Me and Chairman Mao
  Hue: the Streets.
After we left Hanoi, we jumped on a plane—a nice, new plane, which I was a bit worried about, since I don't really think of Vietnam Airlines as a major air carrier—and headed to Hue, which is: a) pronounced hway,, not Huey (although more than one person has asked me if the helicopter was named after the city or vice-versa. I'm not sure which of those notions is more ridiculous: that the army named a helicopter after a city they basically destroyed, or that Vietnam named a city after the helicopter that helped destroy said city, and then didn't bother to spell it right.) (Never mind, the second is much more ridiculous.); b) near the center of Vietnam (it was part of South Vietnam, back before the war was over); and c) the old imperial capital, which probably meant a lot more before 1968, when the Marines blew the shit out of the entire town, paying particular attention to the old and imperial part. And yes, to be fair, the VC were hiding there, but still, it really detracted from my enjoyment of the place 30-some years later, and isn't that what really counts?

(The answer, of course, is yes.)

Oh, and Hue was also supposed to have the best food in Vietnam, which had us very excited since the food in Hanoi was so good we were skeptical that the food in Hue could be better. Which ended up being true, sadly. As far as I could tell, Hue food was the same as everything else, but fried. Normally I would be a fan of that, but in the case of Vietnamese food it just doesn't work. Really, I'm not sure what the pho they were thinking. Ding!

(Yes, that was a joke. If you don't get it … I don't know, go watch FOX news or whatever it is you do in your spare time.)

Anyway, Hue was … okay. Depending on where else you have been in Asia and how much time you are spending in Vietnam, I might recommend giving it a miss, unless you really want to go the DMZ or something, although since the DMZ is apparently just a few concrete bunkers and some old photos, I'm not sure why you'd care. But I'll get into that more in a different post. Getting into Hue itself was very amusing, however, for two reasons. One, the airport was so tiny that the baggage claim in the one room in the airport was an oval-shaped conveyer belt with half inside the building and half outside with a window right above it so that everyone could watch their bags being thrown (literally, natch) onto the belt and move forward to get them at the appropriate time (I think that might have been a run-on sentence …) Two, the driver who picked us up referred to himself in the third person: driver says welcome!, driver take bags!, driver's wife go bam!, the later of which was accompanied with a punching gesture to his own face, either because driver had more than one wife or a wife and a little something-something on the side that the wife found out about. Sadly, I'm not sure which one: the details were lost in translation, unfortunately. Although driver was a very good driver, which is probably all that matters.

Whatever. Now that I've gotten the babbling out of the way, it's on to the pictures. The first, which will require some additional babbling, is the big old flag pole that is on one side of the river. During the Tet Offensive, Hue was overrun and held by the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) for almost a month before the Marines took it back. (If you've seen Full Metal Jacket, the city they go to fight in is Hue. Or supposed to be Hue.) During that time, the North Vietnamese flag flew on the flagpole below for almost an entire month. As I was floating in our hotel pool, sipping on a 333 beer and looking at that same flagpole almost directly across the river, I kept thinking "How strange that less than 40 years later I'm sitting in my hotel pool sipping on a 333 beer and looking at that same flagpole directly across the river." I'm sure all feel better for knowing that, don't you?

Anyway, here's the pole, with flag:

Despite the obvious pleasure Driver took in driving—and in discussing his personal life—most people used pedal-power to get around Hue. Like this:

Except us. We paid someone else to pedal us around. (Holly is in the cyclo in this picture, although it's obviously a bit hard to tell.) I mean, seriously, do you think we'd pedal ourselves around the city? Seriously? Have you not been paying attention at all?

Turns out, I don't have a lot of pictures of the town itself. I DO have a lot of pictures of (what's left of) the old Imperial Palace, the old Imperial Tombs, and sand boats (you'll understand once you see them), but those will all come in later posts. But for now, it's on to the people. Here are some people fishing in a pond that was dirty enough that I felt sorry for whomever had to eat what they were catching:

(Side note: I love the low-tech fishing reel …)

Dad, remember when we used to just squat around looking at rice patties? That was awesome:

Random middle-aged fishwife. (I don't think she's hit "old fishwife" status yet.) This picture's a little crooked because I took it while holding my camera by my side like I wasn't taking a picture. Clever, huh? No, I don't really think it is either, I guess:

Look, cute kids! Everyone gush!

Look, crazy toothless old lady! Everyone run!

This is the inside of a famous restaurant in Hue. And by famous, I mean it got a really good review in the Lonely Planet, which is pretty much like winning the lottery, as far as places like this are concerned. Either way, I like the picture:

And I thought only China had crazy mannequins. I guess I was wrong:

Looking back at all the pictures I took over the past few years, I seem to have a fondness for two types of pictures: 1) those of doors (no, I don't get it either, and since I never took a psychology class, I guess I never will); and 2) close-ups of whatever I happen to see. This next picture was taken at a newspaper stand, and falls into category two:

Someone's a fan of Grey's Anatomy, apparently:

Speaking of close-ups, here's another one of my favorite shots from the entire trip. These are sticks of incense or, if you want to sound more worldly, joss sticks, that we saw at an incense-making shop:

More from Hue soon.

Previously, on my vacation:

- Halong Bay: the Videos.
- Halong Bay.
- Hanoi: the Random.
- Hanoi: Water Puppets.
- Hanoi: the "Hilton."
- Hanoi: the People.
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hanoi: the Streets.
Reading your blog is the best laugh I've had all day. Good pics by the your arty close up shots of 'joss sticks'.
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Halong Bay: the Videos.
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