Monday, April 28, 2008

Crossing the 17th parellel

After our great stay in Hoi An we continued north to Hue, the old capital of Vietnam. We were a bit soured on this city from the get-go, as I got pretty sick on arrival and the city cuts off electricity every day (alternating between mornings and afternoons)--and every hotel owner we encountered lied to us about it. So after recovering from the flu and getting over the annoyance of 95 degree days sans fan or AC (hey, we better get used to it--Indonesia in June is going to be HOT), we set out to explore what the old city has to offer.

We started out the old imperial palace complex, which consists of the Citadel (above), the imperial enclosure and the Forbidden Purple City (at right--but all the namesake purple flowers were destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968). A few pagodas along the Perfume River and a huge lunch later, we went outside the city limits to see some of the old emperors' tombs. These huge park complexes were a great breath of fresh air--no noise, smog, zooming motorcycles or trash. Enjoy some pictures below.

Before taking a boat back to Hue, we stopped at a little cluster of huts to see two ubiquitous items being made--the conical hats and sticks of incense (pictures right). The hats are so iconical (credit Deanna with that pun) and make for amazing scenery on long bus rides (staring out into rice paddies and seeing women's hats poking above the bright green). As for the incense--well, we've seen/smelled incense for years, yet we never knew how it is made. Pictures below.

The following day we took a tour of the DMZ (pictured left). Running along the 17th parallel (and the Ben Hai river), the demilitarized zone separated North and South Vietnam during the war. There are almost no remnants of the American presence there--one tank remains on a hill where the base was. On the northern side of the river were stacks and stacks of loudspeakers used to broadcast propaganda to those in the south. From there we went a bit farther north to visit the tunnels at Vin Moc. Unlike the ones at Cu Chi in the south, these were civilian tunnels--aka tall enough for me not to have to crawl. 17 babies were born there during the war. There were three levels--at 13, 17 and 23 meters below ground. We spent about 45 minutes walking through the different levels, which ultimately let out right at the beach. Entrance and exits shown below.

We've got one more day in Hanoi before we head down to the Thai beaches. We'll try to get another post up ASAP of Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, but I'm not sure ha long it will take (credit Aaron with that one).

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