HUE FESTIVAL - 2012 Hue rose to prominence as the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty which dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th - 19th centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century when Emperor Gia Long established control over the whole of Vietnam, Hue became the national capital & remained so until 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated & a communist government was established at Hanoi. The American War &, in particular, the Tet Offensive of 1968, saw the city suffer considerable damage. In the period following the war the city's historical features remained neglected, seen by the communist government as "relics from a feudal regime". With a more recent change in policy parts of the historic city have now been restored. The Hue Festival stems from the Vietnam-France Gathering of 1992 & is now Vietnam's largest cultural event for art, theatre, music, dance; a rendez-vous for ancient cities & for world cultural heritage. Festival events - ranging from gastronomy to a children's fiesta, from street performances to local craftsmen - are staged throughout various most scenically situated points of interest within the charming city. I would travel on this ocassion to Hue by train from Da Nang taking the journey around the headland at the foot of Hai Van Pass; a journey by train judged by many to be the best in Vietnam. The train experience - a seat on the train cost 70,000vnd ($3.50) each way; the train from Da Nang started almost an hour late & took 3 hours to reach Hue; the return leg started almost on time & took 2 hours & 15 minutes. Its a wonderful journey through virgin forest, past beautiful deserted beaches, along a track purched just above the sea & the peninsula's rocky coastline. The line runs along the mountainside of Vung An Cu, the lagoon behing Lang Co & offers a most scenic appraisal of fishing life on the lagoon & traditional rice farming on the adjoining shoreline. So scenic is the run that I plan to do it by motorbike shortly & add it to the list of alternative ways to travel by road to Hue. The ceremony is staged at the fabulous Ngo Mon Gate, the principal entry to the ancient Citadel. Some shots from the Opening Ceremony to give you a feel - a prominent ball of flame & the set-up for the first half hour of speaches: The festivities get under way, continuing for an hour & a half into the night: Various countries were invited & sent delegations to perform, including France, China, Australia, Russia & South Korea. Herewith a shot of the Russian delegation (it was difficult for the camera to catch the man in full flight) &, not surprisingly, the Australian delegation. In the case of the later the hilltribe playing gongs in the background are, in fact, from the M'nong tribe at Buon Don where the Elephant Race report I posted last week was taken........small world! Let the fireworks begin: A couple of close-ups of those on stage during the fireworks: And all the time the flames burned at Cot Co: MAGNIFIQUE!!!!!!!! The Hue Festival runs for 9 days & I'll be returning for the last 2 days.