JJD’s Response: First of all, I want to point out that the photo that inspired this challenge was of Korean teenagers playing with stuffed animals. And I’m in Vietnam, not Korea. So nothing about this challenge helped me “blend in with the locals.” I’m pretty sure the locals thought I was nuts.
Nevertheless, meet Uncle Ho:
Uncle Ho is originally from someplace else in Vietnam, where people live in houses on stilts. He first came to Hue to join in the mass protests in Hue against taxe rates imposed by the French colonists.
|They even built a monument to commemorate the protests in 2005.|
|If you look closely, you can see Uncle Ho amidst the patriotic heroes of the people.|
The protests were fun, and they gave him serious Communist cred that came in handy a few years later when he had to run the country. But he always regretted that his time in Hue was so filled with activities “for the people” that he never got to see any of the cool toursity sights like the Royal Tombs and the Thien Mu Pagoda.
Fortunately for Uncle Ho, all of those things were on our itinerary for today. So he got to come along and fulfill his lifelong dream. We went by motorbike, which was kind of scary for a little monkey, but in the end he liked feeling of the wind on his patchwork stitches.
We started off at the Tomb of Khai Dinh, who was the second-to-last Vietnamese emperor. He reigned from 1916 to 1925 and built a lavish tomb that mixed Chinese and European architectural elements. The tomb was super impressive . . .
but for some reason the dragons guarding the royal tomb weren’t super excited to see Uncle Ho (I think Uncle Ho may have said some hurtful things in one of those demonstrations). One of the dragons even tried to eat him.
It was touch and go for a minute, but we managed to talk the dragon off the ledge and convinced him to release Uncle Ho. Afther that Vanessa and I had to have a little come-to-Jesus with Ho to help him with his friend-making skills, and he promised to try harder to get along.
In the next courtyard we met a bunch of Mandarins. Uncle Ho got to know one of them pretty well.
Pretty soon they were joking around and playing “who can sit still on top of a horse?” Ho was really good at that game.
Making new friends and winning at games that you’re good is a wonderful way to build self-confidence, and that was certainly true for Uncle Ho. He got down off the horse and set out to try his luck with the dragons again.
Not only did the dragon not try to eat him . . .
but there was this one fluffy white dragon that was super nice and let Uncle Ho ride on his back and pretend like he was the kid in The Neverending Story.
Uncle Ho also enjoyed seeing the inside of the tomb. He thought the glass mosaics were really pretty.
But then he started to lose focus and started monkeying around on the furniture.
Which wasn’t cool. So we had to leave.
We went to a few more tombs, and Uncle Ho minded his manners and kept a low profile until we got to the tomb of Tu Duc, who reigned in the mid-1800s. It’s a huge tomb complex that actually served as the king’s pleasure palace before he died. For some reason Uncle Ho really wanted to see the tomb of the Queen.
When we went inside, he got all emotional and started putting flowers everywhere. It was kind of embarrassing to see. I don’t speak Vietnamese, so I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, but I’m guessing he had a torrid love affair with the Queen and that it was super awkward, what with her being the Queen and him being the leader of the opposition movement and all, and so it all ended in tears and broken hearts and bad karaoke performances.
Once Uncle Ho had had a minute to collect himself, we left the tombs and went to see the Thien Mu Pagoda, which was built in 1844 and is still operating as a Buddhist monastery. Uncle Ho’s spirits perked right back up when he realized that the anti-colonist politics of this place were much more in line with his own views (heck, a monk even lit himself on fire to protest — talk about dedication to the cause!).
After paying his respects, we climbed aboard a dragon boat for the world’s slowest and most boring boring “cruise” back to Hue. But we had the boat to ourselves, so that was nice.
By the time we docked in Hue, we were hot and thirsty and a little tired. So we went to the DMZ Bar and ordered mixed fruit milkshakes and relaxed under the fans.
Uncle Ho had such a great time visiting the city that he asked if he could abandon all responsibilities back home and go backpacking with us. We told us we’d be happy to take him at least as far as Angkor Wat, as long as he was willing to ride in the back pouch of the backpack.