Last night, some people were affected by the ship’s motion, as we are on the edge of the typhoon that is near the Phillipines and the swells were 12 feet. Didn’t bother us, though. We had a lovely dinner in Polo with a couple from Calgary.
This morning, as we pulled into the port in Da Nang, we saw very small circular fishing boats, the first of this type we have seen. They are small enough to go under the port structure!
We traveled to Hue (pronounced hway) on a tour called Imperial Hue. Our guide was Quoc, which he says is pronounced like the sound a duck makes! He was great, His background was after university for 4 years as a history major, he taught in secondary school, but it was far from his home. So he went for a tourist course for 6 months and decided to be a tour guide. This history background makes him especially effective. He is married with 3 children and his wife is a lawyer. He says that lawyers don’t make much money in Vietnam. Doctors earn about $600/month and bank clerks about $800. Lawyers are not used when you buy a house or get a divorce, so there is little that they can do. A company CEO may make $3000/month and they are considered rich here.
Since the war days, they eat cats, dogs, mice and water buffalo. Food was scarce then so that’s why it started, but he says it continues because “they taste good”! They do not eat whale or dolphin, though, they are considered special and if one dies and washes to shore, they have a ceremony and actually bury them and install a shrine.
When we were in Vietnam before we learned that the women all cover up completely because they don’t want the sun to make their skin any more brown. So they masks they wear aren’t for pollution (which isn’t bad here). He says it is hard to identify criminals though.
Most of the time the people eat breakfast at restaurants, not at home, and they enjoy pho (pronounced fuh) which is a noodle soup. I love it!
This is monsoon season here but we had a beautiful day. Not as hot as some of the other days. It was a 1 1/2 hour trip to Hue, so we had lots of time to learn more about Vietnam.
We saw rice paddies, but the rice has been harvested already here, They have two crops a year. In some of the rice fields, we saw graves which had been buried but are now on the surface. They are like a small shrine, which is because the people believe the grave is like a house where you wait for your next life.
The drive to Hue took us along the coastal road bordering the brilliant blue East Sea. The town itself is like a massive open air museum with hundreds of temples, pagodas, palaces and tombs. Very clean too.
This is the area of the DMZ during the war. Quoc mentioned that the Viet Cong took over the Forbidden City here and it was hard to tell the Viet Cong from the other Vietnamese people, causing lots of loss of life. He called it the game of “Tom and Jerry”.
When we got to Hue, which is the old imperial capital and cultural treasusre chhest, we first visited the Craft Hat village where they make incense and the traditional conical hats. There was some beautiful art work here.
We went to the Tomb of Tu Duc, the empporer of Vietnam for more than 35 years. The grave is surrounded by a paviliou and temple and guarded by stone sculptures of elephants, horses and soldiers. Lots of restoration is going on here.
Following that visit, we went to the remains of the Citadel, the court of the Nguyen emperors. It was completed in 1832 and occupies more than 1000 acres of land with the ramparts over 20 feet high. During the Vietnam War, some of the most intense fighting occurred in this region and many buildings were destroyed or damaged. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage sight and is being restored. This site also contains the Thai Hoa Palace of Supreme Harmony, the Imperial Library and the Forbidden Purple City. This was once the inner, exclusive domain of the emperors.
Before lunch, we went to the Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the most beautiful architectural structures in Vietnam. It has an octagonal seven-story tower and adjacent prayer hall perched on a hill overlooking the Perfume River. It is Buddhist design.
We boarded Dragon Boats to cross the river to the Pomelo Restaurant where we had a fabulous lunch, including pho.
Along the ride home, Quoc explained that the yellow liquid in THESE bottles is eucalyptus oil (not gas).
Tomorrow we head to Ha Long Bay, arriving about noon.