Hue suffered incredibly during the Vietnam War, with stories of mass graves and North Vietnamese soldiers under siege forced to drink algae, just weeks after being welcomed to the city with huge banquets. In tourist literature aimed at the Western visitor, most of the attention is focused on this period of history and the incredibly ugly 19th century fortress in the middle of the city that hosted intense fighting between U.S. and Viet Cong forces a hundred years after it was built.
Leaving sunny Da Nang for Hue was shocking, and not just because of the dreary weather that persisted for all three days I was there. As a major tourist destination, Hue was filled with people consistently harassing me on the streets to buy things. Everywhere I went was damp and miserable and and it was painfully obvious that the historical infrastructure (read: pre-Communist, Imperial era) of the city had only been restored once those in charge realized foreign tourists wanted to see it. I went on a day-long tour of the De-Militarized Zone that was easily the worst day I spent in Vietnam, which is really saying something considering my interest in subject matter.
It’s hard not to feel a tinge of American guilt when talking despairingly about a city that bore the brunt of a hundred years of colonial meddling. I look at how dreary and damp these photos are and I can remember why I, at least, had a miserable time there. Despite this, the afternoon I walked around inside the Citadel and took these photos, far away from the tourists and the kitschy inner bailey, was the best time I spent in the city.