Hue is a beautiful town with a mix of royal, folksy, modern and traditional architecture, wide roads, cafes, hotels, palaces and pagodas. This town seemed so poetic and romantic, even though it was pouring our spirits down with the heavy rains. The glimpse of this town was enough to entice a strange belongingness somehow. This town looks palatial, owing to the fact that it seated the Nguyen Dynasty emperors until 1945 and was the national capital of Vietnam. This town is also known for the Battle of Hue, which was one of the longest and bloodiest battles fought in the Vietnam War.The Reunification Express, that connected Hue to DaNang, was waiting for us at a near to deserted station and its blue coloured wagons stood out in the background of the grey skies. Terrible weather conditions make a departing a place all the more memorable and dramatic. This train runs through the Hai Van Pass, an epic mountainous stretch along the coast of South China Sea. The mist from the sea rises into the forest , and clings to it, which is why it is also called the Pass of the Ocean Mist. The views are spectacular and you see the waters from the sea splashing along the coast as your train chugs through the Pass surrounded with the Marble mountains. You end up wanting more of it, and that view goes on for 2 solid hours.The Hai Van Pass was also known as the Street Without Joy because it carried the dreadful burden of the Vietnam War.A quick dive into Vietnam's not so far history will give you a better perspective of the current state of Vietnam's mind. Vietnam was under the French colonial rule since the 19th century. During World War II, Japan invaded Vietnam too. To fight off both the forces, the political activist Ho Chi Minh, formed a communist party "Viet Minh" in the north. Following defeat in World War II in 1945, Japan withdrew its forces from Vietnam. While Ho's forces formed its communist party up north, France backed the then Vietnam king Bao, to form a capitalist state in the south. Saigon as its capital. Although both sides wanted a unified Vietnam, North Vietnam wanted a communist model and South Vietnam obviously wanted close economic and cultural ties to the West. In 1954, Ho's Viet Minh defeated the French, which ended a century-long colonial rule in Indochina. During about this time Cold War was intensifying worldwide and America hardened its policies against communist states; pledged support to South Vietnam and sent its troops to fight the communist forces. By November 1967, the number of American troops in Vietnam was approaching 500,000. One of the worst decisions of US history was aiding the Vietnam war, which not only pierced its image of being invincible but also questioned its stance on humanity. The bombing campaigns of the Vietnam War were the longest and heaviest aerial bombardment in history. The United States dropped approx 7.6 mn tonnes of explosives, leading to a bloodbath of approx 2 mn innocent lives. Back home, Americans were divided into 2 cohorts: 1. supporters of the war for "patriotic" reasons and 2. others who protested the Vietnam War. The US backed off only in 1973 through peace talks. In 1975, North Vietnam captured Saigon, renaming it Ho Chi Minh City. All of this goes to show the destruction that Vietnam had to bear as a country - emotional, psychological and physical.
t was really peaceful being away from the traffic, and the grounds within the walls were beautiful; filled with bonsai trees and gorgeous palatial buildings. Many of them were covered in mosaic made from smashed up crockery. In most places the architecture had been restored to its former glory but there were still some buildings in ruins, and big craters in some of the walls where gunfire had damaged the brickwork, which Pete obviously found fascinating. We spent the remainder of the day wandering back through the streets of Hue, crossing the bridge over the perfume river just before sunset.