Hoi An, Viet Nam

Hoi An, Viet Nam

“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been” – Diane Arbus

Hoi An is one of the most charming cities in Viet Nam.

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It was a commercial district for Japanese and Chinese traders in the sixteenth century and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.

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Hoi An’s Old Quarter is lined with two-story old Chinese buildings that now house shops with elaborately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs.

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Colorful guildhalls, founded by ethnic Chinese from Guangdong and Fujian provinces, stand quietly as a testament to the town’s trading roots.

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The Japanese Bridge was originally constructed to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarter – separated by a small stream of water – as a symbolic gesture of peace.

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The food market reminds visitors of another era when it was filled with goods from all over the Asia. (mangos, rambuchan, snake wine)

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Hoi An is a place where you can get clothes and shoes made at a reasonable price as long as you have a picture.

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There is a plethora of tailors and cobblers to choose from.

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It is also one of the best eating cities in Viet Nam and known for cooking classes and especially delicious food. (Mango Rooms – yes everything has mango, White Rose dumplings at Cafe De Lys – only one Hoi An family has the recipe, and thus a monopoly on their production– rose-shaped shrimp dumplings topped with fried garlic and onions.)

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Away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Hoi An, the Nam Hai all-villa resort, sprawls on quiet Hoi An Beach. The contemporary architecture is welcoming and eye-catching as feng shui mingles with strong modern lines.

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The Spa at the Nam Hai is truly something wonderful. Composed of 8 villas, floating around a lotus pond, it is the ideal location for a relaxing massage, steam shower and herbal tea! The people who work there are most helpful and always want to practice their English.

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Hoi An has a lantern festival every full moon.

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All the lights are extinguished and the town is lit with lanterns.

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You can buy water candles from children on the river and make a wish and set them afloat. Incense is burned everywhere for the dead ancestors.

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Hoi An is a photographer’s city.

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You respond to a face of an old woman under her triangle hat walking to sell her fruit or the way the light hits the old Chinese buildings or the lanterns lighting up the city at night.

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You move on to your next destination and your photographs become a testimony that you were there.

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I have to truly thank Ms. Anh Mai (Jina) from Trails of Indochina for helping me plan this trip. You have no idea how many emails I have sent her.  I do a lot of pre research about what cities i want to visit and made many changes  (including countries) till we got it right. Many people take cruises through Viet Nam but after going I would recommend doing it on land because you miss a lot. Jina never made me feel like I was a bother and always answered my questions politely and offered her own suggestions. Once in Viet Nam and Cambodia everything was taken care of beautifully. It is my first time traveling with this company and I was very impressed. I will definitely use them again and highly recommend JIna and Trails of Indochina for Southeast Asia. anh.m@trailsofindochinagroup.com

Fly safe,
JAZ

Animals I Met When Traveling

Animals I Met When Traveling

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.” Alfred Montaper

Kangaroos Australia

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Tasmanian Devil Australia

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Baby Wombat  Australia

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Koalas Australia

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Sheep Australia

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Deer Japan

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Llama Peru

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Iguana Panama

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Elephant Thailand

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Parakeets (Emilio White) Argentina

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Coati Argentina

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Cow Cambodia

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Monkey Cambodia

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Water Buffalo Viet Nam

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Louie Miami

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Fly safe,

JAZ

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There Are A Hundred Ways To Catch A Fish In The River In Hoi An, Viet Nam

There Are A Hundred Ways To Catch A Fish In The River In Hoi An, Viet Nam

“Having ideas is like getting fishing net; you must cast it. The broader you cast it, the greater your likelihood of achieving more!” Israelmore Ayivor

For the fishermen in Viet Nam, fishing has been a way of life for generations.

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Now they send their children to school in the hopes that they will have a better life. Fishing is not an easy life. Fishermen set their nets at night and return home to sell their fish to wholesalers at the market in the morning.

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They don’t worry about illness, or government fishing regulations.They worry about catching enough fish to feed their families all year round.

All fishermen are very superstitious and in Viet Nam it is the same. The boats have eyes in front of them – to see for their safety and to scare away the evil spirits. There are different eyes in different parts of the country. In the South the eyes are rounder than in the North.(boat in the Mekong Delta)

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The boats in the dock with eyes watch for the safety of the smaller fishing boats.

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The fishermen go to fortune tellers to find out what days are good for them to go out and catch many fish. Lucky numbers are 1, 5, 7 and 9. You can spend a lot of money to have the number nine painted on your boat.

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The fishermen use all kinds of tools to catch fish. Fishing nets, fishing camps (traps) and instruments made from bamboo to raise and lower large nets are some of the ways to catch fish.  I tried a few of the different methods.

