Cities of the dead.

 The emperors of Vietnam had a fair bit of time on their hands as the country was run by the French and their wives and concubines obviously didn’t provide enough entertainment so they set about building magnificent mausoleums for themselves. In order to take a look at some of them I hired a motorbike and driver and cruised the byways of Hue.

First up is a pagoda rather then a tomb but this one has an unusual and unpleasant relic stored in its compound. In 1963 during the height of the Buddhist repression by the South Vietnamese government the venerable Thich Quang Duc was driven to the center of Saigon in the Austin motor car that is now on display here. When he got to his destination he got out of the car, sat down, another monk poured petrol over him and he burned himself to death.
Today the pagoda is a quiet and pleasant place along the river.


 Next up the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc who had 104 wives and concubines but didn’t father a single child. He did however build a rather nice tomb with a large number of ancillary palaces, temples and pavilions. Apparently the population thought it was rather to nice and to expensive and attempted a coup, they failed and today his extravagance makes for a popular tourist attraction.

Emperor Khai Dinh his tomb actually took longer to build then his reign a total of eleven years. It is a combination of Vietnamese and European design and looks like something you can expect in France. Built against a hillside it’s a climb to get there but once you make it the Emperor awaits in effigy. A lifesize gilded statue sits on top of the actual grave.

 Finally I visited the last resting place of emperor Minh Mang. This is considered the most harmoniously laid out tomb and indeed the courtyards and buildings blend beatifully with the landscape. Unlike the other ones the tomb itself is actually inaccessible but just wondering around the area is well worth it.

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