loveliest. However it was most impressive, although war destroyed most buildings

Thien Mu Pagoda is a historic temple with seven storeys and is the tallest in Vietnam. It is regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital.

The afternoon trip to the Emperor's tomb saw the weather deteriorate even more. China Beach was scarcely visible. We went on to the The Da Nang Museum...
.. of Cham Sculpture which was founded in 1915 as the Musée Henri Parmentier during the colonial French era to preserve the finds of the ancient Champa kingdom

On to Hoi An

Cruise Hanoi to Singapore on Orion II