Tomb tour

Although we do not like to go on organised tours very much – we rather go by ourself, in our own pace and see what we want to see, instead of taken to various tourist traps and being forced to visit souvenir shop – the various sights around Hue are not within walking distance from the town and quite far spread out. So, for once, we opted to go on a tour to see all the tombs in one go.

The Minh Mang tomb was planned by emperor Minh Mang between 1820 and 1840. However it was built by its succecor. At the entrance are three bridges. The middle bridge is reserved for the emperor himself (only used once) so nobody will ever be allowed to use it anymore.

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The second tomb we visited, the tomb of Khải Định is located in Chau Chu mountain. The emperor started to built it from 1920, five years before he actually died. He raised the tax by a mere 30% to finance to construction. It took another six year after his death to finish it. The tomb is a blend of Western and Eastern architecture, very different from all the temples we visited until now.

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The main entrance.

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Beautiful mosaic.

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Right before lunch we where treated by a martial arts show. These guys where very good, including the cute little kid that took part in the show.

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Another quick stop at the insense / conical hat shop to see the fabrication. Our guide explains.

The tomb of Tu Duc was the final tomb we visited. The emperor built it in 1864 to 1867 and use it as a retreat for a long time until he died in 1883. The emperor was actually buried somewhere else in Hue, but the location remains unknown, as the 200 man who carried out the burial where beheaded to keep it a secret.

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After this, the rest of our group was split of to go to the citadel. Sanne and me went with a small boat over the perfume river to a historic house in Hue, where once the daughter of emperor Dong Khanh lived. The owner of the house took us around the house, told us proudly about his ancestor, the princess, and showed us the garden with all kinds of exotic plants. Meanwhile his wife made some tea for us.

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It appeared the family actually lived on this tiny boat.
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Helping out by buying some souvenirs.
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Interior of the garden house.
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Photograph of the princess.
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Buddist altar in the middle of the house.

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Mister An walking us out.

Final stop: the Thien Mu pagode.

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One of the guards at the entrance.
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The pagode itself. Frankly it was a little underwhelming after the citadel and the beautiful tombs.
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There was, however, one interesting relic. In 1963 an important Buddist drove with this particular car in Saigon and burnt himself to death at an intersection while in lotus position. He did it as a protest against the discrimination of Buddists by the government and for religious freedom.
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Back to the city.
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We had dinner in an interesting place. You could draw on the tables and walls with wasco. We both made a drawing to put on the wall.
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Hello Banana?

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Citadel (Purple forbidden city in Hue)

On the first day in Hue we went to the Citadel. A huge complex, with a wall of 10 kilometer and original 160 buildings with palaces and temples of former emperor Gia Long built from 1804. We didn’t go with a tour and at the sight itself wasn’t any explanation whatsoever, so we just wandered through the maze for hours to be amazed by many beautiful buildings and ruins.

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The tuctuc driver was temporarily closed for business. We took a (long and sweaty) walk instead to the citadel.
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A large fort before the entrance, remains from the war.
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The front entrance of the city.

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The ponds in front where full of carps.
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Feeding these obese beasts is always good cheap entertainment.
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Does this thing still work?

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The first beautiful restored temple we found. One of many.
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The details of mozaic from pottery are quite nice.

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Wandering through the garden.
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And posing like a Japanese with a ridiculous looking hat.
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Next to the temple was a pond and a garden.
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This piece of the wall was still original. Most of the structures, however, had been destroyed in the Vietnam war.

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Sanne discovered this pond also had some carps that needed feeding.
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Going from the north east part of the citadel to the exit we walked through a field with almost completely destroyed buildings. Even the ruins where barely visable.
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Only a reconstructed gazebo was in this area.
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And bushes in the form of the holy animals.
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At his point we though we saw most of the citadel and only some ruines not really worth seeing remained. We where totally wrong. Going through a field of ruines with only some broken wall we discovered much more nice things and in the end we just kept looking around until it was nearly sunset and where kicked out.

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Taking a break with a Mars and a Coke.
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In an obscure corner we found this bunker left over from the war.

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The west gate of the citadel.

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And yet another temple.
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An interesting mosaic wall.
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And and even more interesting gutter.

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We ate in a restaurant where they serve typical street food. The ambiance was so so (cheap plastic chairs, TL-light and dirty floors full of chicken bones) but the food was very tasty.

Leaving Hanoi

Time to leave Hanoi. Having the hell ride from Laos fresh in our memory, we thought it might be a god idea to try to go by train this time. Our hotel arranged the tickets and at the end of the day, shortly after sunset, we where put into a taxi with our heavy bags. A guy from the hotel drove along with his motorcycle and awaited us at the station. He payed the taxi driver and caried most of our stuff all the way to the train entrance. What a service! Without him we would probably be lost somewhere in an Hanoi gettho.

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A few last snapshots from our hotel room.
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Taxi rides are in itself an attraction.

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Our beds in the night train to Hoi An for the next 13 hours. They were above expectation and even kind of clean. We couldn't say the same for the toilet. Of course Sanne managed to scratch her hand open exactly at that awful filthy toilet door, so we were a bit worried about her survival chances.
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Sanne claiming her cosy corner of the room.
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As it happened, we had to share our four bed cabin with a couple from Rotterdam. We were a bit luckier then those guys, being shorties instead of nearly two meter.

