The vietnamese imperial capital was one of the sights I was looking forward to the most on our trip, since its gradeur has faded a good deal, mainly because of destruction during the wars Vietnam struggled through against the US and France, the latter of which was to be the most destructive, as we would later find out. With things in decay, fewer tourists would be around, and it would be an enjoyable visit, and this in fact proved to be the case. The city is divided by a river, with the old, walled capital on one side, and most of the newer city on the other. The old, walled capital then had within it another smaller, higher walled city, the citadel of the emperor, and then within that, a smaller walled section, known as the purple forbidden city, for the emperor and his family alone. In any case, it must be noted, as anna did, that our visit to Hue began rather exhaustingly, having come from Hanoi on an overnight train, taking 14 hours between the two cities. In addition, we could only get hard sleeper spots, meaning there were 6 beds in our compartment, and we only got bunks on the second and third 'floor', with mine being at the top, and thus close to the main light of the cabin, where the heat it eminated cancelled out any cooling effect provided by the air conditioning. On top of it all, we ended being 7 passengers in the compartment, and not 6, as a family was among those present and the child shared a bunk with his mother. However, the child was the least bothersome of the bunch, and instead that was shared by a male on the second floor who was constantly clearing his throat, and the father of the family, who whistled constantly. As a result, and with the stifling heat, it was difficult to get started visiting the expansive citadel. After a stroll and lunch, we ventured into the old city, and found it to be just as I expected; vast, impressive, without many tourists, and completely destroyed in many parts. Some sections have been rebuilt to their original splendor, or possibly more so, given some of the glossyness present, but all in all it was everything you wish the Forbidden City in Beijing would be, only smaller. However, the heat was quite stifling, and as we had agreed to do a one-hour cyclo tour of the old city, we scampered off from our brief visit and let our local pedaling guide take the brunt of the sweating. After seeing some more atypical sights of the old town, such as the house Ho Chi Minh once lived in as a child, or a second palace area with an artificial lake that was totally ignored today as the Americans completely destroyed it, we also agreed to go with the guy and his father on a motorbike tour to the Imperial Tombs on the outskirts of town. Intending to be cyclo'd back to our hotel, we instead walked back the last half, to give the poor guy a break, whose laboring pace was slowed by even more by the streams of sweat pouring from his brow. At this point we returned to take advantage of all the positives our hostel had to offer, as oh yes, in Hue we stayed in a swingin' backpacker hostel, with many different happy hours and drink specials. The slight side effect was that as the private double was booked, we had to share a room with 15 other individuals, which would have been bad enough if some of them hadnt been either rowdy brits who were still drunk the morning after drinking or the bimboest of british airheads who had prolonged conversations about their tans. It wasn't all bad as we met a pair of thirtysomethings from Arizona who as teachers could take a couple weeks to go around Vietnam. The next morning, bright and early, we set off on the back of the ubiquitous small-engine motorbikes to visit three of the more ornate imperial tombs around Hue. Two were immense rural grounds that were also used as imperial retreats during the warmer times of the year. In these the tombs themselves were more what tombs should be, not particularly ostentatious, and insipring a sense of quiet reverence. The highlight, which I particularly enjoyed, was that the natural surroundings and small lakes and pools were incorporated into the grounds, and plants and grass had managed to conquer varying areas of the grounds, the tombs, and the temples. The newest of the tombs, built by the last of the emperor's, having spent time in France, and who added a Tennis court to the Purple Forbidden City, blended architectural styles to give a slightly european touch to the statues and architecture of his tomb, but making it by far the most ornate and monumental, both inside and out. Our guides did not think the trip to be over and took us also to see a pair of pagodas, one of which was the most iconic image of the city of Hue, and then to a place for lunch, of which of course we had to pay a premium. All in all, our culinary experience in Hue was good but generally unremarkable, that although the seafood was quite good, wasnt particularly typical, and it was only the final place we stopped after having already had dinner for some desert that was our favorite stop, and had some Vietnamese banana pancakes, which were more like a banana frittata, and truly scrumptious. So following a rough night on a train, and a rough pair of nights in a hostel, we set off to our next stop, Hoi An, the colonial highlight of Vietnam.