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Full Circle

Day 80: Hue

The Forbidden Purple City 
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The Forbidden Purple City, home of Vietnam's emperors.
Michael Palin - Full CircleEighty days around the Pacific Rim and we are only a third of the way there. Circumnavigating the world was a doddle compared to this. What's slowing us down is the quality and quantity of things to see. There hasn't been a day so far when we haven't encountered something remarkable.

Today it's the Forbidden Purple City at Hue, a massive palace and administrative complex built for Gia Long, first Emperor of Vietnam nearly two hundred years ago and protected by a six-and-a-half-mile wall. It was built near a river - a 'stream of light' which keeps away bad influences. Its three main enclosures all face south, south being the best direction for a king to rule his people from. Two miles away is a small mountain, essential 'to protect from evil spirits'. The alignment of buildings to bring good luck, what the Chinese call feng shui, is still important in the east. A geomancer, one who calculates such things, will be consulted on everything from family houses to state-of-the-art office blocks.

My guide, Miss Huong, who wears ao-dai, the graceful national dress, a tunic with long panels over slim-fitting trousers, reminds me that the Nguyen dynasty, for whom this was built, ruled Vietnam until 1954. There is still a Vietnamese emperor - alive and living in Paris.
Hue, Vietnam 
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Miss Huong, my guide to the Forbidden City.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 80
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Hue
  • Book page no: 118

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