Tuesday, November 25th, 2003 – Day 280

Tuesday, November 25th, 2003 – Day 280

I watched THE BROWNING VERSION on TV. It was good.

Andrew Crocker-Harris (Albert Finney), a teacher of Greek and Latin at a traditional English prep school, is called the “Hitler of the Lower Sixth” by his students. His rigidity and cruelty are the sad remnants of an extinguished passion for classical literature. But as he is poised to leave the school–forced into retirement by the headmaster and made ridiculous by the infidelities of his wife Laura (Greta Scacchi)–Crocker-Harris finds his love for learning rekindled by the interest and sympathy of a young student named Taplow (Ben Silverstone), who gives him Robert Browning’s translation of Aeschylus’ AGAMEMNON as a parting gift. Based on a Terence Rattigan play, THE BROWNING VERSION is a character study that finds pathos in British stodginess and makes a subdued plea for the nobility of teaching. Finney is the powerful center of the film, portraying a man whom time and opportunity have passed by. As humiliations are piled upon his character, Finney registers nothing but silent resignation, even as he ratchets up his stoicism to face the next disappointment.

It is meant to rain hard for the next week. Bad luck. I have had little bad weather since I stated this trip nine months ago. I left the hotel at 10.00am and visited the following main sites. They were all under the general admission fee of 55,000 Dong. After that I walked around town. I first went to the Market which was lively.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Market (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Market (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Market (25-11-2003)

The Citadel & Imperial City

The Citadel is often used as a catchall term for Hue’s Imperial City, built by Emperor Gia Long beginning in 1804 for the exclusive use of the emperor and his household, much like Beijing’s Forbidden City. The city actually encompasses three walled enclosures: the Exterior Exclosure or Citadel; the Yellow Enclosure, or Imperial City, within that; and, in the very center, the Forbidden Purple City, where the emperor actually lived.

The Citadel is a square 2km (1 1/2-mile) wall, 7m (23 ft.) high and 20m (66 ft.) thick, with 10 gates. Ironically, it was constructed by a French military architect, though it failed to prevent the French from destroying the complex many years later. The main entrance to the Imperial City is the Ngo Mon, the southwest gate or “Noon” Gate, and is where you can get a ticket and enter.

The Forbidden Purple City

Once the actual home of the emperor and his concubines, this second sanctum within the Citadel is a large open area dotted with what’s left of the king’s court. Almost completely razed in a fire in 1947, a few buildings are left among the rubble. The new Royal Theater behind the square, a look-alike of the razed original, is under construction. The partially restored Thai Binh Reading Pavilion, to the left of it as you head north, is notable mostly for its beautifully landscaped surroundings, including a small lake with a Zen-like stone sculpture, and the ceramic and glass mosaic detailing on the roof and pillars, favored by flamboyant emperor Khai Dinh.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Palace (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Palace (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Palace (25-11-2003)

The Flag Tower

The focal point of the Imperial City, a large rampart to the south of the Noon Gate, this tower was built in 1807 during Gia Long’s reign. The yellow flag of royalty was the first to fly here and was exchanged and replaced by many others in Vietnam’s turbulent history. It’s a national symbol.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Flag Tower (25-11-2003)

Thai Hoa Palace

Otherwise known as the Palace of Supreme Harmony, it was built in 1833 and is the first structure you’ll approach at the entrance. It was used as the throne room, a ceremonial hall where the emperor celebrated festivals and received courtiers; the original throne still stands. The Mandarins sat outside. In front are two mythical ky lin animals, which walk without their claws ever touching ground and which have piercing eyesight for watching the emperor, tracking all good and evil he does. Note the statues of the heron and turtle inside the palace’s ornate lacquered interior: The heron represents nobility and the turtle represents the working person. Folklore has it that the two took turns saving each other’s lives during a fire, symbolizing that the power of the emperor rests with his people, and vice versa.

I enjoyed the Royal Palaces. The wars in 1945 and 1968 destroyed most of the city but efforts are been made to restore. A lot of restoration has been undertaken since 1985 and when I was there today, I saw half a dozen structures under restoration. I went in and I thought it was just one main building but its a big 4 sq. km. compound and there are many buildings and enclosures to visit on the corners of the compound. There were very FEW tourists there. I counted maybe 15 although some tour buses starting arriving in the afternoon. I enjoyed it and spend maybe 4 hours there. If I got bored I read a chapter from PORNO which I find is a good read.

After that I walked the compound walls and I visited the market. The market was really good, even better than Hoi An. It was in its closing down stage but was still busy with much produce for sale. The market in Hoi An is getting too touristy. You now get stalls just with tourist crap selling to tourists and many are out to rid off tourists regarding food produce. Hue is more local and down to earth. No tour buses about and I bough bananas and apples for local price with no haggling or bull shit. Good place.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Palace Fish been fed (25-11-2003)

There were some very heavy showers during the day and its hard to hide from them. I headed back and it seemed to get dark real early here (4.00pm). I found that it was my watch. I know its worth 3 USD but I like it. Its a Spanish speaking Digital I bought 7 months ago. It went crazy this morning. Out of nowhere at 12.00am, the alarm went off (even though it was not set for that time) and I could not turn it off. I pressed every button and slapped it off a tree but it kept going. Five minutes later and it was back to normal. Weird!!

I read a few days ago about a worrying case in Hanoi, Vietnam. Thieves kidnapped a mute 6 year old and put him in a sack. They then sold him as dog meat for 19 USD. When the restaurant owner opened the bag, he discovered the child. Canine meat is big here.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Lady in White (25-11-2003)

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Hue – Working hard in Hue (25-11-2003)