I'm writing about Hue backwards...today I've posted pictures of the citadel, which we saw when we first arrived. The view from the train between Danang and Hue was breathtaking, just as we had heard it would be (if only the windows of our sleeper train didn't have an inch of dirt on them!). But the ride along the coast and through the foggy hills was a highlight for both of us.
We arrived in Hue at 4:00 and went straight to the citadel. The air inside the 2m thick walls was so pleasant and breezy and so absent of motorbikes, it felt like heaven. This place, however, is the setting for where "When Heaven and Earth Changed Places" - the name of the famous book that was made into a movie by Oliver Stone. I am going to quote the Lonely Planet's descrption of what took place here because I am too lazy to summarize it myself...
"Hue was the sight of the bloodiest battles of the 1968 Tet Offensive and was the only city to be held by the Communists for more than a few days. While the American command was concentrating its energies on Khe Sanh, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops skirted the American stronghold and walked right into Hue. Immediately on taking the city, political cadres implemented detailed plans to remove Hue's "uncooperative elements." Thousands of people were rounded up in house to house searches, conducted according to lists of names meticulously prepared months before.
During the 3 and 1/2 weeks that Hue remained under Northern control, over 2500 people - including wealthy merchants, government workers, monks, priests and intellectuals - were shot, clubbed to death or buried alive. Shallow mass graves were discovered at various spots around the city over the following years.
When the South Vietnamese army units proved unable to dislodge the occupying North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces, General Westmoreland ordered US troops to recapture the city. Over the next few weeks, whole neighborhoods were leveled by VC rockets or US bombs.
Over the next month, most of the area inside the Citadel was battered by the South Vietnamese air force, US artillery and brutal house to house fighting. Approximately 10,000 people died in Hue, including thousands of VC troops, 400 South Vietnamese soldiers and 150 US Marines, but most of those killed were civilians."
So the peace Jessica and I felt there upon our arrival somehow didn't flow with the history of what we were reading. How is it possible that this place saw so much pain? The grounds were so well-kept and absent of any of the city's past. I guess that's what time is supposed to do, isn't it?