A Tour of Huế, Part 1: The Purple Forbidden City and Citadel
With two impromptu days off, I got myself to the Hanoi train station and bought an overnight ticket to Huế, a small city sitting on the banks of the Perfume River, among pine-covered mountains in Central Vietnam. Huế was the imperial capitol from 1802, when Emperor Gia Long founded the Nguyễn dynasty, until 1945, when the last Nguyễn emperor abdicated the throne and Ho Chi Minh was elected president and prime minister.
My Lonely Planet book (much as I try to ditch that thing, it is a more reliable quick-reference than wikipedia–this from the girl who wants to be an historian…) tells me that none of the buildings in the Huế Citadel are more than 150 years old. Only twenty now stand, many in varying states of restoration, thanks to American and French bombs. Before the wars, there were 148 buildings. Within the Citadel lies the Purple Forbidden City, once the realm of the Nguyễn emperors, palaces and government buildings.
The Huế Citadel initially seems small; the main buildings have been largely restored or rebuilt and most of the tourists seemed to stick to those buildings. But walking beyond those buildings yields a different view of Huế’s history. You see stone foundations where government buildings and other parts of the palace once stood. The occasional remnant of the tile floor remains, overgrown with weeds. Juxtaposed against the immensity of the Citadel’s gates and stone wall, it seems so fragile.
I’ll be honest: I’m pretty terrible at remembering what’s what. There are very few signs so I’ll add names of buildings as soon as I have scourged the Internets for them. This building was, I think, a former government building and is situated kitty corner to the emperor’s home and cabinet rooms.