Friday, September 4, 2015

Central Vietnam - Hue and Hoi An

After Ha Long Bay we took a domestic flight to the central part of Vietnam and took in the sights of Hue and Hoi An.  We didn't think Ken's parents had ever been to these locations.  Turns out, Mrs Doan went to High School in Hue!!!  Apparently they didn't have a high school for girls in her home village (south of Saigon), so she moved in with her cousin in Hue so she could attend high school.  We found her school and she pointed out the bridge she rode her bike across every day going to school. 

Mr and Mrs Doan in front of the high school Mrs Doan attended in the 1950s
 We started our Hue tour on a river boat ride...
Hue boat tour ... not quite as luxurious as Ha Long Bay, but still a dragon boat

Inside the boat.  The boat captain lived with his family is a tiny space at the back of the boat.

A beautiful, quiet day on the river ... another hot and humid day

water buffalo on the side of the river
After the short boat ride, we visited this beautiful pagoda and monastery

Lovely garden

Lovelier family.  :-)

No clue what kind of flower this is, but it was pretty

Back portion of gardens with river beyond the trees

Boys with a monk
The best part of Hue was exploring the Imperial City and learning about the Nguyen Dynasty.  If memory is correct, it was the last kingdom in control in Vietnam.  Unfortunately much of this beautiful city was destroyed in the war and only recently has it been declared a UNESCO site allowing foreign investment to restore and recreate this amazing city. 
there are 4 primary animals in Vietnamese culture ... the dragon for power, the unicorn for intellect, the turtle for long life and the phoenix for nobility.  Hue was the Imperial City for the Nguyen kingdom and so the entrance was flanked with phoenix. 
This large courtyard was where the military would like up to hear announcements and decrees from the king.  That huge hall behind us in the picture would only house the king and his top 2 or 3 officials.  No one else was allowed inside.

Much of the city is in ruins with only the foundations remaining, but they showed a great little video showing what it used to look like and how they plan to rebuild it.  It is a project that will take decades to complete, but the portions they have finished are spectacular!!!
This is one of the covered walkways connecting various portions of the city.  Gorgeous!

Behind us is the rebuilt library

Loved the details and the dragons in the corners

Inside the rebuilt theater

One of the many gates to enter the city
 After touring the Imperial City we went to the "Imperial Gravesite."  I'm sure it had a better name, but this is what happens when I don't blog right away ... I forget the details!!!  So apparently while the king was still alive he chose his future burial site and created a beautiful garden that became like Camp David.  A place where he could go for a retreat away from the stresses on life as the king and relax and be entertained.

This was part of the king's burial gardens ... where entertainers would come and perform for the king

Inside the performance area where people performed for the king

Before entering his final resting place are these statues

Entering his burial site
 No one knows exactly where the king was buried but it is somewhere in this vicinity.  The Vietnamese believe that your bones and remains after you die can still have power to protect the people.  So to prevent the enemies from taking his remains and using the power against them, his exact burial spot was top secret.  There is a maze of tunnels under this area and after the king died, some officials close to the king carried his remains into the tunnels and sealed themselves inside.  Then they moved the king to his final resting place, but effectively buried themselves alive in the process.  Apparently it was considered an honor to protect the king even after his death.  Talk about loyalty!!! 


After a long day of walking we went back to our amazing hotel and enjoyed the pool! 

The following day we were off to Hoi An ... the drive along the coast from Hue to Hoi An was stunning.  This is the portion of Vietnam that used to be known as the South China Sea and the beaches and lush green mountains are beautiful.
Stopped at the beach to stretch our legs along the drive

Great view of this little town along the way

another pretty spot to stretch our legs
We also made a quick stop at Marble Mountain.  This was once a huge marble quarry until it became a UNESCO site and mining is no longer allowed.  Today the marble is imported from other parts of Vietnam (or around the world) because the skill set to make things out of marble is still what keeps the people who live here in business.  There were plenty of shops to purchase items made of marble.  The artistry was fabulous!!!

pagoda on marble mountain
Upon arriving in Hoi An, we stopped at a lovely garden restaurant right along the river...

view from our table
boys didn't care how long it took for food or how long the drives were, as long as their ipads were fully charged.

being silly in the restaurant garden

beautiful restaurant

one of the street vendors let me hold her fruit.  These things are heavier than they look!!!
So Hoi An is a tourist town.  Lots of shopping and restaurants.  Very quaint and we loved it!!!  It is also known for silk and made to order clothing.  You can design your own clothes or pick from magazines, then select your fabric and have your measurements taken so the ladies can make you tailor made clothes and deliver to your hotel the following morning. 
Our first stop was another embroidery shop.  Can you see the photograph she is using for inspiration?  The artistry in the embroidery was impressive!
Then we learned about making silk ...
This is a try of 4 day old silk worms
This is a tray of ~17 day old silk worms
The silk worms spin cocoons around 27 days.

Then they boil the cocoons before the silk worm turns into a moth.  The boiled cocoon becomes the fine strands that make silk thread.  I was amazed that the boiled insect (about the size of an almond) doesn't go to waste.  They are eaten as a crispy snack ... like a chip.  (I didn't try them) 

After the silk thread is dyed, it is used in a loom like this to create silk fabric.

We bought the boys traditional Vietnamese outfits to wear on International Day at school next year

They thought the outfits were hilarious and wanted to wear them all the time!

very handsome!
Typical of Hue streets

Ancient Japanese bridge in Hue

Bridge in main district of Hue ... both sides of river have tons of shopping and restaurants

Another typical Hue streeet

temple in hue

Street food

typical market in Vietnam ...

making shredded coconut
 Hue was an adorable town during the day and at night it was fabulous!  Lanterns everywhere make it rather romantic.
Hue river at night
 For about a dollar you could purchase a tea light in a paper box that you lower into the river.  It was so beautiful to walk along the river and see all the floating candles. 
Bridge all lit up at night

Lowering my candle

City comes to life at night!!

Kids enjoyed the hotel pool and lawn more than the beach, but it was rather overcast and almost cool the day we free for the beach. 

Beautiful hotel beach

fishing boats lined the beach

playing soccer

silly nicholas

always the crazy one

playing "tiger, hunter, lady" in the pool

What a relaxing day spent at the beach resort.  Next stop ... Saigon!

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