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They are hard work. It is probably even harder when you’ve lost your foot on a landmine as a child.

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We sailed to a bamboo construction that was operated with your  arms and legs like gym equipment.

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It raises a very large fishing net that had been set during the night. it was heavy.  I needed help but the fishermen do it alone. (that was so cool to make  that come up)

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Then you go out to the net and retrieve the fish.

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The hat is not decorative. It is so the fish don’t fall on your head.

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The round bamboo basket boats with tar or varnish to waterproof them will catch your eye as soon as you reach the Viet Nam coast. It is truly a remarkable boat -cheap and resistant to various water hazards.

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We took it to go through the underwater palm forest filled with water coconuts that boats can’t go through. It’s a good area to find crabs.

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The Viet Cong hid here during the war. Hoi An is in central Viet Nam between the North and the South.

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The river is life to a fishermen – always there, always changing. As the rivers become more polluted, there are less fish and their income is always unstable.

Spending the morning with the fishermen in Hoi An for me was a very special thing to do. Being on the river is incredibly beautiful and it made me appreciate how much the fishermen of the world do for us – especially when I was eating the fresh catch of the day. (squid and prawns)

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Thanks to the fishermen and everyone from Hoi An Agritravel for a very interesting and delicious morning. Special thanks to Mr Nguyen Phuc Tan for his wonderful stories and expertise in teaching me about the Vietnamese fishermen.

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Di du lịch một cách an toàn,

JAZ

Ten Things You Should Know About Traveling To Third World Countries

Ten Things You Should Know About Traveling To Third World Countries.

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

1.Hakuna Matata is a real thing. Planes leave when they leave. Trains and buses arrive when they arrive. Shops and restaurants open when they open. Things are as they are. (Thailand)

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2. Rules can usually be broken with a little cash. Sad but true.

3.Traffic laws don’t have to be followed. You should wear a bike helmet and seatbelt but no one checks. Ten people should not be in your car, on your bike, or riding on the roof but they do.  You shouldn’t drink in the street or drive in the wrong lane but you can. Cars don’t always stop for red lights especially when the traffic light is new. Crossing a street can be life threatening. Once you decide to make your move, keep going. (Myanmar)

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4.The food while delicious can also be frightening – especially if you aren’t used to eating insects, guinea pigs, rodents or every part of an animal. (Mexico)

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5.The word toilet in a third world country is a whole other experience. Always carry paper and hand sanitizer.  If you are a girl, strengthen those leg muscles and learn to stand. Many times you will wish that you also carried a toilet. (Panama)

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6. You will have interesting animal adventures. There are many stray animals in these countries that belong to everybody. I don’t like taking a walk followed by a pack of wild, overly friendly, hungry dogs. It happens a lot in villages. I turn back. I have a fear of being kicked by walking close to a cow on the side of a road (and that could easily happen) or spit at by goats,camels or llamas. Kangaroos are cute but when they jump in front of your car and you slam on the brakes – not so cute. (Australia)

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7.Buying handicrafts in a third world market is fun if you know what you are doing. The phrase just looking does not translate into foreign languages well. If you show the slightest bit of interest, you will probably own whatever it is you are looking at, or be cursed at in a different language if you don’t buy it. (Turkey)

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8.Not every village has a garbage truck that comes to your house and picks up garbage every week.

9. All countries have their own customs. This is a hard concept for American to understand. How many times have I pointed with the wrong finger, ate with the wrong hand, put my shoes on a tatami mat, touched someone’s head, misunderstood personal space, kissed hello only once or not at all? I am sure that I insult the honor of someone’s family when I am traveling at least once a day. (Japan)

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10. You are rich.  Your plane ticket costs more than some people earn. (Argentina)

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If you are reading this on a computer or mobile device, compared to most of the world, you have a great life.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

The Delicatessen – Growing Up In New York

The Delicatessen- Growing Up in New York

“As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world; people who love delis and people you shouldn’t associate with.” Damon Runyon

I just saw Deli Man. a documentary film that chronicles the delicatessens that opened up in the twenties on the lower east side of New York City. . They started as German restaurants. As the Eastern European Jewish immigrants began coming to America they brought the foods of Lithuania, Romania, Hungary, Poland and Russia. The film tells the stories of  the rise of the delis and the Jewish immigrants. Their success and technology erased the old traditional urban blocks with everything you need run by mom and pop storefronts and delis on every block. In the 1930s New York had fifteen hundred Jewish delis. Now there are about twenty left. As the Jewish population assimilates and we all become foodies, we don’t just eat Jewish food anymore.

