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Hue and life on the Perfume River

One of my favourite parts of the world is Vietnam… and one experience that has been hard to forget was an early morning motor bike ride along parts of the Perfume River at Hue.

The Perfume River is in the Thua Thien-Hue Province in Vietnam and is known as the Song Huong to the Vietnamese. The name ‘Perfume’ river was given to it because flowers from orchards upriver from Hue fall into the water in autumn and give the river a perfume-like aroma.

The evening before I’d met a local man in cafe who was a photographer – he offered to take me and couple of the guys I was with out along the river to see the sun rise and the river markets. This turned out to be a long, but amazing day out…

We started out the next morning at 4am and we would get around on the back of motorbikes. This was great fun hurtling around on and off the road. Travelling along narrow tracks by the river and through the Perfume River’s small riverside villages, chasing the sun rise.

It was nice to see the locals along the river going about their business, planting rice, hurding ducks on the river, washing clothes using the river water, and watching the silhouettes of people fishing on the river.

The highlight for me was the river market where I met a friendly family who let me take their photograph – one of my personal favourites.

At the fish market where people had landed their boats and were selling their fish. One women had set up a table as temporary butchers and was cutting meat with a very sharp knife, whilst others were selling all manner of fish from bowls on the ground.

After a well earned breakfast back at the hotel after about half an hours sleep, we went on another motor bike trip – a ten strong convoy this time. First we visted the Tang Ton markets where we were introduced to a 75 year old lady who showed us the little museum and gave a lively demonstration of the irrigation machine whilst singing to us. Outside on the bridge we also met a lady who was a fortune teller… very surreal.

Then it was on to the Nguyen Dynasty’s Citadel of Hue on the northern bank of the Perfume River.

We then took a boat trip on the Perfume River to see the Phuoc Duyen Tower and the Thien Mu Pagoda (Chùa Thiên Mụ) Hà Khê hill in Hue. The pagoda is the tallest in Vietnam. The temple was built in 1601 and today it houses the car driven by the monk Thích Quảng Đức who burnt himself to death in protests on the streets of Saigon in the 1960’s – famously photographed by journalist Malcolm Browne.

We took lunch at a nunnery and took a nap on the floor in one of the rooms there as it was 40 degrees in the shade. We then went to Tu Duc tomb – Tu Duc lost Vietnam to the French. We saw how incense sticks are made and a lady with one arm who makes conical hats.

Check out the more photographs from my early morning trip along the Perfume River and Hue, Vietnam:

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