We had a whole day tour booked on this day. It would see us visiting a lot of places. The itinerary was as follows:
1. Incense & Conical Hat Making (village)
2. Tu Duc Tomb
3. Khai Dinh Tomb
4. Minh Mang Tomb
6. Thien Mu Pagoda
7. The Dragon Boat On Huong River
Once again we got up around 7am, had a quick shower (to wake ourselves up), followed by a buffet breakfast. Seeing as the weather was sunny again and the temperature was hot, we would need to get the old suntan lotion out. We quickly applied some to our exposed areas before our bus showed up. When we were seated we were driven around various hotels picking up more tourists. Next, the tour guide got on the microphone to explain the days itinerary. Nobody on the bus could hear a word the man was saying, it wasn’t a language barrier issue, it was the fact the microphone he used sounded like that of a dj’s. We did our best to decipher the muffled sentences he was blurting out, but in the end we reverted back to the piece of paper which explained the day ahead.
Our first stop, to our surprise, was to a small village where incense sticks and colonial hats were made. It was very interesting to watch. The lady rolled the little sticks in a grey dough like substance, then rolled the whole thing in a powder which is what we all know the finished product to look like. The group was here for around half an hour, with each party keeping to themselves in their comfort zones. We returned to the bus and were driven to the first tomb on the list. It belonged to an emperor named Tu Duc. The grounds were lovely, if not a little aged, meaning the footpaths were slightly warped. The tour guide told us the history of the place and about the people it was for. The most memorable story of Tu Duc was the amount of wives he had… 104, but fathered no children. The reason for this, Tu Duc had the small pox virus as a child, therefor making him infertile. He was a rather short man standing at only one and a half metres, and back in the day people would have to kneel before him to make themselves inferior to his short stature, else face losing their heads. I’d have been killed ten times over. After our history lesson we were given fifteen minutes to explore the grounds. We took plenty of photos and returned to the bus. Another fact about the tomb, Tu Duc’s body wasn’t at the grounds. When he died he was buried at a random location along with many of his possessions. To avoid any grave robbers claiming the treasures for themselves, everyone who was involved in the burial was beheaded.
Our next stop saw us visiting another tomb, this one belonged to Khai Dinh. This guy was even more impressive than the last. Khai Dinh had 500 wives (I thought I had enough on my plate with just one woman) and fathered 140 children (that’s a lot of child maintenance money). He was seen as a very strong man for that reason alone. We were told he slept with 5 woman a day and was a very well respected emperor by the people because he lead with his heart instead of his head. This particular tomb sustained minimal damage to the grounds from the war. It was quite a lucky escape really, as the only part to be damaged was a brick wall shaped like a tiger. From the sky the grounds look like the emperor’s body and the main front gate was opened only once. This was when his body was first brought in for burial, ever since then it has remained locked. We explored the grounds in a similar fashion to the last one, with a time limit. When we walked as far as we could we reached two locked iron gates atop a steep set of steps. We were told the emperor’s body was buried in the solemn grass hill behind them. They open the gates once a year for the anniversary of his birth. When our time was up it was back to the bus for the group.
The third and final tomb we visited was one we had passed earlier that day. To reach the tomb we had to climb several steep sets of stairs. This one was the only tomb they knew where the body was. The tomb belonged to Minh Mang, he was the most recent of the three to be buried, having only died in 1921 (Sarah thinks). The grounds were beautiful and had a nice view of the surrounding fields and countryside. Like the previous 2 tombs, this place contained statues of stone mandarin. Their roles were to guide the spirits to the afterlife. Each one was clearly carved very carefully to give them such lifelike qualities, and they all stood around five feet tall. When our time was up, it was back to the bus where we were taken to a restaurant for a buffet lunch.
