From the early 1800s until the 1940s, the Hue Imperial City was home to the emperors of Vietnam. Modeled after the Beijing Forbidden City, it was built as a fortress, with moats and thick walls to surround its six square acres. However, foreign occupations and wars destroyed much of the city and eventually drove out the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai.
Even amongst the crumbling facades, chipped and faded paint, and overgrown landscape, you can still imagine how beautiful the city once was. I tried to imagine how it must have been for the royal family to live here – morning meetings with mandarins, afternoons walking between the bonsai trees in the garden.
I realize Vietnam often leads me to my imagination. I look at the New City and wonder what the future will bring, then I look at this old capital, Hue, and wonder what the past must have been like. In a country so quickly developing, I’m sure I am not the only one looking both forward and back. But we can only be here now, so we leave the past and the Imperial City behind and head to the local festival for some fire-roasted chicken, spring rolls, and Saigon beer.
Một hai ba, vô! (translation)