Hue – The Imperial City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hue is the ancient capital of Imperial Vietnam, where the Nguyen Lords based their government during their reign over Vietnam between the 17th and 19th century. It remained the national capital until 1945, when Bao Dai (the collaborator king) escaped into exile and Ho Chi Minh declared independance from France in Hanoi.

As a result the city of Hue and its surroundings are covered with impressive monuments, temples and palaces. Despite suffering from its central position during the Vietnamese/American War it truly deserves its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, as everywhere you go there are impressive buildings jumping out of the countryside – to say nothing of the imperial palace of Hue itself.

The city is split by the Perfume River, with the imperial city and markets to the North and the newer buildings of the city of Hue to the South. Hue remains a relatively small town, and getting around is easy enough, whether by bicycle, cyclo or motorbike.

While the Imperial city is a fantastic place to explore, your visit to Hue would not be complete if you didn’t explore the huge array of tombs, temples and ruins in the countryside. The best way to explore is to hop on the back of a motorbike and let the driver take you to his favourite sights – as you pass through the countryside you will see many more beautiful old building leap out of the paddy fields.

You can also spend a beautiful day taking a boat trip up the river, and while it is possible to see several monuments and pagodas from the water’s side, we highly recommend joining a motorbike driver for a drive once you have made your way up the river, to see more of the scenery. The countryside around Hue is stunning and made all the more magical for the sights you will encounter.

BEST TIME TO GO

The best time to visit Hue is from March to August, particularly in March and April when it is normally dry and the temperatures are cooler although light rain is still likely. Rainy season started from September to January, heavily and frequently.

GETTING THERE

By air

Vietnam Airlines is currently the only airline that serves Phu Bai International Airport (about 15 km South of Hue city center). Domestic routes connect Hue to Hanoi – 3 flights daily, and Ho Chi Minh city – 4 flights daily. Travel time is approximately 1 hour, either from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City and costs about $50-60 for economy class ticket.

By bus

From Hue to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City is a rather long overnight bus trip. Open tour bus tickets can be purchased in tourist area of all three cities. You can choose a stop in between Hue and Hanoi such as Quang Tri (which has the DMZ lines that used to separate North Vietnam and South Vietnam); Quang Binh (home to the World Heritage Phong Nha caves) or Nghe An (Ho Chi Minh’s mothertown and birthplace) to make the trip more bearable. On the other hand, the route from Hue to Ho Chi Minh is filled with worthy stops, such as Hoi An, Nha Trang, Mui Ne, etc.

By train

Traveling to Hue by train is really a pleasant way; the state-run railway network runs the entire length of Vietnam from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. There are daily train stopping at Hue, with two tightly departures at 19.00 and 23.00. There are express trains with soft-berth air-conditioned compartments with reasonable prices, which are very convenient. It is highly recommended that you buy your ticket directly at the station to avoid paying more.

 

 

ATTRACTIONS IN HUE

 

TU DUC TOMB

Tu Duc tomb is located in a narrow valley 8 km from Hue (Duong Xuan Thuong village),  Tu Duc  Tomb is one of the most beautifully designed complexes among the tombs of the Nguyen dynasty. Embedded in a lush pine forest, this tomb is the final resting place of Emperor  Tu Duc  (1848-83) who had the longest reign of all emperors of the Nguyen dynasty. As usual at that time,  Tu Duc  had begun planning and constructing his tomb long before he died in 1883. Thus, the major parts of the tomb complex were built around 1864-67. In his lifetime, the Emperor  Tu Duc  used the tomb as a palatial retreat together with his many wives and concubines.

Accessing Vu Khiem entrance, tourists can see Luu Khiem Lake. Especially, on the lake, there are Xung Khiem pavilion and Du Khiem Pavilion where the king used to enjoy flowers, compose poems or read books. Then entering three stone steps to Khiem Cung gate lead to Hoa Khiem palace. On the both sides are Phap Khiem House and Le Khiem House for the military and civil mandarins.Behind the Hoa Khiem Palace is Luong Khiem palace which worship Tu Du-Tu Duc’s mother. The tomb area: On the left of the temple is Honor Courtyard, the Stele pavilion. Tu Duc tomb is not only one of the most beautiful works of the Nguyen dynasty but also romantic scenery with lakes and mountains.