In other cultures  such as Mexican, Italian and Asian, there are always new immigrants coming in and cooking and wanting the food from their countries. There is no more Eastern European Jewish culture. The ones who live here have assimilated and the Holocaust took care of the rest. The Deli Culture is dying out.

There were two or three small delis on a block where I was growing up. There were larger deli restaurants as well. The people who worked in the delis had been there forever. They were the old timers and warranted a certain amount of respect. There was a kind of familiarity that the waiters and waitresses had – like they knew you for your whole life, even if they didn’t. They could be funny, mildly insulting and roll their eyes while you ordered everything on the side or asked for the fat to be cut off the corn beef.

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I was brought up on natural and health foods at a time that no one was. People who ate like this and exercised regularly were called heath nuts. Now they are called normal. Everyone that I knew except my family was eating Wonder Bread, Hershey Bars, Frosted Flakes and drinking Cokes and lemonade.There was no Whole Foods or McDonald’s.

We had fruit and vegetable stores so we always had plates of fresh sliced fruit and vegetables after school – not that anyone wanted that, but it was there so we ate it. We made our own candy out of peanut butter, raw coconut and honey. It was definitely more fun to make it with our hands than eat it. Our package desserts included Fig Newtons and something inedible called halvah. (It wasn’t till I went to Turkey that I found out that when it was served fresh it was delicious.) I thought Fig Newtons were inedible also. I can’t believe they are still around. We had some green herbal thing in a salt shaker that they tried to pass off as salt. We drank orange juice and we could have had a V8 instead of the cokes we longed for. We ate meat that was very rare, sometimes it looked right off the cow – blood for the blood. I don’t think I ever ate brisket until I was much older and to this day I do not like potted meat (in Yiddish gedempte flaisch)

We did not eat out because the kitchens were dirty and unsanitary in most restaurants – according to my father. It was before the rating system and they probably were. We did not use aerosol sprays because he said there was a hole in the atmosphere – something only he knew about so I was sure it was untrue. We did not have a car because it caused pollution and had to ride our bikes everywhere or take public transportation. Everyone else had cars. I was sure he was wrong about that as well.

But for some reason, delis were ok. I never asked why. Maybe it was the food of their childhood, their parents who I never met, the lower East Side of Manhattan – food they knew. We could have knishes, blintzes, sour pickles from a barrel, frankfurters, muenster cheese, peppery roast beef and they would let us order a chocolate egg cream. Occasionally we would have pastrami and corned beef sandwiches on fresh rye bread.  We ate a lot of smoked fish. Those small smoked golden white fish  had a lot of bones but they tasted good and I guess they were cheap. We were not rich and lox was expensive even then. My mother would buy a ¼ lb of lox and could easily feed six people on bagel and lox sandwiches that were mostly cream cheese. I think those neighborhood delis probably kept me alive because there was not much I was eating at home. I stopped in one every day.

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We could not have salami or bologna because “we didn’t know what was in it and there were probably chemical additives”. I grew up bringing ham sandwiches to school for lunch and lying and saying it was bologna because the Jewish people in my neighborhood did not eat ham. We used to eat Lithuanian black pumpernickel bread. I dreamed about having white bread sandwiches like everyone else. I’m not much of a bread person now unless I see that black whole grain bread of my childhood and then I can eat the whole loaf. Mayonnaise on meat still grosses me out and I’ve lived in California for a long time.

The other foods in the delis were weird to me. “What is that?,” we would ask. Stuffed kishka – skin – ew really?), chopped liver–yuk, , gribenes – fried chicken skin -uh, schmaltz, -chicken fat – gross, borscht – beet soup, (I cannot eat beets in any form), kasha –buckwheat, kreplach – dough floating in soup with liver and onions in it, kugel -noodle pudding, matzoh balls – dumplings made from matzoh that were really big and heavy), tzimmes – root vegetables and varnishkes – pasta with kasha. It all sounded awful and I’ve never liked it. But when I see it and smell it now, it always reminds me of my mom and the stories she would tell of how her mother made those foods.

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When I turned thirteen years old,  I started having summer jobs and my own money. I began going to diners, coffee shops, Italian and Chinese restaurants. I drank cokes. I ate pistachio nuts with the red dye on them that got all over your fingers, red M and Ms (we grew up in fear of red dye #2 and BHA and BHT – which was a preservative in packaged sugar cereal),  Bonomo Turkish Taffy – the kind that was really bad for your teeth and Carvel swirl ice cream cones.  I was rebelling. But NY delis were always around. You could smell the food as you walked down the street. It was the comfortable smell of my childhood and I thought it would always be there.

