Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hue, Vietnam -- Citadel and Imperial Enclosure

[NOTE: When we traveled to Vietnam in 2009, I used Posterous for a lot of the photo hosting for this blog, because it as an easy way email photos from my phone.

With the subsequent death of Posterous, now most of my Vietnam travel posts have broken image links... I have the photos still, but it will take some time to recreate the visual narratives... Apologies for broken links below.]
We are settled in Hanoi, in the old town district. Very busy here as well -- the city is much less populous than Ho Chi Minh, but it doesn't feel like the pace is any slower, and if anything, the driving seems to be less forgiving and more aggressive. But we have yet to leave the old town area, which is, from what we hear, an especially busy place -- spent several hours last night exploring the twisting streets.

Today, we're going to get motorbike taxis and hopefully find a quieter area of the city to explore -- near the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and Ho Chi Minh museum. Tonight, we have tickets to see the Water Puppet theater (water puppetry is a traditional folk-art -- now being staged in a large municipal theater with something like five shows a night). John, hoping after we see the show that I may, after tonight, be able to answer the "what does traditional music sound like?" question. Tomorrow morning, we go to Halong bay for a one-night cruise on a replica of a Chinese junk.

In the meantime, here are some photos from our previous stop, Hue -- walking tour of the Citadel and Imperial Enclosure. The citadel makes up a large part of the city itself -- a lot of the population lives within the outer citadel moat and walls. Within the citadel is the imperial enclosure, quite a large area itself, once housing about 150 structures both ceremonial and "everyday" palaces for the emperor, the royal extended family, other lower royalty, etc. It was a city within the city of the citadel, itself within the city of Hue.

The imperial enclosure is now a historic site in varying phases of restoration, much of it having been been destroyed by not just the war with the US but by several major natural disasters/monsoons. We walked around just the enclosure for several hours and really barely made a dent -- we'd walk through fully restored palaces, then find ourselves among complete ruins, then stumble onto workmen and craftsmen working on a restoration project.

Here are some highlights -- unfortunately, I ate up my camera battery goofing around on the train, and forgot to charge it, so only had my phone to shoot while in the Citadel:

Outer moat and outer wall of the citadel.

Main entrance to the imperial enclosure (there were gates on all 4 sides. This was the one the emperor used, which fed straight into his ceremonial palace, then into his own, deeper enclosure called the Forbidden Purple City. This gate has a structure on top that the emperor would use when he wanted to address those outside of the citadel walls.

Mortar or maybe cannonball damage to outer wall -- there was a deep hole in the middle about the size of a big grapefruit.

One of the secondary gates to the enclosure.

The mosaic tile work was beautiful, made up of different colored shards of broken ceramic pottery.

Inside the imperial enclosure -- emperor would walk through this gate to get to his ceremonial palace. Everyone else had to walk on different bridges on either side.

These are fiberglass repros:

Emperor's ceremonial palace -- used for formal ceremonies and to address the lower royalty. We went inside, but no photos were allowed:

These tombstone looking things (guidebook called them Stellae) marked the rows that the various royalty would stand in, based on rank, when being addressed by the emperor from the ceremonial palace:

One of the lesser royalty:

Some rebuilding/restoration work being done on another structure (seems to be in the finishing stages):

A different structure, at an earlier phase of restoration/rebuilding:

Carving the ceiling beams:

Staining the wood carving:

Tired after all the walking, we took motorbike taxis back to the hotel.


  1. The fiberglass replicas crack me up.

  2. They were pretty convincing looking. I took several photos of some stone-looking ones before I realized they were fake -- went to take a shot of inside the mouth and noticed I could see daylight through it...


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