This post will be about street food in Beijing. To be honest after previous travels in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia it was nothing new to us. I think trying daring food is good to do once and then you can just stick to whatever is tasty.
Now what do I mean by daring food? Insects, chewy creatures of the sea, internal organs that never end up on western plates.
Forbidden City – Zijin Cheng, 紫禁城; pinyin: Zǐjinchéng; literally: “Purple Forbidden City”. Also known as “The Palace Museum” (故宫博物院). Above Meridian Gate (Wu Men). From the balcony the emperor would review his armies and perform ceremonies marking the start of new calendar.
We left Hoi An on the bus and arrived in Hue after dark. I think we just let one of the tauters lead us to a hotel. It was cold and raining and we didn’t really want to walk around much. This is how we saw the best place on our trip. A restaurant, pub and cafe in one.
Cafe On Thu Wheels
Address: 3/34 Nguyen Tri Phuong Street, Hue, Vietnam
place where you can let your “wachfulness” down and be crazy
if you are feeling home sick and need to meet genuine, fun, and interesting people this is your place
other travellers, we joined them in drinking local beer and sharing travel adventures
motorbike rental and tours
a notebook with messages and contacts to people all around the World
walls full of memories and individual expressions
toilet you are not likely to forget 😉 I’m not going to spoil it for you
We stayed at the hotel just opposite. I can’t complain. It was good standard but it was terribly cold. Well I suppose it would be perfect if the temperature outside was tropical heat.
Hue served as Vietnam’s capital under the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945 and the city’s regal past can still be seen inside the walls of the Citadel and the Imperial City. Thanks to UNESCO funding, much of the City is being faithfully restored to its former glory. The Imperial City, created in the 19th century and modeled on the Forbidden City in Beijing, has many palaces and temples inside. The seat of the Nguyen emperors was the Citadel, which occupies a large, walled area on the north side of the river. Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close enough to them were granted access; the punishment for trespassing was death. Today, little of the forbidden city remains, though reconstruction efforts are in progress to maintain it as a historic tourist attraction.
We decided to split. P. wanted to rent a motorbike and just drive around and I wanted to see the Royal Tombs with a guide. It was to be the highlight of our trip for me. I love the flexibility and no pressure to be together all the time. I think we were both happy about the choice we made.
In short, from what P. told me, the ride around city was exciting and the traffic wasn’t as bad as in HCMC after driving around the center he decided to drive out of the city. There he almost had a terrible accident in a big puddle. Anyway I was glad he was alright. I have no idea what I would have done if he didn’t show up in the place where we were supposed to meet. Where to start looking? And when? We didn’t even have working mobile phones to get in touch. So I’m glad nothing happened.
I went on a tour. It wasn’t organised by Cafe on Thu Wheels. If it wasn’t raining I think I would go on a motorbike tour they offer. Anyway, we had a bus. The first thing we saw was the Thien Mu Pagoda (pagoda of the Heavenly Lady). It is located on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. In the autumn, flowers from orchards upriver from Hue fall into the water, giving the river a perfume-like aroma, hence the soubriquet. Legend has it that the pagoda was founded after and old woman dressed in red gown and green trousers appeared on the hill and prophesied that soon a true king will come here and build a pagoda that will attract and converge all the heavenly forces and energies of the Dragon Veins. After saying it the woman vanished. And so it happened. I guess you can call it a self-fulfilling prophecy as the king that build it heard it before he made a decision.
The most characteristic building is the wedding cake like tower. It has seven storeys which represent incarnations of Buddha.
We then visited a garden. It was a special garden with different types of plants and flowers. I think it was Ngoc Son which was the former residence of the Princess Ngoc Son, daughter of Emperor Dong Khanh. But it might be some other garden as well. it wasn’t a big thing for me and maybe because of the season it wasn’t anything special. Almost no blooming flowers, everything wet and gray. Well you have to pay a price for travelling out of season. I was really looking forward to the tombs. So let’s move forward to it.
