Tuesday, November 29, 2005
We arrived at the tomb during a rain shower and our guide rented us umbrellas right by the entrance. You have to love that capitalistic spirit in a socialist country. The temple is 130 steps up to the top and the rain makes the worn treads very slippery.
We were inside the temple admiring the decor when the rain picked up dramatically and the power went out. The rain got so heavy that water was about to back up into the temple from the plaza outside. A worker went out and set a hose down to siphon off the rain to run down the steps instead.
After about a half hour, the rain had died down enough for us to risk the dash back down the steps to our van. The railings of the steps are elaborately carved dragons. The dragons can be seen in this post.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
The overall effect of the buildings, gardens and lakes is a serene contemplative atmosphere. Walking trails surround the large lakes and the total length of nature trails is several miles.
As we were leaving this tomb, we greeted a group of Australian tourists that we had seen at the restaurant the previous night. In fact all day, we kept coming across the same people that were on roughly the same itenerary as us. Vietnam is an increasing popular tourist destination for Australians.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The elephants work in the forest pulling lumber. I think these elephants live better more comfortable lives than some of the local residents. I had always associated elephants with Thailand and India, completely unaware that they were in Vietnam as well.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Roadside stands in Vietnam tend to come in clusters. There is a Nobel prize winning theory behind this phenomena, but Vietnamese merchants have figured this out on their own. We would pass a pineapple stand to then pass about ten more in the next mile. A little further up the road would be a dozen stands in a row selling rice wine, then a group of stands selling something else.
There were a couple of other stands right near this one selling incense sticks as well, but this one had the prettiest arrangement. The incense was for pilgrims to the temples in the area. As we learned in Hanoi, all the major religious attractions are also working temples.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Each of these sites is really a summer palace complex that was built for each emperor. Construction would begin as soon as the emperor took the throne and would serve as a retreat from the Imperial City. Each one is different, reflecting the personality and ambition of it's emperor.
The first one we visited was the estate of the Emperor Tu Duc. The estate circles a beautiful lake and has several recreational pavillions surrounding the lake. Tu Duc considered himself a poet and he would sit in the pavillion overlooking the lake while he composed.
The Hoa Khiem Temple shown in the picture doubled as a working palace during his life and included a royal opera theater and lodging for his many concubines. After the the death of an emperor, his many concubines would often stay on as caretakers for the estate.
There was a slave revolt during construction and the design was changed to reflect a new-found humility and modesty on the part of Tu Duc. He still had time for 50 course meals and dozens of concubines.
The lake and gardens including a beautiful wooded area were magnificent but very hot. We went through two bottles of water each on the brief hour tour we took of the grounds. Fortunately there were several concession stands set up just for that need.