Hue was not what I expected. It was more built up for a start. In addition to that though there was a difference that I can not readily identify. Even though I like to think of us as traveling I know that the truth of it is that we are tourists. We all are. I don’t often think of it in that way though, and there are not many times I feel like I am a ‘tourist’ on and ‘excursion’. Hue however was one of those occasions. The occasion was nice enough. We went for a cruse along the Perfume River. It was, as these things are meant to be, both interesting and informative.
You could not help but notice that there were not many people around and not a lot of money was changing hands. Later, in another town one of the locals said that they were having a hard time of it. Takings were down over 30% since the financial crash of 2011. They said that those that has savings used them to keep going whilst those who did not went out of business. They said that for most people the savings had now gone and many people were having to sell up and salvage what they could. I don’t think that was the hart of the matter though, it seemed to me as if the soul had gone out of the city.
Hue gets rave reviews in the books. The cultural and historic centre of Vietnam; tradition of intellectual thought; royal palaces, and so on.
In retrospect I think my perceptions of Hue were coloured by the visit to the Forbidden City earlier in the day. The Forbidden City was impressive, some of the statues were absolutely stunning and the attention to detail that had gone into the architecture was staggering. The City is now a World Heritage site and is in the process of being restored. I fear that the restoration will be limited. In 1968 there were 160 buildings. Only 10 major sites now remain.
I cant describe the feel of the part of the city that stands behind the flag-tower. The only time I have experienced anything like that was at the Douaumont Ossuary in Verdun where for 300 days in 1916 the German army and the French Army bled each other to death.