Anthony and Erica on the road to Mandalay 2006 travel blog

Dredging the river bottom by hand to get sand to sell...very hard...

Thien Mu Pagoda

Xung Khiem Pavillion, Tu Duc's Mausoleum

Me and Xung Khiem Pavillion

Harem in the rain, Tu Duc's Mausoleum

Wet roof tiles, Tu Duc's Mausoleum

Xung Khiem Pavillion, Tu Duc's Mausoleum

Altar, Hon Chen Temple

Courtyard in the rain, Hon Chen Temple

Don't look now! Grounds of Khai Dinh's Mausoleum

Spooky grounds of Khai Dinh's Mausoleum

More of Khai Dinh's Mausoleum

Minh Lau Pavillion, Minh Mang's Mausoleum

Sung An Temple in the rain, Minh Mang's mausoleum

Little bit of a hangover this morning, only partly cured by breakfast at Thu's cafe (pronounced 2) opposite my hotel. And it still rains heavily, in fact it has not stopped once since yesterday lunchtime. So I invested in a cheap poncho, took my trusty brolly as well (vital for taking pics in the rain without getting the lens wet), and set off to explore the Perfume River.

This involved getting a motorbike through the rain to the nearby wharf, and then much chaos and apparent confusion until several other tourists and I - local and foreign - got on a boat, which promptly broke down. After about 30 minutes slowly drifting down stream in the middle of the main shipping lane we got going again. First we visited a little pagoda, and then the first of three fabulous mausoleums. Even though it pissed with rain all day and I got really wet and the boat was really noisy, I enjoyed it a lot. Not just the motorbike rides in the rain, but the beautiful and atmospheric mausoleums.

The first one - the Mausoleum of Tu Duc - was set amongst pines and artificial rivers and hills with lovely buildings, all very feng shui. Very atmospheric, and would have been gorgeous if it was sunny, though then it probably would have been ten times as crowded. Next to a little temple called Hon Chen. And then lunch on the boat. Like so many meals in Vietnam, it was lovely, and a complete mystery how they managed to whip up such a varied and tasty meal for several people in a space the size of a phone box, with a small candle and a tiny wok.

While we ate we motored along through the downpour to stop for another bike ride from the river to the mausoleum of Khai Dinh, only about 80 years old, and what can only be called Chinese Gothic. It was quite amazing, either dark and sinister - straight out of a Chinese horror film, or incredibly ornate and colourful, and often both. Great. Unfortunately, as is nearly always the case, you are not allowed to take pics in the main bits, so you will have to visit it yourself. It is worth it (though I would advise hiring your own motorbike or taxi if there is enough of you). And lastly the lovely Mausoleum of Minh Mang, set in lovely parkland, the prettiest of them. And then back to Hue, a lovely Indian meal, a bit of a sesh in the Cafe with Thu Wheels (its name in the guide books) talking to a Canadian couple who were on my boat, and bed.

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