July in Vietnam: The Imperial Tombs

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I was glad to have taken a bit of a break before going to see the imperial tombs as quite a lot of the architecture was unsurprisingly similar to that of the imperial palace. I went first to the Tu Duc tombs where lots of stuff was under restoration. It was a huge complex with plenty of atmospheric, crumbling buildings.

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This place was huge, with pavilions leading into pavilions. Here, there was a stele pavilion that housed a stele listing Tu Duc’s reflections on his life and its meaning.

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Some side pavilions were in serious disrepair and waiting for the restoration crew to arrive.

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They were appropriately marked “dangerous area” so we were warned. The building could come down any moment!

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Leading up to the tomb was a gauntlet of officials, both military and administrative, attesting to the rank of the emperor.

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Before getting to the tomb proper, you have to get past the gate. It’s designed so that the tomb can’t be seen from the outside – a stone screen protects it from prying eyes.

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And the tomb itself, a little bit of an anti-climax but still impressive with its slightly austere air. Too bad about the graffiti marring it though.

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I was too palace and tombed out to explore further and went only to the outside of the Khai Dinh tomb to have a look round. The entry gate was absolutely impressive, with its ornate carvings in the grey stone and the long staircase forcing one to stare upwards.

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August in China: Guilin City

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Tortoise had flown into Guilin with me. She’d have her weekend getaway after which I’d part ways with her and head northwest.

Guilin is one of those places whose name alone evokes so many romantic images of beautiful shan shui (literally: water and mountain) landscapes. Even those who’ve not been to Guilin before wax lyrical about the beauty of the place. However, the city itself is a bit of a letdown as there’s no escape from the grey monoliths of commerce. Granted, it’s prettier than the average second tier city in China, with tree-lined avenues and parks dotting the city. Aside from the few parks, there’s not much else to Guilin city.

One such park is the famous Xiang Bi Shan (literally: elephant trunk hill). One of the bizarre rock formations looks exactly like the side profile of an elephant half-immersed in the water. Tortoise and I weren’t too keen on paying the ridiculous entrance fees just to see a lump of rock. If memory serves me right, it cost ¥60 here.

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The park designers were devilishly smart in planning this place. We managed to spy the rock formation through the gate and past lush trees and shrubbery. We could just about see it with the naked eye, but it was impossible to snap a picture from the outside at all. We gave up and sat at the outside, instead snapping a picture of this tiny elephant holding up the concrete railing.

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A minor attraction in the area are the Sun and Moon Pavilions (ri yue ta). They’re prettily set in a lake and the reflection from the recent rain made it rather pretty.

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Tortoise and I sat at the park for a while just observing the numerous domestic tour groups passing through the area. There was an elevated platform in front of the pavilions on which groups like to pose for pictures. Here’s one of a group from Hainan University.

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And here’s another of a family with two very bouncy and thoroughly spoilt little girls. We were fascinated by new dynamics in family structure. The function of the adults were just to dispense money and attention. The kids seemed to run the show and had every whim met. They were also experts in acting cute. Check out the heart pose in the picture below.

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After dinner, we passed by the pavilions again. I think it’s a lot prettier in the dark. No prizes for guessing which pavilion is which!

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