Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Around Hue

Thanh Toan Bridge
Today we splurged and hired a driver to take us to the surrounding Imperial sites of Hue.
Thanh Toan Bridge, strangely enough, is a covered bridge. Just like in Madison County, but with chopsticks. It is outside of the city. Hue is ready for growth and our driver took up out large 2 lane boulevards toward the fields of rice patties and beans. 

Market at Thanh Toan Bridge
We past many small, highly decorated shrines before reaching our destination, passing many bike riders as the land is so flat. The bridge is decorated in the same ceramic tile work, we have seen. Very odd to see in such a small town, but the bridge serves as a shrine as well as a bridge. A place to ask the Buddha to keep the water under the bridge, instead of your house.
View from the third terrace

Our second stop was Khai Dinh Tomb, the tomb of the last of the Nguyen Dynasty. The Emperor came to power in 1916 and was a student in Paris. His Tomb reflects his French sensibilities, or lack thereof, as it is so lavish he went on to tax his people 30% extra to pay for his final resting place.

The elaborate tomb
It was finished in 1931. Khai Dihn sits high on a hillside, overlooking a lush valley and waterway. There were 4 terraces to get to his tomb, consisting of 50-75 steps upward each. Ouch, my burning thighs. It was a spectacular work of art.
Close up of Mosaic work.
 Closer to the Perfume River was Ming Mang Tomb, which was much older (1830’s) with an Oriental flavor to the beautiful grounds and buildings. This Emperor used his land as his hunting residence and wanted to be buried there when he died, also giving his widow and concubines a safe place to live (they did not have to kill themselves after the death of the King - nice!) Not as elaborate as Khai Dinh, I liked it much, much better for its peaceful surroundings. 
Entryway to the Heavenly Gate

Inside the Receiving Chamber

Our final stop was the Perfume Pagoda, sitting on the riverbank with stairs leading up from the river below. It is the tallest Pagoda in Vietnam and continues to be a functioning Buddhist Shrine. 
One of the Holy Relics there quite affected The Monkey Man. It was a fabulous, 1950’s Turquoise Car, in pristine shape. This car belonged to the Venerable Thich Quang Phung, a monk who resided at the shrine. In 1963 he drove this car from the Pagoda to Saigon to protest the treatment of Buddhists under the communist regime during the American/Vietnam War. 

Guards at the gate
As soon as he arrived in Saigon he exited the car, assumed the Lotus Position and set himself on fire. He was the first of many Buddhist who saw this as the only way they could fight the war. Monkey and I both remembered this incidence and several others that followed. There are ghosts in this side of the world, where only the youngest have not known war.

This is our last night in Hue, to celebrate we had dinner and drinks at the top of the Imperial hotel, the tallest building in town, at the Skyview Lounge at sunset.

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