Monday, March 26, 2012

From One Extreme to the Other

Three years ago, we toured the Citadels and the Imperial City on one of the hottest days of our stay. This year, we went on the second day of what may turn out to be an incredible cool spell. The ten-day forecast I checked earlier this morning had no daytime high over 78 degrees Fahrenheit. All the lows overnight were in the 60s. And for one day, 1 April, the forecast high and low temperatures were 69 and 65 degrees. These are totally unexpected temperatures for this time of year. The husband actually expressed gratitude for our post-Hue trip to Australia without which, he said, he probably would not have even brought along a jacket.

The area outside the Citadel as a paid attraction is usually teeming with activity on weekends, and yesterday was no exception. Football can be played almost anyplace, especially with bicycles to use to define the goal areas.
With Hue Festival looming on the horizon, much of the Citadel and Imperial City no longer lends itself to "postcard photography." Between temporary lighting rigs and stadium seating, they also appear to be adding some large stages. The shot above was taken from the top of the Ngo Mon (Noon) Gate, looking outside toward the flag tower. The Ngo Mon Gate is 190 feet wide and was once reserved for the sole use of the emperor. Once inside the gate, the Trung Dao Bridge leads to the Esplanade of Great Salutations and the Thai Hoa Palace (Palace of Supreme Harmony). During court ceremonies, the mandarins would stand in ranks of nine, civil mandarins to the left and military mandarins to the right as they faced the emperor. No photography is permitted inside the palace, a posted rule that I followed unlike several folks who seemed to think the posted signs did not include phonotography (cell phone-photography). Behind the Thai Hoa Palace once stood the Can Chanh Palace which contained a second throne room in which the emperor conducted daily business. The golden dragon statue in the center of the above photo is pretty incredible up close. The Mandarin Halls to the left and tight of where the Can Chanh Palace once stood still exist. The hall to the right displays works from the Hue Museum of Royal Fine Arts as well as contains a small art gallery. This painting was a particular favorite of mine there. The Left Mandarin Hall now houses a tacky (my opinion) concession in which tourists can don mandarin attire and pose for photos with a replica carriage and throne. Suffice to say, we spent no real time there.

Behind the Right Mandarin Hall is the Royal Theatre. They offer four 30-minute shows of imperial music and dance here each day, but we had arrived just after the morning shows and well before the afternoon shows. Still, we heard music and, when a gentleman at the door indicated we could enter but to do so quietly, we did. We think that what we happened on was a rehearsal for something that will be part of Hue Festival. There was one gentleman who was obviously directing things, getting things set up in between acts. There was also someone filming who, afterwards, also conducted an interview with one of the performers. We entered during a fan dance, and since other people were filming or photographing, I jumped right in.
The second act was a performance by an instrumental musical group. The director set this up complete with sound checks.

Though the instruments for this number were all wind and percussion, there were stringed instruments played for the one final act. And in between numbers, there was even the ubiquitous cell phone played. The final number we saw was a vocal and dance performance that was nothing short of extraordinary. The costumes were incredible,
and the flowers the performers were carrying turned out also to be lights.

Even the leggings are stunning.
And everything built to a big finale. Behind the theater is the Reading Pavilion, which is undergoing some extensive renovations. It's the scaffolded building to the right of the lake. Three years ago, we found a tennis court near the back of the Citadel, behind where the Forbidden Purple City stood. We jokingly called it the imperial tennis court and when we asked a guide about it were told that it probably had been built as part of a boondoggle by city officials. It turns out that we were more correct than he was, at least according to the sign that is there now. As this shot shows, very few complete buildings actually remain as part of the Imperial City. Yes, some were destroyed during the American (what we call the Vietnam) War. Probably just as many, though, and perhaps even more were destroyed in the 1940s when the Vietnamese fought against French colonial rule. In lieu of photos of non-existent buildings, here's a smattering of detail shots that attracted me. This grating is from a wall near the Right Mandarin Palace. This is from outside the theater. This lantern hangs in a hallway connecting two buildings that are no longer there. This dragon sits in a wall that still remains. This and the detailed shots that follow are from a wall panel.
In the same section of the hallway is this ceiling. Unfortunately, this sign is nowhere hear this graffiti. There are some incredible gates with details that would be even more incredible with some restoration.

In terms of restoration, we saw signs citing Poland, Korea, and Thailand as having provided support for restoration efforts. Near the end of our trek, we visited the Nine Dynastic Urns, four of which are shown here. These urns were cast between 1835 and 1837 and were intended to help celebrate the country's beauty and dynastic stability. The scenes depicted on them celebrate Vietnamese culture. Each urn is dedicated to one of the Nguyen emperors. Each urn also shows the effects of the various conflicts that have been waged around them.
The husband thought the large hole above was probably from a 50-caliber shell, but don't quote him on that.

Three years ago, we rounded a corner within the Citadel and came face to trunk with one of two elephants. They're still there and, unfortunately, don't look too happy, particularly the guy in the bottom photo.
They are apparently a for-profit tourist attraction, one that, needless to say, we did not use.

Finally, in an effort at humo(u)r after the elephant sad face, we tried to catch a ride on the Tardis, but were unable to find the Doctor.


Debi said...

I'm so glad the gentleman at the door told you you could go in--what gorgeous photos! I can't even imagine quite how incredible it must have been to watch.

And LOL--I guess it's all in what you're used to or something--we wouldn't have dreamed of thinking a jacket necessary for lows of 65. Heck, Annie's probably the only one who would wear a jacket with temps of 55.

Jayne said...

What an amazing place - the variety and mixtures of colors and hues are simply delightful!