We landed in Da Nang on time and at a remote cargo loading dock. Our excursions from here were mostly all-day events touring the city of Hue, the Imperial City of the Nguyen Emperors. The city is about an hour and a quarter drive along Highway One. Along the way we passed by the countryside and saw the rice paddies and animals such as water buffalo that make up the economic system of the farmers here.
Our first stop was The Citadel, Vietnam’s version of China’s Forbidden City. As with China’s this was a sprawling complex of buildings where the Emperor lived and staff worked. Sections, until recently, could not be entered by “normal” people. The whole site is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and is being restored as a tourist destination. As with China, dragons abounded as part of the decorations and as a representation of the animalistic worship in ancient times.
The next stop was the mandatory shopping spot for jewelry. While there I saw one passenger being subjected to the currency exchange scam we had been warned about. He and his open wallet were surrounded by women wanting to “break” larger bills to the smaller ones he was carrying. This is a classic scam that wipes you out as the larger bills are almost always fake. (One never tries to break that up as the women will turn on you instead with sometimes violent results; they will leave the victim when they have what they want or he somehow stops their actions.)
At a local hotel we had an expansive lunch buffet of local food which was very good. They toned it down for us spice-wise.
We then proceeded to the Thien Mu Pagoda which is a rather famous temple and Buddhist monastery. Getting up to it was a chore. While there were not too many steps they were all about 18 inches high and so difficult to manage.
From there we walked across the street to a wharf where we boarded “dragon boats” for a short cruise on the Perfume River; so named due to the flower smells along it in the Spring. The ride was interesting but no flower smells.
Our bus met us at the end of the river ride and we then headed back to the ship with one stop along the way: the Tu Duc Royal Tomb. This complex built between 1864 and 1883 is nestled in a pine forest along the Perfume River. It served as a retreat and as the tomb of the longest-reigning emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. A beautiful place. Nobody really knows exactly where the emperor is buried in the complex as those who buried him were entombed with him when the area he was buried in was sealed off.
Our return to the ship was quiet and along the same route we came to Hue. Everyone was quite tired due to the walking in the heat and, more importantly, the high humidity. We enjoyed the air conditioning in the bus.