Hue first assumed its role as a capital city, during the Trinh - Nguyen civil war, when it was the capital of South Vietnam.
I came to Hue during Tet Doan Ngo (Doan Ngo festival, a minor Buddhist festival) and it was impossible for me to find an open restaurant or shop in town. Vietnam’s ancient capital, booming city and a world renown tourist area, yet Hue is not at all noisy, rushed or commercialized like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Hue is honest and sweet. It is tranquil like the Perfume River that flows through it, majestic like the Royal Palace and tombs that would never let its secrets out.
The historic capital of Vietnam, Hue, sits astride a truly majestic and beautiful river, the Song Huong (Perfume River). The north-bank is host to its share of hotels and restaurants, but the area is dominated by the old fortified city known as the Citadel, spread across more than 5 square kilometres of ground, crowding out development on that side of the river. As a result, guesthouses, hotels and restaurants have sprung up on the south bank, starting with the river road, Le Loi Street, and stretching further south. The south bank of the river has been developed as park cum promenade, with an eclectic variety of public sculptures on display.
The historic capital of Vietnam, Hue, sits astride a trulymajestic and beautiful river, the Song Huong (Perfume River). Thenorth-bank is host to its share of hotels and restaurants, but the areais dominated by the old fortified city known as the Citadel, spreadacross more than 5 square kilometres of ground, crowding out developmenton that side of the river. As a result, guesthouses, hotels andrestaurants have sprung up on the south bank, starting with the riverroad, Le Loi Street, and stretching further south. The south bank of theriver has been developed as park cum promenade, with an eclecticvariety of public sculptures on display.
Hue is the capital of Thua Thien Province, with a population ofabout 340,000. Its location in central Vietnam, just south of the DMZ,made it a scene of heavy fighting during the American War. It's 15kmwest of the South China Sea and about 540km south of Hanoi and 644kmnorth of Saigon. While the city is also known for the manufacture oftextiles and cement, tourism has become its bread and butter.
Hue's complex history has earned it a reputation as a political,cultural and religious centre, but nowadays, visitors to contemporaryHue will find a city that only dimly reflects on its past, andonly does so as a begrudging nod to its western visitors. Like HalongBay to the north, the complex of tombs, pagodas and palaces throughoutHue and its surrounds has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.But to the Vietnamese psyche, shaped by centuries of war and struggle,tempered by nearly forty years of communist rule, this heritage islargely irrelevant and completely disconnected from the present. Theoverwhelming sense one gets from the city, on even the most casualvisit, is of an unstoppable forward drive, and of a people constantlylooking to the future.
But the profitability of tourism has lead to a paradoxical situationwhere, in order to move forward, the citizens of Hue must pry open thosedoors to the past they would rather leave shut. As a result, thetourist industry here has developed into a half-hearted attempt to givethe foreigners what they want and send them on their way. While this hasbeen effective in one sense -- a steady stream of tourists keepsshowing up and paying for tours -- in the larger scheme it has alsomeant many poorly-run tours and disappointed travellers.
At the moment, Hue is a premier tourist destination mostly in theory. Inpractice, it's still a work in progress. That notwithstanding, it\'s abeautiful, vibrant city, with great places to stay, great food, and anumber of interesting things to do, on and off the well-worn touristtrail of historic attractions.
Places to visit
King Ming Mang Tomb
12km far from Hue city, King Ming Mang’s Tomb is located on the left branch of the Perfume river. The tomb was built as the plan drawn out by the king himself and the middle of the pine forest. The construction started in 1841 after the king's death. The palace, the pavilions and the entrances are harmoniously built around two big lakes that make these more luxurious and peaceful.
King Khai Dinh Tomb
Khai Dinh is the twelfth King of Nguyen Dynasty and he is also the father of King Bao Dai, the last king of Vietnam. The construction of the tomb started from 1920 to 1931. The conception of its architecture and decoration got the European influence. The multi-colored ceramic inlaid style makes his mausoleum gracious and magnificent.
King Tu Duc Tomb
7km far from Hue city, King Tu Duc’s Tomb is surrounded by a brick wall. Tu Duc was the fourth King of Nguyen Dynasty. He had his tomb constructed in 1848 when he was still on the throne. The tomb was built according to the plan based on two axes: one for the mausoleum and another for the palace. The tomb comprises of an important number of buildings, man-made ponds full of nenuphars and lotuses, crossed by various bridges and covered by frangipanniers. This is one of the most romantic and splendid masterpieces.
There are eight royal tombs in Hue that are the final resting places of the Nguyen kings. Among them, Tu Duc Tomb, Khai Dinh Tomb and Minh Mang Tomb are often visited. Most of the tombs face the south-west, the direction of the Imperial City and they were all started while the reigning king was still alive. Although all are unique in structure and design, most of them consist of two compounds. The first is reserved for funeral services and the second is the tomb proper. The tombs are open from 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily (from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter).
Museum of Royal relics
The beautiful hall that houses the Museum of Royal Relics was built in 1845 and restored when the museum was founded in 1923. This is a precious wooden construction of Hue’s unique palace architectonics. The first sight catching visitors’ eyes is the walls inscribed with 1,000 poems written in chu nom – Vietnamese script. Most of the exhibits displayed here bear characteristics left by the last Vietnamese feudal dynasty. Here visitors can find the everyday utensils (such as clothing, sedans, gongs, etc.) of the King and the royal family and other aesthetics decorative works in the palaces of Hue. The museum is located at 3 Le Truc St. and open daily from 6.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
The construction of the moated citadel, which has a 9,950m-long perimeter, was begun in 1805 on the northern bank of the Perfume River by King Gia Long. The Citadel was originally made of earth, but between 1818 and 1832 it was paved with a 2m-thick layer of bricks in the style of the French architect Vauban. The King’s official functions were carried out in the Imperial Enclosure, a citadel-within-a-citadel with a perimeter of 2,450m. The Imperial Enclosure has 4 gates, the most famous of which is Ngo Mon Gate (or Southern Gate) used as the main entrance. Within the Imperial Enclosure is the Forbidden Purple City, which used to be the living quarters of the King. With more than 100 buildings such palaces, temples, fortresses, etc., the Citadel is the most interesting place to visit in Hue.