Saturday, June 10, 2006

party vietnamese style

Apparently, ever two years there is a huge cultural festival here in Hue, and last week was it. There are still banners flying everywhere throughout the city. Today I went to the Citadel, a.k.a the Purple Forbidden Palace, where many of the main activities had taken place. It was evident that there had been a great deal of people, and a great deal of preparation for this because it was all still sitting around. Even the empty beer bottles were stacked in the middle of one of the courtyards.

Luckily, this did not detract too much from the feeling of complete desertion which pervades the Palace grounds. Like My Son, most of the buildings had been destroyed in the war, and so all that remained were rocky grassy fields with random pieces of wall protruding at odd intervals. The surrounding temples and a few mini palaces for the empress had been restored, which provided me with a great chance to question just how much Chinese influence had been present in Vietnam, and until when? The Throne Room walls were decorated with Chinese poems, all of the gates were named in the Chinese style, and even the architecture seemed to have little, if any, Vietnamese influence (if I could guess what Vietnamese influence would be like).

There was no one on the grounds, foreigners and Vietnamese alike. I saw a total of ten people, maybe, in the three hours I wandered around. It was a nice place to spend a leisurely, yet sweaty, afternoon.

After the Palace I stopped for some lunch on the side of the street and then headed to the market. Vietnamese markets are serious places. I got lost three times. The shopkeepers were snoozing on cardboard boxes, waiting for customers to come by and wake them up. Candy, food, fruit, clothes, shoes, dishes, anything you want. I had a bargaining war with one owner for some things I wanted and eventually got what I wanted for 45% of the original asking price. I’m pretty proud of that.

Tomorrow I take an early morning flight to Hanoi (I can’t stand another 16 hour bus ride.) And so I’m off to find dinner, probably those Country Cakes again because they were so good, and then watch a little of the World Cup in a nearby bar. Goodnight!

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