On our last day in Hue, we travelled across the river to the Forbidden Purple City. This citadel, used up until the middle of this century, was the residence of the Emperor and his clan – including his 104 wives, his concubines and his eunuchs (now, explain that one to an 8-year old). It was very reminiscent of the Forbidden City in Beijing, with a Tiannamen-style square in front, and a massive gateway to enter through. But once inside, we saw the big difference. The entire palace had been destroyed (apparently by the French, during the battle for independence in the 40’s). Although some of it has now been rebuilt and restored, much of the land inside the walls was just grass and vegetation, with the foundations of buildings dotted around. It’s not the same – seeing a sign that say ‘This is where the hall of the concubines was’ doesn’t compare to seeing a real building. They had rebuilt the Emperor’s Mother’s house, and put inside a display of historical photographs of the royal court in action – hundreds of flunkies in their robes, bowing to the Emperor on his throne. Like an old Hollywood movie, but for real, and from just 60 years ago. (I wonder, will we look at pictures of Trooping the Colour with similar awe in another century?)
Later, once the heat of the day had risen to intolerable levels, we showered (in this heat, its possible to have 3 showers a day, and still feel grimy?) and changed, and went to the local 4-star hotel for a slap-up buffet lunch. There were at least 4 justifications for this –
1) where else can you get a gourmet lunch for $3?
2) we are going on the overnight train later, and as the food is so bad, we thought we should fill up first
3) the restaurant was the only one we could find that was air-conditioned
and 4) because we’re worth it!
I’ve spent my travelling life laughing at people who take pictures of buffets on holiday (or even worse, video film of them), so I felt guilty taking a picture. But it is sufficiently different from everything in Asia, it seemed worthy of record!
Later, it was onto the train, into our 4-berth compartment, for the overnight trip to Hanoi. This trip is about 700 kilometres, and cost us $25 each.