The Imperial City in Huế was built for a Nguyễn Phúc Ánh, who took control of Vietnam in 1802 and proclaimed himself its Emperor. The complex continued to grow in size and magnificence for
over a century until the abolition of the monarchy in 1945. Despite termite and typhoon damage, it remained impressive up to the America/Vietnam war. Reacting to the Communist takeover
in 1968, the Americans ordered the city retaken and bombs blasted the majority into rubble.
Resulting in thousands of deaths, the Battle of Huế was one of the longest and most destructive of the war. Although militarily it was an Allied victory, driving the People's Army of Vietnam and Viet Cong away and punishing them for their offensive, the destruction of the city and its people influenced a swing in public opinion in America.
From this time forward, support for the war declined and over the next five years the US's involvement decreased until March 1973 when the last of their troops left Vietnam. In 1975, communist forces eventually captured Saigon and the war was over.
The remaining architecture is chipped and faded, but the site is worth visiting for the surviving details and strange atmosphere that hangs around the buildings.
For me this felt like one of the more honest of Vietnam's attractions, a chance to loose yourself in the past and a welcome sanctuary after the bustle of Hanoi and Ho Chi Min. It's the most prominent example of imperial Chinese influence over Vietnamese architecture and has plentiful opportunities for deciphering the fantastical imagery that adorns many of the most colourful walls.
The complex is now being restored, but I visited before much had been changed. I think I preferred it that way, so get there quickly if you want a similar experience.
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