Hue out there in the jungle

Posted on February 5, 2006

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Okay enough bad place name puns. But i am now stationed in Hue, north central Vietnam.

Sorry no bloggage. Must have some sort of blockage. er.
Y’know how it is, too many places, too many thoughts, too many brands of beer left untasted…

But one thought stands head and shoulders over the rest. Outside of big city Vietnam I’ve had way more fun. Hue is basically a large country town, but with immense historical and cultural importance. It was also bombed to shreds in recent years by you know who, but has staged a most remarkable comeback. Someone did tell me to go back to America though. Well two people, but on the one bike i should add. I was about to explain that I’m not American, when I remembered for the third time in two weeks that ‘we’ were there as well. That we were “merely hoodwinked and conscripted patsies to our own gutless leaders, patsies also, but to the yanks”, is hard to explain to the average local.

Moving on, there’s an entire palace and grounds here straight out of the chinese imperial mold. Actually, hang moving on, I feel obligated to add that the damn yank and french brass (who don’t get a capitalisation here) destroyed 80 percent of it (and much of the surrounding area also) with the most intense bombing campaign in history to that time. They dropped vastly more ordinance on this general area than was expending in the two atom bombs combined. What maybe more, but i have to check this, more explosive tonnage was rained down on this country than some measures of WWII apparently. What a pointless pity it all is.

Still, standing amonst what is left of the palace makes you feel you could be in imperial China. That other now socialist republic is only a short distance north.

But bicycling out of Hue major into its surrounding countryside is a delight. I’ve been told this country is best discovered by bicycle, but that truth was best discovered by experience. It was one of the highlights this journey to date. Worth leaving home for alone. Its verdant and picturesque. Rivers, rolling hills and damp flatlands, rice fields, spice plantations, woodlands and cutesy huts and houses. But these hillls also sprout graveyards just as prodigiously. Some of Vietnams national treasures are here, tombs of the Nguyen dynasty I’m told, but a legion of emperor worshippers have also left their remains here. Well, the views are nice.

I’ve long felt that walking or cycling are the best ways to experience the world. Mostly. Having said that, suburban Australia, and parts of the average Asian megalopolis make much more sense by car. Walking is a distinctly strange experience in some of those environments. But here, its zooming past everyone and everything in a bus or taxi that makes your surroundings strange. Motorbikes are a little better. But sealed automobiles provide a ludicrously isolated and compressed perspective. And thats all i’ve had so far in Vietnam. Which is why i felt delirous with freedom and high on reality just lazily cycling through this peaceful and friendly place.
Witnessing the lives of the smiling survivors and descendants of that time, or better yet, having a beer and an attempt at conversation with some representatives makes you feel, well, nice. Like maybe we could all get along better if we shared a brew and an awkward mutually incomprehensible dialogue more often.

And here, this post-war correspondent signs out, because i’m off to see some more tombs. sigh. and have another fresh bia afterwards. sigh.

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