 

HUE CITADEL

Hue capital citadel was built under the reign of King Gia Long and King Minh Mang from the summer in 1805 to 1832. The scheme Hue citadel lasted 2 years from 1803 to 1804. Compare with Phu Xuan citadel, Hue capital citadel was expanded larger. Base on the feng shui and Ying and Yang…the architect designed the citadel facing the South.

 The citadel has three circles of ramparts, namely from outside to inside: Kinh Thanh (capital citadel), Hoang Thanh (royal citadel) and Tu Cam Thanh (forbidden citadel). The Ngu Binh Mountain in the South like a front screening elevation. Con Hen and Con Da Vien on the Perfume River are chosen as geomancy condition “dragon on the left, tiger on the right” to protect the capital city. Read More…

 

THIEN MU PAGODA

Built on Ha Khe hill overlooking the Perfume River, a few miles southwest of the Citadel, Thien Mu pagoda (Heavenly Lady Pagoda) is the oldest and prettiest religious building in Hue city. Constructed by Lord Nguyen Hoang in 1601, it was damaged and restored several times under the reigns of several Kings of the Nguyen Dynasty. Now coming to this famous pagoda, tourist will be first impressed by the 21 m-high Phuoc Duyen Tower having seven stories, each of which is dedicated to a different Buddha. Erected in 1884 by King Thieu Tri, the octagonal-shaped tower has become an unofficial symbol of Hue city, the former imperial capital of Vietnam.

The most striking feature of the pagoda, Phuoc Duyen tower (initially called Tu Nhan tower), was erected in 1884 by King Thieu Tri, and has become the unofficial symbol of Hue. This octagonal tower has seven storeys (2m high), which is dedicated to a Buddha who appeared in human form. It is the highest stupa in Vietnam, and is often the subject of folk rhymes and cadao about Hue, such is its iconic status and association with the city. More importantly, it is regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital.

 

KHAI DINH TOMB

Emperor Khai Dinh (1885-1925) ruled Vietnam for 9 years. His tomb took 11 years to complete. Construction began in 1920 and was completed in 1931. Under Khai Dinh, Western culture and influence began to seep into Vietnam. The king himself visited France in 1922. As a result, his tomb has many elements of Western architecture. In fact, of all the tombs, Khai Dinh’s probably least resembles oriental architecture.

Compared to other emperor tombs in Hue, Khai Dinh Tomb is much smaller. The overall construction of the tomb is a hill-site emerging rectangular structure with 127 steps. At the entrance, one should climb a 37 steps gate with dragons as side walls. Some 30 steps further one arrives at the imperial audience court, with an octagonal stele monument, again made of reinforced concrete. On both sides of the courtyard, there are two rows of statues facing towards the center, together with other statues representing bodyguard soldiers. These statues are made of stone, not in concrete, which is rare in Khai Dinh Tomb.

 

TU DAM PAGODA

Tu Dam pagoda is located in the range and high land belongs to Truong An ward, it is far about 2 kilometers from Hue city to the South. There has Kim Phung Mountain in front of the pagoda, Linh Quang pagoda and Phan Boi Chau Pagoda on the left and Thien Minh Pagoda behind the Tu Dam pagoda.

The general architecture is called “Hoi pagoda style” with a combination contour art between modern architecture and ancient architecture. Tu Dam pagoda has three important parts: three-door temple gate, main pagoda and Hoi area.

Three -door temple gate is high and large. Behind the gate, there is sacred fig which was given by the leader of the French Buddhism in 1936. With the large yard, clean as well as fresh air, thousands of people can gather here to worship.

 

MINH MANG TOMB

This tomb is far about 12 kilometers from Hue, on the Cam Ke mount and on the west bank of the Huong River. The construction began in September 1840. While the tomb had been building, Minh Mang was sick and passed away in January 1841. King Thieu Tri continued completing the tomb according to his father’s plans. And it was accomplished in 1843.

Minh Mang tomb reaches the standard architectural complex with 40 constructions such as: palaces, temples, pavilions…. The tomb is divided into three main parts. Tourists must climb 33 stone steps to reach the tomb. In addition, visitors can see the poems in the stele pavilion, Hien Duc gate, Sung An temple and Minh pavilion of Vietnam’s early 19th century. Coming to Hue, visitors will have unique impression in Minh Mang tomb about ancient architecture and solemn space.

