Saturday, December 05, 2009

Within the 2 Meter Thick Walls of the Citadel

*This post was written just hours before I got really sick with Dengue Fever and had to spend the week in the hospital. My parents arrived and have been impressively independent - they have already been treated to lunch at T and T's house and have been out in the hood for two days straight. I don't think they even need me...

I'm writing about Hue 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?


The Norris Clan said...

I just heard about your mosquito incident. That's terrible!! I am so glad you are better. Glad your mom and dad are there.

Brian Bowker said...

"The air inside the 2m thick walls was so pleasant and breezy and so absent of motorbikes, it felt like heaven."

I guess constantly hearing motorcycles every day changes your perception of what heaven is like more than you thought.

I'm also sorry that you had/have dengue fever! And sorry that I didn't hear about it until now.

SeattlePam said...

Marie! UGH! A week in the hospital with Dengue??? I am so sorry. You way breezed over that topic without enough explanation. Can you tell those of us curious minds across the world the symptoms, etc. Just in case a Denge mosquito ever finds it way to the very cold and chilly NW. Glad your folks are there to take care of you now, and hope that you're feeling better!

marjie said...

All you need to know, Pam, is DON'T GET DENGUE FEVER. It is horrible. It will eat you up, spit you out and leave you only partially alive.

Actually, it begins by draining you of ALL ENERGY. Then you get a fever. The fever lasts about four days. Then you get a rash that is really itchy. That lasts three days. And when it's "Over" you still have NO ENERGY. That's what those little tiny mosquitos do!

Mungoat said...

"Dengue me, Dengue me, they ought to take a rope and hang me!"

Glad you're better!