The Thanh Toàn Bridge in Hue
The best day we had in Hue wasn’t spent visiting ancient tombs or forbidden cities, but a humble pedestrian bridge. Found in the village of Thủy Thanh, the tile-roofed Thanh Toàn Bridge was built in 1776, and a trip to see it makes for an excellent excursion from Hue.
By far the best way to reach Thủy Thanh is with bicycle. The picturesque journey of about five kilometers brings you along a canal, straight east until you reach the village. Bicycling was impossible for us, because I had injured my elbow, so we took a taxi there and walked back. This was fine, too.
The bridge is even more charming in real life than it appears in pictures, because you’re able to see how much the community appreciates it. Measuring in at 17 meters in length, it’s lined with benches, each of which we found occupied with someone napping, or groups of kids hanging out. It’s been damaged by floods countless times — a nearby column shows the astounding height of the various inundations this area has suffered throughout the years — but the community always makes sure to restore their beloved bridge.
While Jürgen photographed the bridge from every conceivable angle, I decided to check out Thủy Thanh’s small museum. The village’s culture is based around rice, and the museum showed off some of the tools used during the harvest, and traditional clothing and games of the people who live here. The highlight was an older woman who provided a detailed demonstration of harvesting and preparing rice, and even how to whip a buffalo. I’m not sure why buffalo-whipping was important enough to pantomime for tourists, but she seemed to be having fun.
The best part of the day was our walk back into Hue. We were visiting at the end of the twice-annual harvest, and villagers were at work laying their rice out to dry, or burning the fields. With billows of smoke rising from the fields, occasionally blurring out the horizon, it was a surreal and captivating atmosphere.