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Fancy going for a homestay in Sapa or Bac Ha in northern Vietnam? It is famous for it's multi-coloured dress tribes. There are many different tribes, each with their distinct style of traditional wear.

However, if you go with any of the local travel packages, you will only get purpose-built homestays sans the authentic lifestyle of the local folks. In fact, due to the already over-boomed tourism in the area, homestays had been and are still mushrooming practically everywhere in these highlands.

When we insisted on staying with a family on a real homestay, we got this family with a real farmhouse at the edge of isolated farms stowed away from the usual tourist spots. The house is located a few hundred meters away from the end of a village tarmac and continued on the soil path before reaching the few farmhouses clustered together. In this image, the lady of the house was frying vegetables over wood fire under the kitchen chimney for our authentic home-cooked farmhouse dinner.

This is the mausoleum's throne room of Emperor Khai Dinh. The intricacies of the interior gives unreserved evidence of the emperor's high taste for grandiose designs. The ceilings were painted with murals of dragons frolicking in churning clouds. Above the throne is a golden square canopy. It hung down from the ceiling as if you are looking up a huge, thick, golden table-cloth from underneath. Except that it has more dragons cavorting within golden elaborate designs carved into its breadth. The square canopy has a panel on each side with tassels dropping down at its edge. The tassels in green, purple, orange and even brown colour formed wavy lines as they go up and down underneath the panels.

At the back part of the throne platform, there were golden brown panels rising up and down. They form a semi-circle, giving the appearance of sun rays bursting from the bottom. Directly in front of it are multi-coloured mosaic clouds also in a semi-circle.

Underneath the center of the canopy, sits the gilded bronze life-size statue of Emperor Khai Dinh on the golden throne. The emperor holds his royal scepter in glorious splendour of his imperial clothing. It is said that the emperor's remains were buried 18 meters below the statue, which was french-made in 1922.

Mosaic covers most of the other surfaces in the mausoleum. The pillars, the altars, the walls, the throne platform are all covered in a riot of colours and design in mosaic. This mausoleum stands out from the other emperors' in that it departs from the usual traditional chinese designs. Instead it fuses eastern and western influences in its design and architecture.

This street vendor sold noodle on the humble pavement along the Le Loi Street, parallel to the Perfume River. It was early in the morning. We were just walking out from the guest house wondering where to eat breakfast when we stumbled upon this makeshift stall. It was local noodles, herbs and gravy. Simple, delicious and cheap. Even though we had paid more as non-locals.

Le Loi Street is just across the river from the Citadel in Hue. The Forbidden Purple City, a citadel-within-a-citadel, resides inside the larger Citadel. The Nguyen emperors once ruled Vietnam from within the six meters high walls that run 2.5km in length around the Imperial Enclosure. The Citadel's wall is two meters thick and 10km long.

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Hello... I Am Josh

A Travel Writer & Photographer from South East Asia

A little about me

Josh For some, it's shopping therapy. Others, movie therapy. Yet more, reading therapy. For me, it's writing therapy.
Why writing? When I travel, I enjoy first-hand the experience like in shopping therapy. But when I write about my travels, I live vicariously the experience again, as if like a movie sequel (or more like GroundHog Day, except that this is fun!). Yes, writing evokes the memories, the fun and the not-so-fun but all-in-all it gives the satisfaction of reliving the sense of place once more.
With images, it enhances the experience down one's travel memory lane. With this in mind, I hope to share my travel stories in words and images with you. For your escape therapy! More...

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