Vietnam: Hue and Hoi An, a new definition of “antique ruins”

Hue is famous for the imperial city and the royal tombs. We visited the imperial city in a few hours when we arrived in Hue, and Tu Duc’s tomb the next day.

They were both impressive by their size, but everything has been massively damaged… Some of the area remained that way, leaving a lot to the imagination, some other places have simply been entirely reconstructed. All together, even if it’s beautiful, it’s empty and between the ruins that look like they’re 5000 years old and the brand new buildings, it’s difficult to imagine what it was like. The thing is, those ruins are only 100 to 200 years old, and it already looks completely destroyed… Sure, the american bombing did not help. Still, I think I would have preferred the ruins to be left as they were, rather than randomly rebuilt, which made it look kinda fake.

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The entrance of the imperial city.

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Tu Duc’s tomb

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The next day we took a bus to Hoi An. The bus was quite extraordinary, it had amazing sleeping “seats” that allowed you to lay down entirely, even if it was a day time journey! That would have been perfect if the landscape was not so beautiful. Silvère slept but Jean and I stood awake to enjoy the view. As I was getting more sick by the hour, we booked a “nice” hotel (instead of the cheapest as usual, we splurged and spent a crazy $9 each per night) for the next 2 nights, hoping it would help me get over my fever and fatigue. It didn’t and I’m still sick a week later, but it got better and at least now I’m sure it’s not malaria… Anyway, we went for a walk to explore the city, but even before we got out of the hotel, we got trapped like random tourists. Hoi An is famous for being a tailor city, where you can get anything custom made with a good price. Jean decided to get a button shirt for himself and tops for his girlfriend. After hesitating, I asked for a dress that I would wear to my brother’s wedding next May. What a mistake! I assumed a couple of fittings would be necessary, but I had no idea how bad the quality was gonna be. I even had to negotiate for a lining even though the fabric was see through. Everything was done approximately and every fitting forced me to go back to the hotel and spend a good 20 minutes telling the tailors what to do so the dress would look custom made and not just like any generic dress. When we left, it still was not ready and the tailor actually raced us to the bus station with a half finish dress that I had to try on in the gross men’s restrooms 2 minutes before taking off! It still didn’t fit obviously, what a waste of time… I felt pretty bad not buying it in the end but I would have probably never worn it. I don’t understand how people spend as much as they would at H&M when all you get is a choice of color and hours indoors rather than exploring. But Hoi An definitely is not for explorers, or not too long… It’s filled with noisy western bars and restaurants and you can tell that no Vietnamese lives there: after 11pm the streets are empty. You end up spending a lot and seeing very little.

It’s not all bad of course, the city is separated in 2 by the river, and with all the lights at night, it’s very beautiful. During the day we went to the (private, obviously) beach, where we saw a beautiful pink and yellow snake on the sand… We walked around the old city and its many temples, and visited the Cham ruins of My Son. Those were great, built from the 4th to the 14th century after AD, they really put what we’ve seen in Hue at shame (and of course even being in the middle of nowhere, they’ve been bombed). The remaining temples are beautiful and the site is in the forest, for some kind of adventure feel, despite the many tourists. I wish we had more time to visit the center of Vietnam, but that’s it for now!

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Boat ride in Hoi An.

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Those lights are sold everywhere around the river, they’re supposed to bring good luck.

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A typical Vietnamese table at the restaurant.

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My Son’s ruins

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