Bill and Sue-On Hillman: A 50-Year Musical Odyssey


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Hue Imperial City Citadel I

Forbidden City ~ Royal Theatre
Hueís position is strategic and it was the national capital until 1945, when emperor Bao Dai abdicated and the nation was sliced into two. During the American War, Hue's location roughly halfway between Hanoi (540 km away) in the north and Saigon (644 km away) in the south put it just south of the DMZ, the demilitarized zone that served as the dividing line between North and South Vietnam. 

American aircraft launched strikes against North Vietnam from Hue's airbase. The South China Sea was just 15 km to the north-east from where the US Navy maintained supply lines. For most of the war, Hue was held by the South and their American allies, but in 1968 as part of the Tet Offensive the North Vietnamese captured much of the city. 

They were eventually pushed out but the month-long, house-to-house fighting and the intense shelling and bombing destroyed much of the city.  The place was bombed into the dust to dislodge the Viet Cong and I can only imagine what works of splendour where destroyed.

The major attraction we visited in Hue was the vast, 19th-century Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. It encompassed the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City, once the emperorís home; and a replica of the Royal Theatre. The tombs themselves saw little damage, but the Citadel was badly damaged. About 160 buildings once stood inside the Citadel's walls but less than a dozen survived the Battle of Hue. The current communist government obviously realizes the tourist potential here and despite the Imperial heritage of the complex there were many restoration projects in evidence all through the compound.

They claim that the Purple Forbidden city is based upon the original one in Beijing. Having seen both versions of the "City" we saw little in the Vietnam one that resembles the one in China -- too much of it had been damaged or reduced to rubble. Whatís left of the Citadel was impressive, but itís clearly but a shadow of what it once was. Jim, the US military vet with our group, had fascinating stories about buddies who had been involved in the close fighting in the compound. The results were tragic in so many ways.

As we entered the Royal Theatre we saw spledidly-costumed performers entering the building. We were allowed to take some time to marvel at the ornately decorated interior of the Theatre before their show but were shown out before the scheduled performances on the stage. 

Click for larger full-screen images

Entering the Royal Citadel

Entering the Royal Theatre

Impressive wall decorations and displays

Sue-On joins the drum rehearsal


Supplementary Photo Gallery 1
Supplementary Photo Gallery 2



Copyright 2015
Bill and Sue-On Hillman