My train from Hanoi arrived in Hué at 11 in the morning. I met my son Nick at the Thai Binh Hotel, 10/9 Nguyen Tai Phuong St., as we had arranged the week before.
We both rented bicycles and spent our first day in Hué riding around town and around the Citadel.
Despite the displays of weaponry around the Citadel, Hué in 1995 was pleasant and peaceful. It was hard to imagine that a bitter month-long battle had been fought there twenty-seven years before, during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
At that time, in 1968, I was news director of a radio station in California, and I remember reporting night after night about the fighting in Hué for most of the month of February.
With over 10,000 casualties and weeks of house-to-house combat, this was the bloodiest battle of the war and is now widely regarded as the turning point, after which the American military and government officials were no longer under the illusion that they could win the war — though it did drag on for seven more years, until 1975.
On our second day in Hué in 1995 we took our bicycles with us on a boat trip on the Perfume River to Thien Mu Pagoda and the Tomb of Minh Mang.
The emperor Minh Mang (1791-1841) was the second emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. Hué was the capital of his empire, which included all of Vietnam as well as parts of present-day Cambodia and Laos. He was a strict Confucian who tried (with some success, for most of his reign) to limit the influence of French missionaries in Vietnam.
After having lunch on the boat we left the tour and continued by bicycle to the tomb of the Vietnamese emperor Tu Duc (1829-1883). He was the fourth emperor of the Nguyen dynasty (one of the many grandsons of Minh Mang).
It rained briefly while we were riding our bicycles to Tu Duc’s tomb, which is why I look a bit wet in this photo.
Tu Duc (1829-1883), was the fourth emperor of the Nguyen dynasty in Vietnam. During his reign various parts of Vietnam came under the control of the French. In 1884, a year after Tu Duc’s death, all of Vietnam became a French protectorate.
In 1993 Tu Duc’s tomb and palace, along with other historic monuments in Hué and vicinity, were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We spent most of the afternoon at Tu Duc’s tomb before cycling back to Hué, a distance of about eight kilometers.
Thanks to my son Nick for the photos from 1995. I revised the text in 2017.
Next: DMZ tour, 1995