Today is both, here in Hue, so instead of taking a morning walk beside the river, stopping for coffee (it’s pretty incredible here), and generally moseying around our new hometown for a while, the sons and I are staying in. We played Scrabble in the lobby while our rooms were cleaned, and got lots of interested looks over our shoulders. Maybe I’ll end up leaving the game here instead of taking it home to use the tiles in my creative endeavors.
Yesterday was our first full day here. The husband and I took a long walk in the morning, much like the one the sons and I were contemplating for today. We’re actually only about two blocks south of the Perfume River, which has a very nice park meandering along the side. There didn't seem to be too many people walking, as we were, but there were quite a few groups of people sitting on the grass having small picnics. The part of the park nearest to the hotel is dotted with sculptures, some of which reminded me of pieces in the Art in Place series at home.
As the morning went on, we wandered down the river, stopping at one point for the coffee mentioned above. It’s espresso served on a bed of sweetened condensed milk, with a distinct layer between the milk and the espresso. It’s served in a glass, which is brought to you sitting in a bowl of hot water. Very, very yummy. Younger son asked if we could get sweetened condensed milk at home so we could do this there. I assured him it wouldn’t be a problem and made a mental note to get him into the grocery store more often.
On the walk, we stopped at the Ho Chi Minh Museum, which presents Ho's life with a special emphasis on the time he spent in Hue (he went to high school here; we passed the school as well on our walk). The museum was an interesting experience. The front doors were wide open when we entered and paid our admission; when we left, the doors were shut and there was not a staff member anywhere. Too bad, because I had wanted to buy a set of Ho postcards for the folks at home who asked me to send them something. They also had little Ho pins that I thought would make interesting gifts. Alas, unless the sons and I go back there, you probably won’t be seeing those in your Christmas stockings.
The content of the museum was also interesting. Ho was known by multiple names throughout his life, changing them as life circumstances dictated. The displays were decorated with a series of Ho quotes, in Vietnamese and English, though the English translations could have used some serious editing. Although most of the displays in the museum were centered on the time Vietnam was under French control, there were a couple of photos of Ho presenting awards such as the one to a man for being an “American killer.” As you might have guessed, “American” was not a reference to the man’s own nationality.
One thing about walking around here is the need to dodge people who want to sell you a product or service. On the first part of the walk, right beside the river, it was people wanting to take us for a sail in a dragon boat. While we do intend to do this at some point, it wasn’t yesterday. Then, when we were walking on the sidewalk on the street side of the park, it was cyclo drivers we had to dodge. A cyclo is a cart in which a person or two can sit that is driven by a bicyclist to the rear. We tried to be polite and simply say, “No,” or shake our heads or wave them away, but at times they would follow us down the street for a block or two, continuing to press. “One hour.” “Where you from?” “Two ride here.” The sons say that they simply ignore the cyclo drivers, but the husband and I think of that as rude and try to at least refuse kindly. I may be open to changing that attitude, though, before too many more days are up.
Last night, we ate at a sidewalk café with the other professor who came over from UVa for this term. Because I was sitting at the end of the table, I was the one who got to wave off people offering to sell scrolls, note cards, prints, etc. This is something I experienced when we visited Italy, and I will say that the people here were a bit more polite than the sellers in Italy. When I said, “No, thank you, not tonight,” the person bowed slightly and left. In Italy, they would usually stay and try to talk you into buying something.
Some more images of Hue. First, if you read an earlier post, here’s the building to the right of our hotel balcony. Those are large branches between the concrete floors. I took this photo yesterday morning, and this morning, the bottom layer of branches has been removed. They were out there working early this morning, and are still at it. Perhaps I should photograph it daily as a record of our time here.
Here is one of the dragon boats on the Perfume River. The north side of the Perfume River is where the Imperial City and Citadel are.
Yesterday was International Women's Day, so the street vendors were out in full force with flowers. I told the husband that, having brought me on this great trip, he did not need to get me flowers, too, but he did. Yeah, I think I'll keep him.
Here's a random street shot. I really want to get a shot sometime of someone carrying something totally outrageous on a bicycle or motorbike, like the 10- or 12-foot-long pipe a passenger was holding. The pipe rested on the seat in front of him and stuck straight up into the air. It's hard to get those shots, though, because you have to be ready to shoot when the scene whizzes by. Maybe later today, or tomorrow, or...
Time for that today's walk!