Close encounters in Huế, Vietnam

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” George Harrisonhue1

Hue was perhaps my most memorable stop in Vietnam, for it was here where I had the most personal encounters with the local populace. It was here, where I was invited into people’s homes, asked to share many meals and given a personal tour of the city and surrounding countryside. These opportunities provided for a unique experience, which will remain with me forever.

I was just about to collect my bicycle and head off to another destination after snapping some photos at a half-collapsed local temple near the Perfume River when I heard someone ask if I am an American. Little did I know that this question would lead to an amazing few days or that Mr. Nguyen would become my very generous host. He not only took me on an amazing tour of the city and surrounding countryside on his motorbike, providing excellent commentary and details about his experiences fighting with the Americans during the Vietnam War, but also invited me to share meals with his family.

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Later, Mr. Nguyen led me far into the mountains surrounding the city to the home of his friends, who are ethnic hill people. We sat and drank shots of traditional alcohol, some of them sang songs and we exchanged lots of questions.

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I met this lovely family while walking around the citadel in Hue. They were very inquisitive about me, my country and what I thought of Vietnam.

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The Citadel is perhaps the most famous site in the city. This sprawling complex, once serving as the seat of emperors, was badly damaged during the long years of fighting with the French and later during the Tet Offensive. While large portions were totally destroyed, certain fragments remain intact and others are being given a makeover and it makes for a lovely stroll.

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I had some of my best meals in all of Vietnam in Hue. The many people who invited me to dine with them introduced me to some excellent culinary delights, which I enjoyed thoroughly.  I learned that the cuisine of Hue differs from other areas in Vietnam by the widespread vegetarian choices as well as having a much more refined quality to it, probably a leftover from the royal days. I enjoyed many fish, noodle and vegetable dishes as well as several daily cups of coffee at the widespread street-side vendors.

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8 thoughts on “Close encounters in Huế, Vietnam

  1. Loved reading this. I think I’d enjoy Viet Nam. I spent two weeks on Hai Nan, an island across the gulf of Tonkin, part of China, in 1983. I was in a village with the family of one of my students. Some of your story here reminded me of that, especially the part of meeting a family, a man who’d served with the US Army. Beautiful places, too — makes me very curious about this country. Thank you!

    1. Martha, I had a great time in Vietnam. I spent a month traveling from north to south and everywhere I went, people were very friendly and gracious.

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