The food wasn’t anything special, it had been out for a while by the looks of it but at least they had the decency to cover it up. As we walked around the table, helping ourselves as we went, a baby cockroach appeared from nowhere and scuttled around the plates. We joined an elderly Australian couple at a table, they entertained us with stories of their experiences in Vietnam and told us things we could look forward to in Cambodia. When dinner was over it was time to visit our next location, the citadel. When we arrived certain groups had been there before of their own accord. So instead, they were given the opportunity to visit a museum. We were given another history lesson and it was quite fascinating. The guide told us of an emperor who was the thirteenth one to reign. He then went on to say the number thirteen kept repeating itself in the emperor’s life. It first showed up on his birthday, which was the thirteenth of a certain month. He had thirteen children. As I mentioned, he was the thirteenth emperor. Last but not least, when he was buried it was at one o’clock in the afternoon (13:00). As we followed our tour guide around the spacious grounds we walked passed a couple elephants and horses. Both of which are sacred animals, however, we later noticed a thin pony attached to a carriage, which when fully loaded would have clearly been too heavy for it.
Our group was informed on each area we visited of the humongous grounds. After a while we were allowed to roam at our own leisure. Certain parts of the citadel were under construction, as much like the tiger at the tomb, the majority of the grounds were blown to pieces during the war. As we meandered around, there were teams of people painting corridors that had been put back together. There was a strong smell of varnish which brought back some nostalgia of the days I’d visit my grandparents. My grampy and I would hang out in his garage as he worked on various projects. Because of the bombing there wasn’t too much to see beyond a certain point. It meant we made it back on time to return to our bus with everyone else. Our next stop seemed a bit pointless, especially as it meant we had to leave the confines of our air conditioned bus. Regardless, five minutes down the road we visited a random building named Phu Mong Garden House. This was a place where people who wanted to be mandarins came to study for three years.
The place was quite picturesque of any small oriental building. Outside, there was a large pond, with lots of trees in the surrounding area. We weren’t there for long before getting back on the bus to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the air con for a good fifteen minutes before we arrived at the foot of the pagoda. We had to climb another set of concrete steps to reach it. We were told an emperor had it built in dedication to his grandmother. At one point it used to have a Buddha made of solid gold sitting atop the 7 tier structure. Sadly, the Buddha was stolen in 1945 for the simple fact it was made of gold. We had a look around, which didn’t take long, as the grounds were pretty small. There was a temple at the end where people could go to pray, and like usual you had to take your shoes off before entering. As we made our way back to the start we passed a couple of cows grazing on the luscious green grass outside.
We had to wait a little while for the rest of the group, which wasn’t so bad as we had some entertainment. It came in the form of a chubby Asian girl, she had squeezed into too small a dress and was having her pictures taken in various poses and locations. Our bus had left by this point because we were getting back via dragon boat. Before climbing aboard the double dragon headed vessel, we were almost knocked over by a really fat foreign woman. She was part of the group and was pushing to get aboard first. To be honest I am surprised the heffer survived the day, after having to climb all those stairs (no wonder she was such a sweaty mess). The only thing I can think is she must have refuelled her energy during the buffet. The man who was with her was a rather skinny elderly gentleman. He was clearly a feeder to the behemoth (is it obvious she annoyed me throughout the day?). By the end of the day we just wanted to get back to the hotel and shower, as the heat left us feeling rather sticky. The boat moved very slowly, probably due to fatty and her large daughter, and after half an hour we wanted off. Eventually we reached the end and that concluded our day trip, we then thanked the tour guide and stepped foot on land.
As we made our way back I ducked into the nearest bathroom, however, unsuspectingly I walked into a spiders web. For the first time ever the thing didn’t break, which lead me to believe it was probably a big spider that created it. Not only that but Sarah believed she had seen a huntsman spider a few days previous in a different toilet. With that, I quickly left and the pair of us went for food at a place called Little Italy. I was in the mood for spag bol and also a pizza. If I was going to find the perfect pizza anywhere surely it would be a place with the word Italy in the title. Sadly it wasn’t that great. Perhaps my problem was always ordering margarita instead of one with toppings (but if Goodfellas can master it surely any restaurant worth it’s weight in gold can too). With the bill sorted we returned to the hotel and ordered a train to Denang for the following morning. We then returned to our room and spent the rest of the evening being lazy Brits in bed, reflecting on our fun day in Hue.