Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cemetery Fantasy Land

Of course I have been hearing how great Hue is for a year now - this former imperial city and its citadel, the royal tombs surrounding it, and (of course), its reputation for food. "The Food Center of Vietnam"...are words that have drawn me, yes.
I will talk about some of those things - because we loved Hue (I may end up calling it my favorite city in Vietnam) - but not today.

Today I am talking about this quirky little side trip that Jessica and I took during our day-long motorbike ride. I did some research on TravelFish and found a reputable guide named Mr. Trung who works with the You and Me Restaurant in Hue. When we met him, we felt like this man dressed in trousers and a sweater was going to be our Vietnamese father for the day. Jessica, who was his passenger (I followed behind) found out quickly that he had been born in Hue and was in the thick of the fighting in '68 (central Vietnam is where most of the hard fighting was...the Tet Offensive took place in Hue), so he went to Danang for a while to escape all of it before returning years later.

Something I did not know about Jessica before her visit is that she is a Seeker of Cemeteries. She kept asking me about them but I provided very little information to satisfy her curiosity. Thankfully, she was asking Mr. Trung about them, too, so that might have been the reason for our side trip.

Anyway, after riding outside of town for almost an hour through boat and water buffalo scenes that Jessica referred to as "a series of postcards," we came upon the most peculiar town. We drove past a row of very high-end houses and down a long dirt road when suddenly, we seemed to have arrived in "Cemetery Fantasy Land." Ornate towering pagodas stretched for miles and miles on each side of the road. The scene immediately reminded me of Bryce Canyon, where the hoodoos give you that same sense that you are looking at valleys filled with castles.

Mr. Trung explained that this village was extremely poor during the war - poor and very hungry. Many locals escaped on boats after Saigon fell, and - apparently - became quite successful where they landed. With their newfound wealth, they sent money back to bury their ancestors and relatives in style. And you should see the style - these pictures cannot capture the magnitude of the scenes. One side of the road is where the Buddhists are buried, and the other side is for the Christians. What a juxtaposition to see Mary or Christ standing with arms wide open at the top of an ornate pagoda~

Well, the Lover of Cemeteries and I could not get enough of our grave exploration. This town is not mentioned in any of the fourteen or so guidebooks that have accumulated at the castle over the past year. Mr. Trung says there is no other cemetery like it in Vietnam, and I believe him; I sure haven't seen any like it. I just wonder why it is not on the tourist track, and I wonder why some of the country's poor don't just take up residence out here in these beautiful structures...

After interacting a bit with the water buffalos who were hanging out at the site, we got back on our bikes and drove out to the beach where we drank out of coconuts and ate some fish under a little private tent. I wish I could tell you that the meal was perfect, because the setting sure was (if you ignored the random piles of garbage that are ubiquitous on all Vietnamese beaches).

Stay tuned for more traditional reports on Hue~


Brian Bowker said...

After I grow up, I want to die and haunt the Cemetery Fantasy Land!

Jessica said...

I'm home, fully unpacked and partially rested! Thanks for the good beach vibes, they worked! And thanks Marjie for an awesome adventure!

Anonymous said...

Nice pic Brian-yeah Jessica is home safe and sound! I so have to have a beer with you! It is so appropriate that Jessica has a thing for cemetaries because it gave both of you such a fab and highly authentic adventure! What an amazing place with a story! love you

Mungoody said...

Wow - pagodas AND water buffalo? What more could anyone want in the afterlife!