|The Imperial Citadel|
Famous for its ancient Imperial Citadel and Thien Mu pagoda, Hue is a great place to spend a few days if you’re into your history. From here you can easily day-trip to the underground tunnel village of the Demilitarized Zone, or explore enormous natural wonders Phong Nha cave and Paradise cave.
Construction began on the Imperial Citadel in 1804, and today as well as much of the original structure you can see bullet holes from the America/Vietnam war, as well as sections that have been reconstructed with more modern brickwork. You can walk around the outer walls and see parts of the area free of charge, but entry fees for specific buildings start at 20,000 dong per person for the An Dinh residence and go right up to 150,000 dong for entry to the Imperial Palace.
|Thien Mu Pagoda|
Next up, Thien Mu pagoda. Take a boat up the Perfume River and you can visit this seven-tiered Buddhist temple structure free of charge. Behind the pagoda, the temple itself is still in use- so remember to dress appropriately and keep your shoulders covered up! (And your knees too, if you’re female. Men’s knees, for some reason, are less shocking and can be exposed to passing monks at whim).
There are great views out over the river from here, as well as a small selection of market stands on the road nearby where you can pick up souvenirs, cold drinks and hand-made fans or ponchos (depending on the weather). I also found a really great kitten the first time I visited, but no sign of him second time around. Cute animal sightings possible, but not guaranteed.
|Perfume River, seen from the Citadel side|
|Noble steeds / Dragon boats|
When you’re not busy drinking at Secret Lounge on Nguyen Cong Tru, or partying at Brown Eyes bar on Chu Van An, the Hue Military Museum is worth a look-in, if for no other reason than to clamber aboard a tank or some heavy artillery. I visited outside of opening hours, which meant we didn’t have to worry about whether we were actually allowed to be climbing onto and into things or not… It also meant we saved ourselves the 50,000 entry fee!
I’m not sure what the opening times actually are, as our tour guide said at the time he’d never once arrived to find any staff nearby or anyone charging entry. Should have touched wood, because apparently the next time he went he got charged. Ha. Ha. Hahahahaha.
There’s not a massive amount to see here, but it’s interesting nonetheless and if you’ve walked up to see the old city walls you may as well pop in and check out some morbid artefacts.
|Millie and me, perfecting our aim|
As well as war relics, ancient buildings and a river you can float up, Hue also has a massive local market- as well as a night market that springs up between 6.30pm and 11pm each night. At the main market you can buy everything from shampoo to squid, expensive diamond jewellery to knock-off sunglasses and all manner of fabrics and lucky charms in between. The night market features more souvenirs and street food, but still has plenty of local crafts and odds-and-ends to keep you looking.
You can find the main market between Tran Hung Dao and Chuong Duong, just across the river from most of the hostels, hotels, bars and restaurants Hue has to offer. The night market is on Le Loi, crawling distance from the rest of the action and only a short journey from Hue station.
|No idea what any of this is|
There’s an abundance of well-priced local food and street food in Hue, as well as an array of western options for travellers in possession of tastebuds less adventurous than themselves. “Tipsy” on Pham Ngu Lao serve both at reasonable prices in a stylish setting, and the Bahn Mi carts along this road have the best produce for the lowest prices (10-20,000k a piece).
It makes sense to stop here as you travel between Hanoi and Da Nang / Hoi An, and there are regular trains and sleeper buses in both directions. Too many people skip through Hue overnight without seeing what it really has to offer, so don’t miss out and find yourself at the other end of the country hearing about all the things you could have seen.
|Not bad views|