Aug 162013

Leaving Hanoi I shared a soft sleeper air conditioned cabin with a German couple.  I was in one of the lower births and they were up top.  The train made several stops early in the night and at one point a young Vietnamese couple and a baby joined our cabin.  At some point they got off and a single Nietnamese woman with alot of syuff took the other lower birth for the evening.  My big anxiety was how was I going to get through the night without using the WC.  Well the answer is I did.  At least until 6am.  The train was supposed to arrive in Hue around 8 and I debated whether I could wait.  As it turned out I could not wait and I will report that without going into too many details I was able to have an am coffee.  It turned out that it was a very good thing that I braved the facilities because the train did not arrive in Hue until 11 AM!  So much for the schedule.

It was with great relief that I saw a sign with my name on it being held by a young man who greeted me with excellent english.  He introduced himself as Nghi and told me that we would be meeting our driver and he would be my guide during my time in Hue.  During the brief car ride to the hotel Nghi made sure my room was ready.  The town was quite different than Hanoi.  It was smaller but in some ways grander.  The traffic was less and DEFINITELY less chaotic.  Significantly less horn honking.  If I was going to be around longer I might even consider renting a push bike.  We agreed that I would shower and change and have lunch before we began the touring.

After lunch we went to the Citadel and the Imperial City as well as several pagoda.  I took lots of pictures and found out about the lives of the emperor’s lives including the mandarins, wives, concubines and eunichs.  This actually lasted through 1945 when the last emperor was replaced in leadership buy Ho Chi Minh.

I had already been alerted to the fact that there would be differences in the north and south.  Hue is considered central and I was able to have what I think was a pretty frank discussion with Nghi about the cultural and political differences.  He explained that his parents were both born in Hue and his grandfather was an officer in the South Vietnamese army during the Viet Nam war.  Yes, I called it the Viet Nam war.  Nghi believed that is the correct name and that only North Vietnamese call it the American War.  He sees the north as being reluctantly open to change and not as comfortable with the more western ways of the south.  Hue was the location of a 25 day battle between the north and south that ended with both sides claiming victory.  The Vietnamese people are very resilliant.  It reminds me of the children’s book- The Little Engine that Could.  It is very small but if you look at the history they have managed to come together and are growing and moving forward despite many efforts of bigger and more powerful countries to control them.  It is hard for me not to admire the people and their resilliance.



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