Hue: "Muffins and Mausoleums"

Hue, Vietnam
July 29, 2003
Sunny, hot, breezy

Dear Family and Friends,

I am sitting at the Mai Huong Patisserie, a small sidewalk cafe near an intersection of the main street. I am watching an unending stream of incessantly beeping motorbikes; police officers with whistles stop speeders! I am enjoying my favorite - iced Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Deeelicious.

Huang, the friendly lady who runs the cafe with her husband, bakes muffins with dried fruit and nuts on top. No wonder I am not losing any weight.

I sign up for an all day boat trip on the Perfume River to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda and the Royal Tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).

The Royal Tombs are “extravagant mausoleums constructed along the banks of the river. They are majestic, serene, gaudy, exquisite, and harmonious with the environment." Each tomb is unique and represents the personality of its resident.

In the courtyards of the temples stand carvings of elephants and horses and many statues of the mandarins who served the emperor. They are a bit smaller than life size for no one can be larger than the emperor.

One emperor had one hundred and four wives and countless concubines. (Talk about high maintenance.) One emperor took extreme measures to ensure the secret of his burial place. The 200 servants who buried the king were beheaded. (Talk about loyal employees.) The location of this burial site is still unknown.

In the evening I had dinner on the floating restaurant beneath a modern suspension bridge that kept changing its glowing color according to the whim of the lighting director - white, blue, red, yellow.

The Perfume River trip was one of the highlights of my travels in Vietnam. Hue itself is a beautiful city and is my "must return" list.

And return I must to the café for my coffee and muffins. I lounge there in the afternoon and evening for three days. Huang and her husband and I are friends. We exchange email addresses, and they gave me the address of their friend who owns a nail salon (what else?) in Tallahassee, Florida!

Huang insists I return one last time on the morning of my departure from Hue. I do. Huang and her husband present me with gifts: a little Vietnamese filter coffee maker that they know I love. And also a bag of coffee. Vietnamese coffee. My favorite. I am so humbled and moved by their generosity, warmth and humanity.

"Totally Awesome" Vietnam.




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