An Imperial Sojourn

They say it always rains in Hue…

It was the end of the rainy season in Quang Nam, and a weekend break was needed after seemingly months of cold, damp weather. We were suffering from cabin fever and wondering how on earth it can feel like 10 degrees celsius when it was actually 20? Coming from the UK, I am used to endless winters and dark, damp days but how can it feel like England in winter when I am so close to the equator? Answers on a postcard please…

We jumped on the train to Hue and began to trundle northward. The scenery was breathtaking. The single train track hugs the coastline along a shelf carved out of the mountain, which rises up to our left and spills down into the sea to our right.

Deep shaded ravines and sunny headlands of jungle meet the glistening blue east sea. Way down below, if you press your nose against the window, you can see coves with pearly white sand that have never known human footprint. So romantic.

We pass little hill stations where local trains take villagers and goods to the market. Some girls come aboard with dried squid for sale. It’s a favorite snack with cold beer. Men inspect the wares and spirited bargaining begins. When the guard comes down the train, the girls hide their squid and feign sleep until he passes by.

At last we arrive in Hue and step out into the main street. Instantly, there is a feeling of elegance, education and the kind of confidence that envelopes you in the streets of ancient cities. I like it very much. We walk the full length of the town to our hotel and view the haunting fortifications of the citadel on the other side of the mysterious Perfume River. It wasn’t raining.

We hired bicycles and toured the inside of the perimeter wall of the citadel. This was one of the most delightful days I have ever spent in Vietnam. These walls enclose a small town where all aspects of life take place. The fortifications are so thick that people build their homes on top and plant vegetable gardens too. Each dwelling has a brightly painted shrine outside (or three, or four, or five) and all the gateways have been newly painted for Tet. Showy gateways are de rigeur in this town but many of them, though fit for a mansion, adorn simple one room old houses!

Everyone says “hello” as we cycle by. We stop to let a couple of promenading cows pass. I find an excellent example of craft mosaic adorning the gates of a temple along the way. The broken porcelain and pottery is interspersed with different colors of glass that catch the sun. I stop to take too many photos and ask some lunching women about its history. It’s only five years old I’m told. I am astonished that this craft is alive and flourishing.

For the rest of our trip it rained. It rained and then rained some more. The light was subdued but the colors of paint on the old citadel gateways, the red lacquer and gold leaf of the restored halls and temples of the purple city were still electrifying and evocative of a bygone age of color and glory.

Whatever the weather, the history of Hue seems to seep out of the stones and the woodwork to linger in the mists of the Perfume River. As an artist, I found it to be a powerful and moving experience.

A professional artist and author of A Week in Hoi An, Bridget March specializes in urban landscapes and aims to reveal the hidden treasures of city life and small town cultures through her illustrations. Bridget is currently offering art classes and sketching tours in Hoi An until the summer. For more of Bridget’s work including news of her upcoming book visit brushwithasia.blogspot.com.

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

How to Create a Vietnamese Style Wall with a Wallpaper

With its dynamic range of colors, styles, and motifs, Asian culture has long profoundly impacted interior design. The influence of Far Eastern culture is evident in the appearance of all things Japanese and Chinese, from cherry blossoms to pagodas to koi fish. Even so, one part of Asia has left little impression on Western designers:

Read More »

Is 3D Pen Good for Children?

Children are curious by nature. Being as well really creative and imaginative, they would like to explore the globe. Build up stuff. Playing with colorful things can open their visions. 3d pen is, as precisely represented, a game-changer. It appears like every day pens with just a couple of changes. How does it benefit the

Read More »

5 Benefits Of Hiring Experts For Car Ceramic Coating

Sydney is one of the most highly populated places in Australia. Around 38 per cent of the people here own a car. If you’re like other people, you take pride in your vehicle. You wash and wax it often and keep it looking as good as possible. But even with all of your efforts, sometimes

Read More »

6 Unique Uses For Your Pillow Cover

How you use your pillow cover can be just as important as the actual pillow itself when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Whether you’re trying to eliminate bedbugs, adjust the temperature in your room, or just want to spruce up your bedroom, there are plenty of options for making your pillow cover

Read More »

What is a magnetic screen door?

Are you tired of slamming screen doors closed at night and having to hold it open during hot summer days? If so, your search for an easy solution has come to an end! A magnetic screen door can be a fun and convenient way to enjoy fresh air without having to leave your doors open,

Read More »