Saturday, 30 April 2011

My Son and The Imperial City

Let's clear things up before I begin. I don't have a son, or any children for that matter. 'My Son' is a collection of Cham ruins outside Hoi An. Everyone says they're Vietnam's Angkor Wat, just a severely scaled down version.

Today's blog post will be incorporating two cities as I've been lazy about updating my blog these past few days. We'll start with Hoi An and My Son, taking us back to Wednesday.

Our trip to My Son had been planned the previous day. Gad and I would wake up at 4AM and pack our day packs, shower and get ready then head over to where Xan and Joe were staying. We'd meet them at 4:45, jump on the backs of their bikes and follow the tour bus to My Son. This would work out perfectly and we'd only end up paying the entrance fee for My Son. Brilliant!
Needless to say, our plan didn't work out. We woke up at 4 and found an SMS from Xan and Joe saying there was a problem with the bikes and we'd now be leaving at 7. We didn't complain, we were glad to get the extra couple of hours of sleep.

At 7 we jumped on the bikes and headed off. My Son was easy enough to find and it took us only an hour to get there. My Son was incredible. It is so difficult to describe. The sheer grandness of all the structures is mind-boggling and one can only imagine it's grandeur a millennium ago. The ruins hint at a time long ago and of the people who inhabited this incredible place. I am truly at a loss for words to describe it, the lsat paragraph has taken me fifteen minutes to write. Have a look at some pictures of My Son, they'll help me explain it to you.
The first view of My Son

An idea of the scale

Sight A, the main part of the ancient city
One of the many buildings in site A 

The day after our visit to My Son we headed to the ancient capital of Vietnam, Hue. It is in Hue that Ho Chi Minh's body is kept on display for 9 months of the year. Also in Hue is the Imperial City which was the home of the Emperors of the Nguyen - which reined from 1802 to1945. Our first day in Hue was spent getting our bearings and finding good places to eat and drink. Once our scouting was done we planned for the next day. We thought the best PoA was to head to the Citadel and walk around for the day, but only after we'd bought our tickets to Hanoi for the 1st. And so yesterday began with that course of action in mind. It took us more than two hours to sort the tickets out. This is because Gad has an open bus ticket and had payed for it in Saigon. Open bus tickets are supposed to be convenient. In each city you merely notify your guest house the day before you leave and they'll contact a bus to pick you up the next day. It's easy for me as I just book each leg separately, but Gad got sent to 4 different places to book the ticket and at the last place was told he had to pay an extra $9 to book the bus. The whole idea behind an open bus ticket is that you pay up front and you don't have to worry about availability of buses. In the end he managed to get his ticket, but not without serious hassle. We discovered that the extra charge was due to the Hue Festival which is taking place this weekend and the coming week.

A morning worth of exploring Hue had been wasted but we headed over to the Citadel anyway so as not to waste an entire day. In the Citadel we saw the Festival being set up and headed to the Imperial City. The Imperial City is probably one of Vietnam's biggest surprises. It is an enormous walled city in the middle of the Citadel and, despite having the shit bombed out of it during the war, still maintains it's incredible image.

A giant bronze urn in the corner of a courtyard
We spent the best part of 3 hours walking around this massive city, home to the Emperors, and taking in all the sights it has to offer. No photos were allowed in the emperors' main chamber which is a huge disappointment as it was the most spectacular room in the entire compound. A gold-plated throne stood in the middle of the room and poems were written on the walls, ceiling and pillars. There was a lot more that we could take photos of and all of it proved to be incredibly good. At My Son we had to imagine the grandeur many hundreds of years ago, at the Imperial City the grandeur takes no imagining. It jumps out at you from every corner of the place and shocks you to think that it was still in its prime only 65 years ago.

We walked around the Imperial City, lost in its charm and intricacy. We walked through chambers reserved for emperors and temples reserved for the ashes of emperors of old. We sat on the top of the main gate an looked out over the people of the city, as emperors did in years gone by. We were enthralled by the wonder of the place.
The view from the rear of the Forbidden Purple City compound
After an incredible day out we felt the need to wind down with some cheap beer with the locals. Near our guest house we found a place, grabbed a beer and asked a passing tourist to capture the moment.
A chilled lager with which to chill
The empire was built with millions of dong

1 comment:

  1. Another superb bit of travelogue!I felt as though I was looking over your shoulder. I was interested to read about the impact of war damage? Is there much evidence of that elsewhere? I am intrigued about the local take on the war and what is happening in Vietnam in the more recent post-war years, particularly what the youth are thinking and doing? Perhaps a take on this from Hanoi? Travel well...