We nearly missed our train over these crispy pancakes. If we had, it would almost have been worth it. They are a Hanoi specialty and they are very very tasty.
But as it turned out, we ate our pancake dinner and also got to the station in time to catch the overnight express to Hue. I’d booked berths in a 4-bed compartment which we shared with a young couple and their toddler daughter heading home to a village outside of Hue.
At 8 am we arrived at Hue well rested and ready to see the sights. We first sought out the helpful Mr. Pho who runs a convenience store and cafe across the road from the station. He gave us a map and told us how to get to the Imperial City. We bought breakfast there, too: a scrambled egg banh mi for me, and pho (a house specialty) for Andreas. Also some teeny tiny cups of tea.
Leaving our luggage in the care of Mr. Pho, we walked in the shade along the Perfume River. We passed through a large park full of interesting stuff.
The main thing we wanted to see in Hue was the Imperial City. Hue was the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen dynasty, 1802-1945. The walled city where the emperors lived is a UNESCO world heritage site now.
Sadly the Imperial City was very badly damaged in 20th century wars, first in a 1947 battle between the French (who ruled Vietnam at that time) and local Vietnamese independence fighters, and then later by Americans. Before the Battle of Hue in 1968 there were 160 buildings in the site, afterwards only ten were left standing. In recent years the Vietnamese government has done a remarkable job of preserving and restoring the remaining buildings, and carefully reconstructing some of those that were destroyed. The efforts are ongoing – we saw one large structure near completion, and in an empty field we viewed plans for reconstruction of the main palace hall.
The site is very large. We spent several hours wandering through the gardens, temples, gates, library, theatre, clinic, treasury and residences, marveling at the beautiful details inside and out. I am just going to make one giant slide show here.