La Résidence. We had little time to get to ourroom, do what we needed to and get back tothe lobby for our visit to the Citadel.Sitting in the bathroom, as one does, Iwas looking at the bathtub and thinking howdifferent our time is from the “Golden Age ofTravel” (from about 1900 to World War II)which the La Résidence originated in. To getto Hue one probably would have travelleda day or two over soul disrupting roads, intropical heat and humidity or pressed on byHue’s persistent rain. Upon arriving at thehotel you might well have soaked in the tub,sprawled on the bed then dressed for dinner.You would not have rushed into the showerafter an hour’s flight from a distant locationand then headed out in the slowly gatheringevening, to explore the Citadel. We did.At the sweeping entrance to La Résidence,as grand hotels from the Golden Age ofTravel tended to have, bicycle rickshawsawaited to convey us to the Citadel whereTung, our knowledgeable and opinionatedguide, gave us a quick tour of a vast complexthat needed much more time, and better lightto explore.
When the French Interfered
I always enjoy riding in the pedal rickshawsas you glide along the streets, close to
The Colour Purple
Tung explained that the ‘Forbidden PurpleCity’ was built on the same design as Beijing’sForbidden City, based on Fung Shui principalswith water elements in the middle of thecomplex. Purple was the Royal colour.The government has made a hugeinvestment to restore, not just the Citadel,but all the historic buildings in Hue by 2020– which is great news for visitors. Chi hadvisited the Citadel some years earlier and shesaid that there were a lot of new buildingsthat she hadn’t seen before.The French army had shelled the building,and removed or destroyed nearly all itstreasures. Most of the buildings in theForbidden City were destroyed by fire in1947 and at its lowest point less than onethird of the original buildings remained.
In the Fading Light
Tung lead us through part of the grounds,along tree-lined lanes and past impressivegates and walls and buildings in various stateof repair. I had a hard time keeping up withthe group as everything seemed worthy of aphotograph – from several different angles.The light was dying so I hustled on– there was dinner to look forward to at LaRésidence. Anthony and Xuan Phuoc gaveeverything. One night in Chiang Mai, very late,we got five, or was it seven people? (anywayit was an odd number) in a rickshaw – at thedriver’s urging.Tung was an interesting guide, not just forhis abundant information, but because he
repeated several times, “…when the Frenchinterfered with our country…” which I think
succinctly describes the colonial period.During its heyday the Citadel was home to200,000 people and present day Hue is justshy of one million. It had residences for thekings of course, for their widowed mothersand for all the officials and hangers on thatwere needed to make the government workand life better. Not to forget the residence forthe concubines.