After Hanoi we flew Vietnam Airlines to Hue, pronounced whay. This is an absolutely beautiful city which has grown immensely and recovered and rebuilt totally after it was obliterated during the TET offensive of 1968. It is an ancient capital of central Vietnam both politically and spiritually. The city is now mainly on the western side of the Perfume River which separates old and new Hue.
These "dragon boats" ply the Perfume river carrying sightseers like us.
There is still a vibrant fishing industry on the Perfume river. This is one of the boats. Notice the bamboo cages they use to catch fish with. Somethings never change.
Commercial transport still happens. There were many boats carrying all sorts of cargo. I have no idea what this stuff is, but somebody must buy it!
We did the normal tourist stuff, like we always do.
We stopped at a combination Pagoda and education center for monks that dates back to the days before there was such a thing as the western hemisphere. It still educates monks today.
The site for this school was chosen because the King who established it had a dream that led him to this site. It was a nice dream. The school sits high on a ridge overlooking the Perfume River, with lots of shade trees and breezes. This is imortant in a country with intense sun and humidity! This is my wonderful wife enjoying the view.
There were three entrances to the campus. One for Royalty, one for the best students and one for dunces like me. The entrances were guarded by these scary looking guys to be sure you did not enter the wrong door.
Inside the school is a happy Buddha. Many Vietnmese said I looked like him. Time for a diet?
There is a commemorative display of a terrible event in Vietnamese history. In 1963, a graduate of this school, in order to protest the overall political situation in the country lit himself on fire in Hue. It was a galvanizing act in Vietnamese history.
Hue is the closest city to the old DMZ. Tours are available of such sites as Hamburger Hill and Khe San. My research said that these battlefields do not have much to show anymore, so we passed. But I wanted to see the DMZ area. Our guide kept mentioning something from the war that I was ignorant of. It is called the McNamara line. Simply put, it was a barbed wire and electronic sensor barrier which would forewarn the US Marines of infiltrators crossing the DMZ. When activated the Marines would call in air strikes. Our guide kept mentioning how much fun the Viet Cong had with this absurdity. They would do things like capture rats, set their tails on fire and send then through the barriers en-masse. Then they would go back to their bunkers and watch as the US navy came in and dropped hundreds of bombs, wiping out a section of McNamara’s line, and later just walk right through. This is another example that high tech tactics can always be defeated by low tech tactics, with a bit of ingenuity.
Just south of the DMZ is a large Karst called the rock pile.The following is from the web.
The Rockpile is located in northern Quang Tri Province in Hue. This particular place was used as the famous listening post and a guide port for bombers during the Vietnam War. From here the US troops were helicoptered in and out.
The Rockpile was also an artillery base during that time. This was a weaponry with a huge array of big guns, including 175 long Toms, 8-inchers on tracks, 105s and 155s.
This shot retrieved from the web shows the 3d Marines (my fathers outfit in WWII) being resupplied by helicopter. They basically used this mountain to blast the living hell out of the Ho Chi Minh trail. Rumor has it that the rockpile makes really good bed rock for road construction and that it will be soon quarried to help build roads.
From the rockpile it is a short trip north on what used to be the Ho Chi Minh trail (now a major highway) to the 17th parallel. This is the line of demarcation established at the Geneva conference in 1954 mostly along the Ben Hai river. The accords established that there would be an election in both North and South Vietnam for an overall government. But both the SVN government and the US government knew Ho would win, so the election was not held, leading to the Vietnam war.
Just south of the Ben Hai river is a beautiful dedication to the separation of families by the political boundary. This is a woman and child waiting the return of her husband.
The bridge over the Ben Hai River. This bridge got bombed with your tax dollars every day. Every night the Vietnamese rebuilt it to bring supplies across and onto the HCM trail.
My wife striding the infamous 17th parallel.
On the north sde of the river is a nice little museum which depicts the courageous acts of the people of Vietnam while fighting the imperialist Americans. This is a bike used on the HCM trail. They were made by the thousands in Hanoi. Notice the cool star on the chain guard. While the USA paid Ford and GM millions for trucks and jeeps, the Vietnamese won with low tech little hand made bicycles.
You cannot escape the propaganda in any museum dedicated to the struggle of the freedom fighters against the Yankee imperialists. This is to remind us of the senseless carpet bombing that took place for years. The next shot shows just how futile most of it was, resulting in holes in rice paddies. Just think of the schools we could have built with that money.
Lets see, if each bomb cost....
This is me taking my seat at the conference table telling all those idiots just what is up.
Enough about the war for now. I want to show you some of Hue’s beauty.
The Perfume River at night from our hotel room.
A lotus flower
Mary Ann in front of a pond of Lotus flowers
Kids at a wedding.
Girls at a wedding reception
We went out to dinner at a restaurant with authentic Vietnamese music played for authentic tourists.
This is the rhythm section.
This is the lead.
This is a one string instrument, I cannot remember the name. In the old days, a woman was not allowed to hear it played because she would fall in love with the musician. It IS a nice sound, but that sort of redefines the groupie doesn't it?
And this is the percussion section. A woman playing tea cups.
But the food as usual in Vietnam was the best.
Spring rolls served on a pineapple crafted into a hen. The pineapple was carved out with candles inside to keep the spring rolls warm.
Hue, like all cities in Vietnam has a bustling trade in knock-off merchandise. I found a new model Rolex watch and bargained to US$8 for it. Yeah $8. It looks great, actually looks real and it keeps perfect time. At least it does now. When I was looking at it the vendor set it to the correct time. When I got back to the hotel, it had not moved. I walked back, and said “no workee dude”. He looked at me and said “Tha becuz you no buy Baturee”. Live and learn.
Hue is not anywhere near as hectic as Hanoi. Mary Ann actually said she could live there.
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Next, Danang and then Hoi An.
Tags: ben Hai river, DMZ, Ho Chi Minh trail, Hue, Lotus flower, Rockpile, UAE, Vietnam