Photo Tour: The Citadel

On the north side of the Perfume River (the main river that runs through Hue) is a complex called the Citadel (or, in Vietnamese, Kinh Tranh). It's a huge walled area, 10 kilometers (6 miles) around -- like a city within a city. Built for the emperor at the start of the 19th century, it stood until 1968 -- when large parts inside, including the emperor's Forbidden Purple City, were destroyed in the American War. Some of those parts have been restored; the rest are now used for agriculture. There's still a lot to see inside (and outside), though, as you're about to find out!.

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Like I said, it's a big place. The photo at the left shows a little tiny part of it -- including the biggest flagpole in Vietnam, 37 meters high, with a Vietnamese flag that's not too much smaller than the pole! At the right is a view across the moat toward the Ngan Gate, which is one of ten gates through the outer walls.
A little tiny part (with a big flag) of the Citadel
Ngan gate and moat

Once you're inside the Ngan Gate, you'll find these cannons pointed at you. But they're just ceremonial; they've never been fired. (Someone was there, sitting underneath the cannons, enjoying the shade to grab a bite of lunch.) The photo at the right shows a bit of the space between the outer wall (which you can see in the background) and the inner wall (which you'll see next). Like I said, it's a big place...
Ceremonial cannons inside Ngan Gate
Between outer and inner walls, near Ngo Mon Gate

This is the Ngo Mon gate. It's the main gate to the Imperial Enclosure, which is a sort of fortress-within-a-fortress where the empire did his official business..
Top of Ngo Mon gate
Ngo Mon gate and pond
Roof detail at Ngo Mon gate

Go through the gate -- but not through the central yellow entrance, which was reserved for the emperor. (The central entrance was blocked when I was there -- but probably to make you go through the other gate and pay the admission fee. :) Once you're through you'll find the Trung Dao bridge (here, with a woman crossing it) which takes you to the large courtyard in fromt of the Thai Hoa palace:
Crossing Trung Dao bridge
Thai Hoa Palace

Walk around and behind the palace, then look for the flags and the pond. You've spotted the theatre, which is where we're headed next on our tour. But if you look off in the distance (in that green area where the trees are, in the left-hand photo), that's where the emperor's Forbidden Purple City was until it was destroyed during the war in 1968. Now it's open land. If you walk around the theatre, through its courtyard and its gates, then turn around to see where you've come from, you'll see this view through the gates:
Pond near theatre
Theatre through gates

The gates open off of a road that has a dark wall, shaded by trees, on one side. I think it's the damp climate here in Hue that makes the moss (and whatever else) grow on the wall and the trees. I don't think that the emperor or his planners arranged these patterns on the trees and the wall, but I sure noticed them:
Tree and wall
Wall and tree

On the other side of that shady lane is the College of Arts of Hue. If you spend much time in Vietnam, you'll recognize the profile above the door: it's Ho Chi Minh, who seems to be almost everywhere. (As were Marx and Lenin, my guidebook said, until the former Soviet Union fell in 1991 and they both suddenly vanished...) There's some interesting sculpture in the gardens around the building -- and, if you sneak around back, you might see some sculpture-in-progress too:
College of Arts of Hue
Scuplture in progress at College of Arts of Hue

Speaking of art: Hien Nhon Gate is just a short walk past the college gardens, and some artist had fun designing it 200 years ago. It's covered with bright flowers and other plants in creative patterns, with a bunch of dragons tossed in, all made from little mosaic tiles. (Do all of the dour-looking guards appreciate the place they're working in??) Turn right and head back toward the Perfume River; you might spot some kids playing football (soccer) near the Thuong Tu Gate that takes you out of the Citadel. (You can't miss that tall Vietnamese flag, though. It's been somehere in view at almost all of the places we've been.)
Top of an arch in Hien Nhon gate
Kids playing football/soccer

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(These photographs are Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)

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