Hue is much more relaxed than and less crowded than Hanoi. Although Hanoi is the current capitol of Vietnam, Hue is the original capitol. Here remains the old royal palace and emperors' tombs.
Unfortunately, when we landed we were off and running w/ the tour. Our first stop was to rent bikes and ride them along the Perfume River to the Imperial Palace to see a miniature version of what looked the Forbidden City we saw in China. I was excited to ride a bike; however, I assumed we'd be riding along the river, like on a path. Yeah, no. Instead, we road along the busy streets of Hue, dodging bikes, cars, buses and lots of motor bikes. It was pandemonium out there. I thought riding thru boathouse row on a weekend was bad enough, but at least there people somewhat respond to directional cues. One person in our group lost her balance and fell on the bridge. I think the problem was people were so cautious that they went too slow and made it hard to ride. I was happy to break away and ride a little faster.
The Imperial Palace was nice, but not nearly as beautiful (or restored) as Beijing. I think had I not been to China I would have been more impressed with the buildings. However the grounds were still beautiful and more green b/c of the cloudy skies. We then rode our bikes back to the hotel. My lungs are feeling raw(like they were in Xian) from all the diesel fumes and other stuff they are burning.
*** I interrupt this blog post to rant for a moment *** When I went to China I got a lot of looks b/c of my blondish hair and was a bit of a rock star on the Great Wall w/ Asian men wanting photographs w/ me. Now, fast forward to this trip and people keep wanting to poke me. Ok, not just poke me, but poke my belly. I know I'm overweight and am self conscious about it. The first time it happened I was mortified. How could they be blatantly laughing at me. Then there were people giggling at me or pointing at me while riding by on the mopeds. Today, as we were getting the bikes, the guy smiled at me rubbed his belly and then pointed. I think they think of it as a Buddha belly from the laughing Buddha. Yeah, I'm not laughing. No one wants to be poked. NOT COOL! *** Rant is over ***
After lunch we boarded a boat for a scenic cruise along the Perfume River and to stop off and see the Ming Tomb and the Heavenly Lady Pagoda. The ride was interesting b/c the boat is actually home to 2 families. The woman on the boat continually tried to sell us one thing after another, giving us a fashion show of sorts to show off the clothes. The Heavenly Lady Pagoda was very peaceful and had some beautiful views.
Along our route there were tons of boats carrying gravel. Then there were boats that looked like they were dredging the river, maybe to extract the gravel? It was a long ride and at some point we began to smell pot. Not sure who it was, but someone on the boat had lit up. You can never mistake that smell. :)
The Ming Tomb was very tranquil. Ming was the king that had the most wives and most children. One of the kings had 103 wives, but no children. He ended up adopting his uncle's children so he could have heirs. We passed a few smaller tombs along the river, but did not stop to see them. You could see them from the river hidden in the trees. From the guide books, it looked like a short trip up the river, but it was a good hour before we got to the Heavenly Pagoda and then another hour to the tomb.
Can you say long day? It's hard to believe it's only 4:30pm as I write this. I'm looking forward to heading back to the hotel and shower and then crash!