With the demise of Delis and  the Yiddish language comes the loss of our Eastern European cultural roots. With the pursuit of complete assimilation into American culture, and the absence of new Eastern European Jewish immigrants, we lost our history and we are losing our food.

I did not pass on the cultural traditions and Yiddish phrases of their grandparents to my children. They don’t know about their life on the lower east side of NY in the thirties and forties. They don’t know the stories from Yiddish theatre and vaudeville that my mother used to tell or the Eastern European melodies I heard growing up.  They don’t know the old Jewish comedians, the Borscht Belt, the Catskills or that we were the people of the clarinet. But they do know a good pastrami sandwich and a black and white cookie and that Nate and Al’s Deli makes a delicious chicken soup when you are sick.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Driving From Hue to Hoi An, Viet Nam

Driving From Hue To Hoi An, Viet Nam

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me as is ever so on the road.”Jack Kerouac

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American bunker with bullet holes near Da Nang

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China Beach, Da Nang

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American hangars in Da Nang

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Vietnamese coffee

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Di du lịch một cách an toàn,

JAZ

 

Where Are The Kings Of Hue? (Viet Nam)

Where are the Kings of Hue? (Viet Nam)

“And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie, that kings for such a tomb would wish to die”  John Milton

Between 1802 and 1945 Hue was the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty which had thirteen kings.  Huế was the national capital until 1945 when the last king abdicated and the new capital was Saigon in the south.

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The Imperial City at Hue is the best-preserved remnant of a vast citadel and royal quarters that once existed on the site.

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In the early nineteenth century the first King Gia Long wished to build a replica of the Forbidden City of Beijing.

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The King decided to locate his own palace within the walls of the citadel of his “Forbidden City”along the east side nearest the Perfume River.

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The “Purple Forbidden City,” was where the Emperor built a network of palaces, gates, and courtyards that served as his home and the administrative core of the Empire. The occupants were many concubines, wives, eunuchs and children.

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The ruins of the Imperial City are both old and more recent.

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In 1968 the Viet Cong launched an attack on the city of Hue. It was the Tet Offensive and the largest and bloodiest military action of the war up until that point. The fighting went on for a month and the Viet Cong massacred many people. This resulted in the destruction of the city by U.S. forces. The Viet Cong hid in the Imperial City fighting the US until they died from lack of supplies.

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Though the city was in ruins, long before the US bombed it, there was a lot of war damage to the historic buildings and many were reduced to rubble.

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Even so, the remaining buildings are enough to give the visitor a sense of how the Vietnamese interpreted Chinese imperial architecture and adapted it to their culture.

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The Nguyen Dynasty lives on in Hue if only through the Tombs of the Kings. The best and the worst of the line are commemorated through their imposing tombs, scattered through the hills of Hue.

Only seven of the thirteen kings have tombs in Hue. Each tomb began construction during each kings lifetime, and was completed after his death with a stone inscribed with the dead king’s biography. A few of the actual bodies have never been found and their tombs remain intact. All the tombs are equipped with statues and monuments in perfect “Phong Thuy” (Feng Shui) harmony to create a natural setting, in the architecture of which the king’s philosophical tendencies are often reflected.

The respective tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh reflect the absolute extremes of tomb design. Tu Duc’s tomb is expansive and poetically beautiful in its layout.

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Khai Dinh’s is done in a more monumental style – crafted of concrete, the grayness outside broken on the inside with pieces of broken glass and porcelain.

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Khai Dinh is said to have intended for his tomb to be built at the top of a long series of stairs, so courtiers would have to exert extra effort to pay respect to his memory.

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His tomb took 11 years to complete.

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His enduring unpopularity is due in part to his heavy taxation on peasants to finance the construction of this edifice.

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Once the capital of Vietnam and an inspiration for poets and artists alike for centuries, Hué is divided by the waters of the Perfume River, which separate the city’s 19th century citadel from the suburbs that radiate from the eastern shore. The second half of Stanley Kubrick’s film Full Metal Jacket takes place primarily in and around the bombed-out ruins of the city of Huế.

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It is a very Buddhist city with many monasteries and vegetarian restaurants. The food in Hue which is in central Viet Nam is spicier than the north and south.

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Thich Nhat Hanh, world-famous Zen master originates from Huế.

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Hue was declared “ a master of urban poetry” and a Unesco site in 1981 due to its history and cultural heritage.

My guide in Hue and Hoi An was Mr. Ngo Duc Huan. Huan had a huge amount of information about the Kings of Hue. I hope I retained some of it. Huan was fun, knowledgeable and kind.  My time in Central Viet Nam was definitely better because of him and I learned a lot. Thank you so much for the wonderful time I had in those cities.

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Di du lịch một cách an toàn

JAZ