When you think about royal tombs in hue think more of a pleasure grounds and temples than cementaries and mausoleums. They combine park like landscapes and lakes with traditional architecture. Each tomb consists of: a pavilon housing a stele recording the emperor’s achievements, a brick paved court of honour where life sized stone mandarins and animal figures stand in attendence, a tample with funerary tablet and precious items belonging to the emperor, a masoleum and houses for guards and servants. Each of the tombs is different though.
The Tomb of Minh Mang (also called Hieu Tomb)
Minh Mang was possibly the greatest of Nguyen emperors. This 28 hectare tomb is surrounded by an oval wall of 1700 meters. Originally, the tomb consisted of 40 architectural constructions symmetrically arranged along a 700 meter axis. It is known for its solemnity and precise layout. It is a UNESCO World heritage Site.
Dai Hong Mon: It is the main gate to enter the tomb. The gate presents three paths with 24 heaving roofs covered with beautiful decorations. The gate was opened only once to bring the Emperor’s coffin to the tomb, and had been tightly closed since then. Visitors have to use the two side-gates Ta Hong Mon (Left Gate) and Huu Hong Mon (Right Gate).
On the Salutation Court there are the Thahn stone statues of great mandarins, along with elephants and horses representing the royal entourage that accompanies and protects the emperor in the other world. The Salutation Court is divided into four steps – The Hien Duc Mon (gate) leads to the worship place. In the centre is Sung An Temple surrounded by Ta, Huu Phoi Dien (Left, Right Temples) in the front and Ta, Huu Tung Phong (Left, Right Rooms) in the back. The Emperor and Queen Ta Thien Nhan are worshipped in Sung An Temple. Finally, the Hoang Trach Gate leads to the Minh Lau Bright Pavilion. It is placed on top of three terraces representing heaven, earth and water. It is a square pavilion with two storeys and eight roofs. The Minh Lau Pavilion radiates a remarkable, mystical atmosphere; it also features an anthology of selected poems of Vietnam’s early 19th century. On both sides of Minh Lau, two obelisks stand on the hills. In the back of Minh Lau are two flower gardens designed as the character “Longevity”.
The stele house keeps the Thanh Duc Than Cong Stele consistion of an essay of 2500 Chinese characters of Thieu Tri emperor that was carved to praise the contribution of his emperor-father Minh Mang and to describe the tomb constructing process.
The tomb (Buu Thanh) – Tan Nguyet (New Moon) crescent Lake embraces the circular Buu Thanh (The wall surrounding the grave). There are three bridges on Tan Nguyet Lake. Visitors have to climb 33 Thanh stone steps to reach the sepulchre of the Emperor. We were in fact not allowed to climb those stairs I think because of the restoration works.
Tu Duc Tomb
Located in a narrow valley, Tu Duc Tomb is one of the most beautifully designed complexes among the tombs of the Nguyen dynasty. Embedded in a lush pine forest, this tomb is the final resting place of Emperor Tu Duc who had the longest reign of all emperors of the Nguyen dynasty. In his lifetime, the Emperor Tu Duc used the tomb as a palatial retreat together with his many wives and concubines.
It was in fact designed by the emperor as a secluded poetic fairyland where he could write poetry and enjoy life’s pleasures and, in death, find a harmonious resting place. It comprises 50 structures enclosed by 1500m wall. The entrance is a Vu Kiem Gate in the south. To the right is the Luu Khiem Lake with Tinh Khiem islet in the middle. On the tomb complex you can also find Minh Khiem royal theatre and Hoa Khiem Temple used as a palace during Tu Duc’s lifetime. What is funny is that the emperors remains are not there, his burial site is unknown.
I didn’t include many photos of Tu Duc Tomb in the text above, I will add some more in the slideshow below. From hue we took a train to Da Nang and then a flight back to HCMC. On the train which was better than our regional services in Poland a steward was serving a soup, courious thing. There was also a lovely girl, picture in the slideshow. It was hard to go back but to be honest I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. I think first time in my life I was exhausted with the holidays and finally taking a week off to rest after holidays started to make sense. We got very late back to London (flight through Bahrain) and it was so windy and called I hated it streight away. Now when I don’t remember the constant tiredness I start to appreciate how much we saw. The thing is, I know the balance between doing nothing and seightseeing is crucial. I think I’m just greedy, want to see as much as I can and sometimes it’s just so hard to give something up and choose. Unless you have unlimited time and money you have to make smart decisions.
