Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hue, Vietnam

Hue is a city in central Vietnam that has a UNESCO world heritage old town, enclosed within the walls of the Citadel. The city served as the imperial capital of Vietnam from 1802-1945, during the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty.

This was the first place where I experienced hotel touts. Basically, the moment a tourist bus stops, crowds of men would harass each tourist, asking them repeatedly if he/she wanted a moto taxi or hotel. If one walked away, one would be followed for a few seconds. Through a little persistence, I managed to escape from these touts.

Walking around Hue was relatively enjoyable. Like any Vietnamese city, there was honking and crowds, but not to the level experienced in Hanoi. Most of the old buildings are centered within the Forbidden City, an enclosed area within the Citadel. There, I saw gates, temples and palaces, all in the Chinese style. There were stone dragon and unicorn statues throughout the complex.

The unfortunate aspect was that many of these old buildings were under renovation when I visited; thus, they were not in their best appearance. Furthermore, most of the canals were so polluted and littered that algae was concentrated in them. It’s ironic that they named the river that flows through Hue, Perfume.

Lastly, it seems that most of the old town outside the Forbidden City was either destroyed or razed, as I saw mostly modern buildings with no aesthetic value in them.

One interesting observation I noted was in a supermarket (in fact, the only supermarket I have been into in Vietnam). There, baguettes were on sale and hordes of people were pushing and shoving each other in order to obtain as many baguettes as possible. At first I was wondering if there was a food shortage and then I realized that all of these people were probably going to resell these baguettes at a 50% profit.

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