After Sapa, we returned to Hanoi by overnight train and proceeded directly to the airport for our flight to Hue, the ancient capital city of Vietnam. It is in Hue that we experienced the first bumps in our travel. It started with the rain. So much rain that we had no choice but to stay in our hotel for the afternoon. Staying in for an afternoon and evening wasn’t too disappointing as all the sightseeing was scheduled for the next day with an all day tour (warning: long post as many sites are covered). Also the upside of all the rain was some time at the spa for me and some down time for everyone else.
However, the next day we woke up to the streets looking like this:
We tried not to let the rain get us down. We dressed for the rain as best we could and headed off to fortify ourselves for the day with a buffet breakfast. But the day got worse as Isabella got sick in the elevator on the way to breakfast. Bump number two. A tough decision was made and she and Marc would stay behind at the hotel while Dominic and I went on the tour. If she felt better they would try to catch up to us.
Miraculously shortly after we arrived at our first stop, the rain became a drizzle and then eventually stopped. Things were looking up. If only Isabella was feeling better and she and Marc could join us. Dominic and I were really missing them as we toured the Hue Citadel (inside of which is the Imperial City and Purple Forbidden City). Perhaps it was for this reason or that the Citadel was in a sad state of disrepair, but there was a melancholic air to the place. What once must have been grand was crumbling and leaking. Having once visited the restored and well maintained Forbidden Palace in Beijing, it was hard to not compare the two.
The tour made a short stop at a garden house that was once the residence of a high-ranking Mandarin (court official) and remains privately owned by his descendant today.
Our last stop for the morning before lunch was at the Thien Mu Pagoda.
Lunch was a sad affair. In the culinary sense and the emotional sense with half our family still back at the hotel. It didn’t look like they would be joining us. Resigning ourselves to this, we lined up for the tour bus but a surprise was waiting for us on board. My girl was feeling better and she and Marc were on board to join us for the rest of the tour thanks to the efforts of our hotel and the tour company.
In the afternoon we visited two imperial tombs. The first was the Tomb of Minh Mang who ruled from February 14 1820 until his death on January 20 1841.
The second tomb was the Tomb of Khai Dinh who ruled from 1916-1925. The building of his tomb took longer than he reigned as it took 11 years to build due to the lavishness of the interior.
Following the tombs, the tour made a brief stop at a village that made incense. Incense is burned 2-3 times per day everywhere you go in Vietnam. The smell of incense will be one of the memories I will carry of Vietnam.
In Vietnam, villages specialize in one product. We passed another one that made rapeseed oil, which is apparently used for massages, mosquito repellent and washing every new baby in Vietnam.
The final leg of our tour was a ride on a dragon boat on the Perfume River.
We enjoyed our day in Hue but we were definitely looking forward to our final Vietnam destination of Hoi An where we hoped to enjoy some sunshine and beach time.