 

THE PERFUME RIVER

The Perfume River is a river that crosses the capital city of Hue, in the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien Hue. Perfume or Huong River is around 80 kilometers long, and owes its name to the fact that it flows through many forests of aromatic plants before reaching Hue, bringing with it a pure and fresh aroma.

The river flows through a series of beauty-spots, taking visitors to every corner of the ancient citadel when you travel byboat. Along the river, you can visit Da Vien, Phu Xuan, and Truong Tien Bridges, come to the Tomb of Minh Mang, Hon Chen Shrine, Thien Mu Pagoda, and finally to bathe in the sea. Up stream, at the Tomb of Thien Tho, you can hear the rustling of the pine tree, which may help you become a… poet.

When the night comes, the surface of the river listens under the moonlight,and the songs of the boat rowers can be heard breaking the silence. Just come here and you will feel the pure atmosphere of romance and beauty.

 

LANG CO BEACH

Lang Co beach has 10 kilometers length, belongs to Lang Co commune, Phu Loc district, Thua Thien Hue. The beach is located along the side of National Highway No.1A; it is far about 24 kilometers from Hai Van Pass and Bach Ma Mountain.Lang Co situated between 3 cultural heritage centers:  Hue ancient capital, Hoi An old quarter and My Son Sanctuary with the radius about 70 kilometers. Lang Co attracts tourists and researchers from the cultural heritage centre. Lang Co is on the North-South tourist route and far 30 kilometers from Da Nang city and far 70 kilometers from Hue city. Lang Co beach has the length of 8 kilometers, along the National Highway No.01A, near the Hai Van pass and it is far about 24 kilometers from Bach Ma National Garden. This is the most beautiful beach in Vietnam which is suit for relaxing, diving and is one of the ideal holiday resorts since many years.

Located near the Lang Co is Hai Van Mountain- Hai Van Quan- one of the most famous landscapes in Vietnam. Along the foot of Hai Van Mountain, Lang Co beach has coral, lobster and many valuable fishes. In this area, there has Son Tra islet, which preserves many flora and wild fauna. Behind the beach are the Lap An Lagoon and a range of Bach Ma mountain. All the elements bring for Lang Co beach the potentiality about promoting many kinds of tourism model: vacation, diving, researching about wild fauna.

 

DONG BA MARKET

What consists in the attraction towards this market is the preservation of ancient distinctiveness. Tourists can see all the typical features of a traditional Vietnamese market, for example, the sampan landing, the bus station and the bazaars. Dong Ba market is considered as a paradise for snapshots of daily activities as well as for shopping with everything from souvenir items to bronze goods, Hue sesame sweetmeat, conical poem hats, just to name a few. Should you find interest in Vietnamese food or culture, you’d better come to explore this place.

Tourists may be confused when they find several things here named “Dong Ba” in Hue city. Actually, Dong Ba is both the name of the largest market in Hue and of a small canal connecting the market with the busy river port of Bao Vinh, Lo Street and Thanh Ha. Dong Ba is also the name of the first steel bridge across the Dong Ba River and Dong Ba Street. The market was originally located outside the citadel’s Chanh Dong Gate (also commonly called Dong Ba), where today stands a park at the end of Phan Dang Luu Street.

 

BACH MA NATIONAL PARK

Bach Ma national park was established on July 15th 1991 with the natural area of 22.031 hectares. The climate here has similar with Da Lat, Sa Pa, Tam Dao; however, Bach Ma is near to the beach so that temperature in the winter is not under 40C and the highest temperature in the summer is not excess 260C. The climate of Bach Ma is appreciated as one of the most comfortable climate zone in the range of Indochina mountains.

Bach Ma national park has beautiful scenery and fresh air. This is the most important resources eco-tourism of Bach Ma area. Coming to Bach Ma national park, tourist will have opportunities explore mysterious nature such as: Tri Sao trail, Do Quyen trail, Ngu ho trail, Hai Vong Dai trail. Tourists can see the collapsed house which was built by Granit with ancient France architecture in the top of mountain. The French engineer Mr.Girard built in 1932 as the resort in the pristine nature. Here, there have two ancient villas of the French on the top of Bach Ma in order to welcome tourists.

 

GIA LONG TOMB

Gia Long tomb is situated on the big hill. Thien Tho mount creates a natural screen in the font of the tomb and behind are 7 hills like natural defenses. On the left, there has 14 peaks as ‘left blue dragon’ and on the right, there has ‘right white tigers’.

