Right: Cultural performance at the Forbidden City, Hue.

From Ninh Binh I took a very uncomfortable overnight bus to the city of Hue. This city was the scene of some intense fighting during the Tet Offensive in 1968 and some of the cultural sites sustained heavy damage though there is still quite a bit to see. I visited the Imperial Enclosure of the Forbidden City where I also took in a concert, later taking a boat ride down the Perfume River to stop in at Thien Mu Pagoda and the tomb of Tu Duc.


At Thien Mu Pagoda there is a curious exhibit, an Austin motorcar.

In this car the most venerable Thich Quang Duc went from An Quang Pagoda to the intersection of Phan dinh Phung street and Levan Duyet street on June 11, 1963 in Saigon. As soon as he got out of the car The Most Venerable monk sat down in the lotus position and burnt himself to death to protest against the Ngo dinh Diem regime's policies of discriminating against Buddhists and violating religious freedom


There is a framed photograph of the act in progress. Fans of Rage Against The Machine will know this image from the cover of their debut album.

This act of self-immolation was soon followed by others in protest of the restrictive policies of then President Diem's regime. Diem's much hated sister-in-law, Tran Le Xuan, Vietnam's "First Lady" is quoted as referring to the burnings as "a barbecue party" and saying "Let them burn and we shall clap our hands." Evidently Buddhist monks weren't the only dissatisfied customers as Diem and his brother were assasinated a short time thereafter by their own military.

Below: Riding the Gee Gees at Tu Duc's Tomb

Tu Duc's Tomb

Bird's Nest drink:

The nests of the swiftlet are used to make soup and in medicine. The convenience stores carried a drink labelled "White Fungus Bird's Nest Drink". That description itself would be enough to deter most sensible people but I found curiosity getting the better of me and in the aims of furthering my gastronomic horizons I decided to give it a try.

The swiftlet nest is essentially constructed with saliva and the beverage tasted accordingly. If you ever as a child spat into a glass untill you had enough to drink, and then drank it (simply because that's the sort of dumb thing kids do!) then you'll know the taste. It is supposed to make you feel more virile as well though I can't say I noticed any immediate effect. In any case I'm unlikely to drink bird spit again and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to others.

Below: Tu Duc's Tomb, Hue

Tu Duc's TombTu Duc's Tomb