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.

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 😉

Arriving in Hanoi

After two weeks in Laos we went to Vietnam. We had a plane with a propellor and I was a bit sceptical about it but it turned out to be allright after all.

In many countries you need to show that you are in possession of a return ticket, which in some cases like ours is a bit difficult because we don’t know the precise day we might leave the country. So before we begon our trip, Araldo beagled, I mean googled the Internet in search for an answer. And making a fake ticket was the best we could do (if you ever try that, don’t forget not to use the same flight company name as you are using for the inward flight, otherwise they will find out the fraud).

Once we arrived at the airport of Hanoi, we had to pass the visa staff, like usual. Araldo got our visas booked on the Internet, but we didn’t print the paper because it said it would be okay, but it was not! The officer said: “oh, this is not good, you have to print it!”, (but where can you find a bloody printer on a airport!? You might ask…). Well the answer to all problems is MONEY!
He asked us for 20 U.S dollars, slip it discretely in his pocket, took our passports and gave them to his college and told us to wait. There was a waiting room full of people waiting for their visas, I was losing hope and saw myself waiting for hours. After 10 minutes, our guy said :”psst,  psssst, come over here… here are your passport”. Best 20$ ever spent, we just passed in front of everyone 🙂

The driver of our hotel was waiting for us and we had our first exciting drive in Vietnam.

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We lodged at the Hanoi Guesthouse Hotel, a brand new place with very helpful and nice staff. The hotel is situated in a small street in the old french quarter.
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The street where our hotel is.
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Another part of that street leading to a busier one.

We visited the Temple of the Jade Mountain, the Ngoc son. It is situated on a small island on the Hoan Kiem Lake and connected to the shore with a red bridge. The temple is dedicated to Confucian and Taoist philosophers and the national hero General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols back in the XIII century.

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We forgot to make a picture of the building so we borrowed one from Lonely Planet.
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Beautiful roots and Araldo the beautiful boy.
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Non spoiled picture of the tree.
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You can make an offer and pray. You also see Chinese signs because of the Chinese influence on Vietnam.

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This is the legendary turtle with the sword of Le Loi. To read more about it, please visit the link below.

http://www.travelingthruhistory.com/turtle-tower/

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The Turtle Tower in the Hoan Kiem Lake.
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Walking through the streets to see the cathedral.
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And there it is. Unfortunately we couldn't go inside.
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We walked back to our hotel. And you can see how crazy it is.
Question: which motorcycle has priority? The ones coming from the left or right? Or the other ones?
* Answer will be at the bottom of this post.
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"Hello, Banana?" (It is not a private joke but it's what you hear all the time in the whole country).
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Can you spot the red/green lights to cross over?
There aren't any 🙂 you just cross slowly, very slowly. Never run and if you find a red or green light be very careful to cross over.
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You can see many motorcycle or bicycles with shops on it, from clothes to flowers.

* Answer to the question: priority? Who cares. Just make it alive.

Mount Phousi

Already our last day in Laos before flying to Hanoi (instead of taking the bus as we initially had planned. It should be obvious why). Today on the program: a visit to the palace and to watch the sunset from nearby Mount Phousi.

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Temple on the palace grounds.
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The front of the palace.
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Across the street from the palace there is a small mountain. To get there you have to go up the stairs, about 400 steps.
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An hour before sunset we headed to the entrance.
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Again, there was a temple.
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View halfway. You can see the bridge we crossed the night before to go to the pizza place.
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The way up was quite interesting, as it was littered with a lot of Buddha statues all covered in gold paint. This one is Tuesday Buddha.
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Saturday Buddha.

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Modern monks.
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View from the top of mount Phousi.
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The top was kind of a bad joke. It was so crowded with tourists, you had to push yourself through them to get a nice shot of the sunset.
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Say hello to the crowd.
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Go away, damn tourists!
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After pushing some of them over the edge I ended up with a satisfactory sunset picture 😉
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Even going down was quite tireing in the Laos heat.
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Down again. The night market had already started. On the other side the palace temple.

Random walk in Luang Prabang

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Starting our random walk through the little centre.
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Dried orange peels, so delicious!
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Spaghetti anyone?
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Worn down by the blistering heat we sat down for a refreshment at the head of the peninsula where the two rivers meet.
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Friendly gecko's everywhere.
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Trying to get a photo from the canoe builders unnoticed.

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Besides the main temple from an earlier post, there where also plenty smaller ones.

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Sitting down along the Mekong rivier with a Beerlao (supposed to be the nicest beer from South East Asia and we have to agree) to watch the sunset.

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We were really craving a nice pizza, so we headed to the pizza place that got raving reviews on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately it was a little out of the way, like, one hour walking through shabby back streets and as bonus a large bridge with loose planks here and there (in the pitch black / being blinded by oncoming traffic). In the end we made it, but we were both stressed out. Luckily the pizzas were indeed very good. On our way back we opted for the much shorter route. This however, included a canoe ride across the river in the dark.

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Hard to see, but you can see a canoe made from a hollow three. After five minutes waiting at the canoe some guys noticed us.
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Sanne not so confident.
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We made it to the other side, payed 10000 dong to the guys and were directly back in the tourist area. We strolled back to our guesthouse over the night market, haggling for some souvenirs here and there.

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