The tomb complex includes three areas:

-    In the middle: there have two tombs of the King and Queen. Accessing the Honor court, tourists can contemplate stone statues. Pass 7 steps stair of the worship yard lead to Buu Thanh on the hill top. Inside Buu Thanh, it has the stone according to concept of “Can Khon Hiep Duc” symbol of happiness and loyalty.

-    On the right: this is Minh Thanh temple who dedicated to the king and she is the first Queen of Gia Long.

-    On the left: there are the steel pavilion relics.

In addition, tourists can see other tombs such as Quang Hung tomb, Vinh Mau tomb and Thoai Thanh tomb along the paths among the wild flowers, grass and pines. Gia Long tomb is an ideal destination for tourist, tourists will have opportunities know about Hue history in general and Vietnam history in particular. Together with Huong River and Ngu Mountain, coming to Hue, you will have unforgettable impression.

 

WHAT TO DO IN HUE

Besides visiting ancient monuments and tombs, coming to Hue, you can also have a chance to bath and lying under the sun on the most wildly beautiful beaches in Vietnam. Thuan An and Lang Co beach are among the most wonderful ones, twinkling in sunshine with limpidly blue ocean and white silky sand. Moreover, there are some mineral hot springs available like Thanh Tan in Phong An, Phong Dien; where tourists can totally be relaxed after a long walking day.At the height of 1450 meter; Bach Ma Mountain, 60km southern the city, represents the four-season type of weather of the temperate zone.

Many tour agencies also arrange a boat trip along Perfume River; in which tourists can witness the splendid sceneries while enjoy Hue specialties and watching royal art performance.

 

SHOPPING IN HUE

Shopping in Hue is typically characterized by the Vietnamese local market tradition, where the artisanship and culture offered is more than usually found elsewhere. The merchandise sold is Hue is similar to those available in other places in Vietnam, but what sets shopping in Hue apart from shopping in the rest of the country is that the highly regarded cultural souvenirs are more prominent here. Thus, it is the best place to collect souvenirs. Hue conical hats (Non) are famous throughout Vietnam and are an important collector’s item for anyone who visits the city.

Of these Hue conical hats, those with a poetic inscription that can only be read when held up to a light are the most sought after ones. In fact, it is considered a great gesture to buy one of these and gifting it to a Vietnamese friend or your host for the trip.

The shoppers can browse through the wares of the various shops that are located in the main streets of Tran Hung Dao, Phan Dang Luu, Le Loi and Mai Thuc Loan. A number of fashion shops, souvenir shops and galleries are concentrated on these large streets in Hue City.

Popular Souvenir Shops in Hue, Vietnam

- Dong Ba lacquerware
- Nguyen Phuc Long
- Hue
- Mai Anh
- Perfume River
- Huong Duong
- Truong Tien
- Old capital painting room
- Trang Tien

HUE NIGHTLIFE

Hue, the ancient capital and now a tourist drag, still remains its vaguely quaint beauty. Once you have time, let’s experience a night on Scent River. On one bank of it, largeverdant grassland at the foot of Ngo Mon gate of Dai Noi palace is ideal for some walk. On the other bank, there are some lovely informal cafes, with hundreds of seats outside (normally full of families and pilgrims). You can also hire a boat for 2 hours and listen to Hue royal music on boat, or a slow but cool cyclo across Trang Tien Bridge.

Wanting to explore famous food in Hue? An address to enjoy traditional sweetened porridge is 17 Hung Vuong Street. It is not very common for tourists, but worth trying.Searching for good bars and cafes near your hotel? There are many. Brown Eyes Bar at 56 Chu Van An Street has warm atmosphere, friendly staff, music at request, free internet access and cheap prices never inflated for tourists. It stays open late till the last guest come out, and you can dance the nights away. Another bar, which seems attractive to youngsters, is DMZ cafe, located at 60 Le Loi Street. It is always very animated: sometimes 300 seats are all filled up. You can enjoy Hue and Italy food and leave your writing or drawing on the walls. Many expats love Why Not? Bar for its convenient location (at 21 Vo Thi Sau Street, not very far from the main tourism centre), appetite food and soft music. Despite its small space, Thu cafes at 3/34 Nguyen Tri Phuong is indeed delightful. You cannot know why strangers can get together as friends so easily here, which give everyone a happy time and the wish to come back every night. Besides, the cheap original beer and board games around the bars are highly recommended for your entertainment.