Sunday, December 30, 2007


I tried to buy a train ticket in Ninh Binh for the evening train but there were no sleeper tickets left and I did not want to spend the 12 to 14 hours sitting up so I bought a sleeper bus ticket from the hotel. I think it may have been better to sit up all night on the train. I did a sleeper bus from Kunming to Vietnam so I thought I could handle another sleeper bus. The bus was not reserved places so I got the last bottom bunk on the bus and it was in the last row and was more inclined then all the rest of the bunks. It was sort of like standing up rather than lying down so I did not get any sleep for the first 8 hours of the ride. At 5 in the morning some people got off the bus and I was able to move to a different bunk that was a lot more comfortable and was able to get a few hours of sleep.

Since I had not got much sleep on the bus I spent a lot of the day in the hotel and went for a walk in the evening. The following morning I rented a bike and should have spent a little bit more time looking for a better bike but at a dollar for a day I should not complain. I seemed to get a lot of strange looks riding this bike that would have been great for someone about a foot and a half shorter than me. I did manage to make it the 12 kilometers to the 2 tombs that I wanted to visit and also back into the city.

The first tomb I visited was for Khai Dinh. Khai Dinh was emperor from 1916 to 1925 and even though he was the emperor the country was really under French rule. The tomb was completed in 1930 so not really that old compared to some of the sites I have seen. I did find the tomb impressive.

I also rode to the Tomb of Minh Mang but was riding right past it until a lady started yelling at me that I was going the wrong way. Minh Mang was emperor from 1820to 1840 and the tomb was completed in the 1840s. I was more impressed with the first tomb I visited but I think Minh Mang was a real emperor and not just a puppet emperor for the French.

I stopped at a couple of temples on the way back into the city and then rode into the Hue citadel to visit the Imperial Enclosure. The guidebook said that it was fashioned after the Forbidden City in Beijing but it was no where close to the forbidden city. A lot of the buildings were destroyed during the revolutionary war with the French in the 1950s and then more damage was done during the American war. I found the enclosure gates the most impressive site in the Imperial Enclosure.

I decided to do a DMZ tour from Hue. I thought that this tour would be full of information on the American War (Vietnam War to Americans) but was sadly disappointed. I should have know that visiting war sites would not be that interesting since it is really just ground where a battle took place. The Demilitarized Zone was a 5 kilometer area established in 1954 between North and South Vietnam where there was not suppose to be any military and was really a no mans land where no one lived during the war. We visited a couple of areas that were US military bases to watch the DMZ and ending up seeing a lot of action at some point during the war. One was called the Rockpile and the other was Khe Sanh. We also visited a Monument to the Ho Chi Minh Trail but the trail was only through the area of the monument after America pulled out of Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh Trail crossed the DMZ in Laos when the America was watching the DMZ. Why go through a barrier when you can just go around it. This is most of the info that I was given on the tour and not really a lot for an 8 hour bus ride.

The one part of the tour that I did find interesting was the Vinh Moc Tunnels. These tunnels where in North Vietnam a few kilometers from the DMZ and were used for protection when US bombed. The people in the village would go underground when the bombing started and remain there until it stopped. We only stayed in the tunnels for 15 minutes or so but for that time I walked around like a hunchback since most of the tunnels are only about 5 1/2 feet high.

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