As the residence of rulers of the Nguyen Dynasty, I thought that the Imperial City of Hue was going to be all stately, prim and proper. And somewhat touristy, as described in an earlier post on the Imperial City. But it wasn’t the case, and I was delighted to see that the current grounds retained some rustic elements of moss-covered crumbling walls and a strange submerged bridge in one of the gardens. It was fun climbing up some of these shaky brick walls to get a bird’s-eye view of the city. We also came across a reservoir feature (not the moat) in the Imperial City, which was quite unusual to me. Here are five unexpected sights of the Imperial City of Hue – do see if you can spot them in the Imperial City.
1. Crumbling walls
If you walk towards the other end of the Imperial City from the entrance, you will come across some crumbling walls along the way. The walls we came across were largely covered in moss. But what’s most interesting was that they had circular holes in them, as if some form of explosion had happened. I certainly hoped that this damage was not from the times of The Battle of Hue. We decided to climb up some of them. We were definitely not allowed to do so, but it was worth the risk as the view of the moat and the city was most interesting.
2. A submerged bridge
We were in a lovely garden with a traditional bridge, surrounded by the leaves of willow trees drooping down. It was a great photo spot (picture below). We decided to walk around and arrived by the banks of a stagnant pond less than 200m away. There were a few flies buzzing at the surface of the water. Across the bank, there was a large tree surrounded by some stone structures and there were two concrete bars leading away from the tree to the bank where we were. We couldn’t cross over as there wasn’t a proper path across the water. Upon a closer look, alas – the concrete bars were part of a bridge that had been submerged. Which was pretty strange as bridges are meant to surface above the water.
3. Large reservoir-like feature within the palace
I wasn’t expecting to find a huge water feature within the grounds of the Imperial City. But we did. It was probably a reservoir of sorts. Perhaps back then, it was a place to store water. This water feature is different from the structured moats which lined the grounds. The moats were demarcated in an orderly ‘square’ around the Imperial City.
4. Ancient quarters come alive
I recalled visiting a garden which led to an old tea house used in the past. But as we were about to enter the tea house, we heard laughter and conversation coming from inside. Alas, the old tea house had been transformed to staff quarters of the Imperial City. Which isn’t really a bad thing – it’s always nice to see how historical buildings can be relevant for people living in the present. As the tea house was now used as a resting place for staff, we decided to give them some privacy and left. It made me think how relaxing one’s life would be working at the Imperial City – sipping Vietnamese coffee or lotus tea on a hot sunny afternoon in a place where royalty used to do so.
5. There are a few unused buildings, if you know where to look
If you’re keen to find out how the buildings were like originally, some of the buildings in the Imperial City were left on their own, without any furnishings. There was just nothing in them – not even altars or artefacts. Which made me think that they could be really put to some good use. Be it a staff office, or an embellished period hotel equipped with the trappings of modern life (electricity and running water).
The Travelling Squid’s Take
The Imperial City of Hue strikes me as being quite similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing, only that it’s quieter and you get some place and time to yourself. It’s also less well-maintained, which isn’t a bad thing because you get to see some aspects of the palace from many years ago. The crumbling walls and submerged bridge gave the Imperial City of Hue some old-world charm, character and made me think about the history behind the Imperial City. I urge you to explore the five unexpected sights of the Imperial City of Hue. Just that while you’re at it, do take care and avoid falling through the brick walls or into the murky waters of a submerged bridge.