Trấn Quốc Pagode

On our last day in Hanoi we took a bus to the Trấn Quốc pagode, originally created in the sixth century and part of the oldest Buddhist temple of Hanoi. Having not really a clue what we were doing we took a bus with a number that was going from the old quarters, where our hotel was, to the pagode. After a while we noticed we were not going in the right direction at all. Apparently we took the bus in the wrong direction and were dropped clueless at the end terminal of bus number 24. With some sign language and pointing at google maps to our destination we were ordered into the next bus, about to leave in 20 minutes or so. Being a communist country it was somewhat dissapointing that we had to buy new tickets. Lucky for us they are only 7000 dong, something like 0,35 euro.

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Our bus journey through the city was quite interesting in the end. We drove through very bad neighbourhoods and saw all kinds of funny things happening on the streets around us. Totally worth the time and money. Window cleanliness could be improved on.
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The luxurious bus interior. The guy in the middle of the bus sells the tickets.
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From the bus stop we had to walk next to the lake. Quite good visibility for Hanoi standards.
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Approach to the pagode alongside the lake.
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No wear the shorts. Please, all the people!

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I'm smaller than the Bonsai!
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We walked back through a large park, but it was not very interesting except for some guys playing foot badminton.

Tuan and Ling

Once I met through a friend in Paris, a Vietnamese girl by the name of Mai Ahn. I told her that Araldo and I were going to stay a month in Vietnam, so she gave me some advice and asked me if we wanted to meet some friends of her. So I got in touch with Tuan and we decided to have diner all together.

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Tuan knew a nice place where we could eat a traditional dish called Pho.
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We went for a drink afterwards.
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Inside the bar there was a karaoke with old ladies singing real bad, Tuan hears were bleeding haha.
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We walked back home and had a ice cream near the lake.

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Back in street of our hotel 🙂

Ha Long Bay

One of the highlights of Vietnam was the boat trip to Ha Long Bay. We had booked a quite luxurious cruise with two nights. Treat Ya Self!

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We left Hanoi quite early in the morning. Too early for some.
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In the harbour we were still surrounded by lots of other boats / wrecks.
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After leaving the harbour, the view of Ha Long Bay is magnificent with thousands of tiny limestone islands like these dotting the bay.
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View from the top of our ship
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And some outside views taken from a smaller boat.

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The inside was not bad either.
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Anchored for the night.
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We had the option to do a little canoeing to this cave or go by the motorboat. We opted, of course, for the lazy solution.

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A bunch of other lazy people, from Canada.

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Back at the main ship for a little relaxing at the top deck.

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The next day we visited a floating fishing village.

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There were actually people living here, including kids. They even had a little school for these toddlers.
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We were taken around the village in a bunch of row boats.

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The guy who did all the work.

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Next we went for a lunch on a beach. The meals were excessive every single time. For example this meal was 9 courses of many deliciousness. Unfortunately we forgot to make pictures of any of the food. But eating was for sure one of the mayor activities. During the lunch one of the waiters dropped a plate full of sweet potatoes over Sanne and the guy next to her. Nobody on the other table got potatoes. The waiter appologized about 30 times (not exaggerated).

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Our main guide (one of a crew of 20 people or so, for 14 guests) wading through the water to our landing boat.
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First we went to see a cave on the same island. The view from the top.
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And inside.

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After lunch some canoeing to burn of some of the thousands of calories added.

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Cliche photograph alert!

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For the final dinner the crew made big artworks of melon and other edible stuff. One of the guests managed to drop the whole thing on the ground, resulting in a dove with the wings fallen of.
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Beautiful sunsets, we never get enough of them.

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Anchored in a bay with some other ships.
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After leaving our cruise ship, we were brought back to Hanoi and visited a water puppet show on our way.
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The puppet masters are actually submerged in the water when performing the stories of working on the land and live in the villages.

Temple of Literature

The temple of literature is a temple in Hanoi dedicated to Confusius. It was built in 1070 and hosts the first national university of Vietnam, used to educated noble, royal and the elite. The university remaind open until 1776 [source: Wikipedia].

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The main entrance of the temple grounds.
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The temple is divided in five courtyards. The first two have some ponds with waterlilies in it bushes shaped into the twelve animals of the zodiac.
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There are also some ancient threes.

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This one has been here for a while.
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A gate between the courtyards.
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One of the corridors around the courtyards.
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You can find almost hundred turtles each with a large stone on its back around the 3rd courtyard. The turtle is one of the four holy creatures (the others being the Phoenix, Unicorn and Dragon). The Turtle symbolizes wisdom and longevity. The stones carry the names of the graduates that have passed the royal exam.
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Many graduates doing selfies and stuff. Too late to get their own stone.
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Miniature of two people playing go below a bonsai three.
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In the back of temple at the 5th courtyard the imperial academy can be found with the large drum next to it.
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Altar for Chu Văn An, who was once the rector of the imperial academy. I guess he must have liked cookies very much.
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Someone doesn't want her picture taken. Too bad.
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We went through the park adjacent to the temple for a shortcut without traffic but we found out it has only one entrance/exit. Like all men, Araldo thinks he is right most of the times and told me in a convinced way that there was an exit, I saw none but he didn't believe me of course. And so, we had a go back but it's alright because we saw some cute dogs on the way (and a sausage dog of course). Luv ya drol 😉