Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 26 - Hue Ancient City and Citadel

Took another early sleeper bus ride from Hoi An to Hue, which took about 4 hours. I pre-booked a hotel on expedia just to save the hassle of dealing with all the motorbike drivers hounding you for a ride the moment you exit the bus. It wasn't too expensive, so it saved me a little stress and gave me a lot more luxury. I don't know if it's psychological, but I just assume the rooms are cleaner because I'm paying more than $5 to $7...

Hue was the former capital of Vietnam before Ho Chi Minh and the Communist Party took over the country and relocated the capital to Saigon. The last dynasty before this takeover was the Nguyen Dynasty, probably one of the most common Vietnamese Surnames in the country (or at least Little Saigon?). The family's ruling lasted 13 generations over the span of 143 years and they are remembered all over the city with mausoleums, tombs, and an Imperial City called the Citadel, which included a Forbidden City that the emperor and a select few people were only allowed to set foot in.

I gave into a tour again. Not 1 hour after checking into my hotel and roaming the streets looking for food (I tried one of the Hue specialties - Bun Bo Hue), I ended up booking a full day tour, which I would start today and finish tomorrow. Bad I should have rested from the bus ride and just relaxed in the city. I was tired the whole time, and didn't pay as much attention to the tour guide.

We walked through the Citadel, which was the former Imperial City for the Nguyen Emperor. The entire area was surrounded by brick walls and water to prevent attacks. Inside the city were palaces, theatres, libraries, and living quarters, among other things. Much of the city was destroyed during the war, and is currently being restored. The restored structures will be complete replicas, which takes away from the authenticity of the site. I almost thing it would be better to leave it alone, or at least try to use some of the vestiges in the replicas.

Afterwards, we headed to the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is recognized by a seven-story octagonal tower in the front. We were there during one of the Monk's chanting sessions, which was very mesmorizing to watch. What I found interesting was the way some of the younger monks cut their hair. Normally I'm used to seeing Monks with their hair fully shaved, but these monks had only their bangs unshaved. We stayed there for a short period before heading on yet another boat ride down the Perfume River. Both my travel books for Vietnam recommended a boat trip down the Perfume River...but again, I was left underwhelmed as there was nothing going on in the river! Maybe it's just not the right season?

At the end of the night, I met up with two CSers who lived in Hue and had dinner and coffee with them. They took me to a restaurant to try another Hue speciality - Nem Lui, which has become yet another favorite dish of mine. We talked a little about the education and interests of Vietnamese students. Both of them spoke very good English. One of them wanted to study English literature and one day become an interpreter or translator. The other wanted to be a secretary or work in tourism. What I found very surprising from our conversations was that most Vietnamese students were not interested in history, politics, or law. They were more interested in economics and English. There's so much history within the country that I would think the students would be fascinated by it all, but apparently that isn't so. They said that most students are bored by it all.

We also discussed the aspirations of these students. Most people who can speak a foreign language have desires to either travel outside the country, or relocate to another country so that they can make more money. They believe this is the case because with the skill of another language is greater access to general knowledge of everything outside of Vietnam. They are more aware of the possibilities than other Vietnamese students who aren't as good at a foreign language.

Of course, getting a Visa into another country is a difficult, timely, and expensive process for these students. For one, the U.S. does not want to make it easy for these students to come to the country, even with a sponsor or relatives living there because they know that these students will most likely stay in the country. The application process is difficult. To top it all off, you basically have to pay your way just to get an interview for a Visa. There are so many people in between you and the American interviewer, that you have to save up a ton of money to gain access. One of the CSers friends had to pay around $10,000 USD just to get a 2-3 year Visa to Canada...

We spent the rest of the night on more trivial topics. I taught them some new English idioms like "Its raining cats and dogs" or "Don't let the cat out of the bag" and one of them interviewed me for 15 minutes for her English class about my experiences in Vietnam so far. 

Bun Bo Hue and the local Hue Beer, Huda

Citadel - Cot Co (Flag Tower)

Citadel - Ngo Mon Gate

Citadel - View from inside looking towards the front

Thien Mu Pagoda

Thien Mu Pagoda

Monks chanting inside the Thien Mu Pagoda

A young monk deep in chant

Nem Lui - DIY spring rolls

My new friends, Thanh and Mimi

1 comment:

  1. Your new friends are adorbs. I love living vicariously through you.