Day 9 Hue 2nd April 2004

Today Cuong picked us up at 9 after we finished a buffet breakfast at the hotel. We visited the Imperial Citadel, a city built for the emperors of Vietnam. As we looked at the sacred canons, a young girl and boy approachd us to participate in a survey, which was looking at understanding tourists and what could be done to improve tourism to Hue. We were happy to participate, and we took turns photographing each other.

We climbed the steps above the entrance gate to the Watchtower, which gave us views across the lotus flower filled moats to the Flag Tower. The Vietnamese Flag has flown here since 1975, but many people died in the previous years to have their flag flown from this vantage point. As we walked through the halls above the gates, past the typical bell and drum of the pagodas, some old Vietnamese woman were entranced by Liam, and insisted on having their photo taken with him. The dresses they wore were splendid and very regal looking.

From the top of the Ngo Mon Gate, sitting on top of the huge thick stone walls of the Citadel we could see the Palace inside. A lot of the Citadal was destroyed by the various wars, with a lot of damage still visible from the Tet Offensive where 15,000 soldiers were killed. Much of the Citadel has also been renovated - and it is quite beautiful. There was lots of mosaic work done with broken pottery adourning the gates.

The Right House had a lovely bonsai garden and ponds filled with fish out front. A man played melodiously on a flute as we entered. The house was filled with models of ships and royal robes and various other displays of the past.

Liam fed the fish in the various ponds throughout the citadel; the fish were huge. We continued walking through the citadel, passing into the Forbidden Purple City. Unfortunately most of the buildings here were destroyed by fire in 1947.

We passed a huge snake as it slid across the road in front of us as we walked from one old building and palace to another. The Queen's residence was sadly very run down, but restoration work on the various palaces and pagodas was continuing. A number of the walls held clear reminders of the violent past, with holes in walls where mortars had passed straight through, as well as walls pock-marked with bullet holes.

The restored portions of the citadel were magnificent, with bright blue mosaics of birds bordering gates, and lushly planted gardens.

We spent a good 3 hours walking around and exploring the citadel, finally arriving at the Nine Dynastic Urns, which are intricately decorated with flowers and birds, as well as stray bullet marks.

We walked from the citadel into town and had a fantastic lunch at Lac Thien. The owner was a deaf mute who has 7 children - the first 6 were girls and the last one a boy. He was very happy to get that boy! The food was magnificent and on the walls was the "Get Away" crew's message. Liam wrote on the wall as well, and was given a special bottle opener.

After lunch, we picked up a few antique Vietnamese and Chinese coins from Mr Coin, and headed into town, walking past many shops looking for a pair of sunglasses for Liam and a belt for myself. Liam was offered a baby to hold! We were worried he was going to drop him, as he was a pretty solid looking baby! We then walked through the market and we bought some custard apples and some mangoes. Liam was dragged off by some women at the market, who fed him some sort of sweet sugary powder, probably sugar cane. We had some free time in the afternoon, so Liam and Michelle went swimming in the hotel pool.

We went to Omar Khayyams for dinner, a really nice Indian Restaurant, but Liam was starting to feel quite sick, either from the mysterious treat given to him at the market, or from some of the pool water that he swallowed, or maybe the same bug that had affected Michelle the day before. We quickly finished our dinner, which really was very nice and rescued Liam from the toilet, walking back to the hotel were Liam spent most of the night throwing up, poor soul.