Exhausted, sick and sore we got to Hoi An. Bent under the weight of our backpacks we did not intend to look for a place to stay for long. I think we went into maybe three hotels. We chose the least expensive, but still comfortable with a swimming pool and got straight into bed, ok shower (warm shower) was first. And let me tell you not everywhere we had warm water. And then the air conditioning was shut down because of some external works in the street. I suppose for people used to living in hot climate the change between coolness of an apartment building and very hot outside is something usual but I felt uncomfortable every time it happened and straight away I got running nose. Being sick in hot climate, without air conditioning, feels really bad. Anyway, we stayed there for two nights and in that time we both got better. We used the swimming pool in the hotel with freezing water what felt good. It all goes into oblivion when you consider the beauty of Hoi An.
From Ho Chi Minh City we took a night bus to Nha Trang. It seemed like a good way to save on accommodation cost and time and I do recommend it. The bus was cosy and I woke up in the early morning in Nha Trang.
We had a company of two puppies in the bus. They didn’t make a sound throughout the whole journey and looked soooo cute, imagine this in Europe!
Anyway when we got to Nha Trang we were hungry, mad and tired. We left the tauters behind and walked to one of the first hotels away from what we thought was main tourist area. There was marble on the floors and decorations that made us believe we can expect similar standard like we had in Ho Chi Minh. The price was $5 for a room without air-conditioning and $1 additionally to get it working. We had a look at the room and took it. Until today I don’t know what we were thinking. I can honestly say it was the worst room I have ever rented. It was dump. Everything including bedding was damp. We had a window that open on the corridor where the air-conditioning was throwing out the warm air from all rooms next to the corridor. It would even shut properly. The bathroom was a wet room with no ventilation everything in very socialistic style. I thought I has some pictures of it, but can’t find them.
Anyway, after a short nap we decided to wander around and visit Lam Son Pagoda famous for the Giant Seated Buddha. It was established to honour the monks and nuns who died demonstrating against Diem government. To see the statue you have to climb stairs which in the heat can be very demanding, but it’s so worth the effort. Besides the giant Buddha you can see beautiful panorama of Nha Trang and surrounding hills.
During the rest of the day we hired some sun beds under the straw umbrellas where constantly somebody was offering us something to buy. It was very annoying after a while, also quite boring to lie there and go to the water after a while. I don’t think we got our money worth from this. Later on we decided to book a snorkelling trip for the following day. We also bought some local rum and cans of coke (low on budget) and sat down on the beach to watch beautiful sunset and teenagers seating next to bonfire. Yes bone fire on the beach, so close to a dream that still remains unfulfilled.
The snorkelling trip was stunning for P. – it was his first time and he absolutely loved it. We spend more than half day on a boat and in the water observing reefs. When we came back we decided to spoil ourselves a bit and visited Nhà hàng bia tươi Louisiane. Looks stunning and the prices tell you it’s luxurious. We had to wait around for another night bus and started to feel really bad. I suppose it was the combination of rum, sunstroke, flu and fatigue.
I remember we lied down on the towels in the sun and covered ourselves with whatever we had on us from the snorkelling trip and felt really, really cold. The wind was terrible. I covered my head with the straw hat I bought in Saigon and fell asleep. We welcomed the bus arrival with relief, at least until we got inside. It was much less comfortable and we got our seats under the air conditioning that could not be turned off. Well ok, P. got. He stayed there for something like 5mins and as he felt worse than I did we switched places. He took blankets from all the surrounding seats and wrapped himself so I could only see his blue mouth mask and sunglasses. It was a hard night. Every bone and muscle could feel every single bump on the hip-hop highway and endless interruption in our sleep made me even more exhausted. It felt like endless centuries of waking up, trying to make myself comfortable and falling back to sleep. When we got to Hoi An I knew it was time to slow down and rest.