We were lucky in our arrival in Hue. First because Andre had a friend awaiting us, secondly because we arrive exactly for the opening of Hue's Festival (one of the biggest festivals in Asia) for which we had tickets. Hue is Vietnam's old national capital and like many other, it has a rich architectural and cultural inheritance from the past. Besides the shopping and bar culture, several monuments, tombs and also the Imperial City attract thousands of tourists every year. We visited around 12 different places, between tombs and hills, while riding our rented-for-the-day motorbike. Starting south from the centre, we visited the beautiful Thien An Monastery, a place of worship since long targeted by the police and thugs hired by the local government, who wishes to seize the property's land in order to build an amusement park.
After it, we went to the Tomb of Khai Dinh, the twelfth Emperor of the Nguyễn dynasty, and then to the Standing Buddha Temple. This is located in the midst of a green pine forest on one of the hills just outside Hue and has no entrance fee. Just like the Tomb of Khai Dinh, the Tomb of King Thieu Tri also requires an entrance fee, but from my point of view, only this one is worth its small price and has no tourists around. Also this tomb is one of several relics of Hue Citadel Complex which was recognised as a world heritage by UNESCO in 1993.
From there, the Vong Canh Hill is just a few minutes away, from where you'll get an unique viewpoint to the Perfume River and also access to the ferry terminal. A surprise for us was the Abandoned Tomb, in the middle of almost nowhere and with only one guard around. Many places are currently in restoration works and closed for visit (we tried though!). One of them was the Tiger Arena, probably the most interesting site in Hue and all too often overlooked by visitors. It looks like a miniature version of the Colosseum in Rome and its purpose was to host fights between elephants and tigers for the entertainment of the royal court.
The last site for us was the Imperial Palace, which entrance cost of 150.000 VND (a bit more then 6 EUR) we preferred not to pay. Nevertheless, the palace grounds are so wide that you can enjoy yourself on the outside and around the fortress. There also many café shops and restaurants close by.
The Festival, which only occurs every 2 years, took place inside the fortress, in a huge stage with fireworks and fire cannons as background. What an amazing experience, albeit the language barrier. Hue shows an openness towards visitors and locals, and is quite modern looking, even though you can still find food stalls with tiny seats everywhere.
Tip: enjoy the nightlife and always taste the street food, especially the Bun Thit Nuong (Hue's grilled pork noodles).
Next Stop: Da Nang, Vietnam
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