For the second location in my Vietnam series, allow me to introduce you to Hue, an ancient city in central Vietnam. Explore Vietnamese culture and food in this ancient city.

Ornate building in the central Vietnamese city of Hue
Ornate building in the central Vietnamese city of Hue
Image by Thomas Gerlach from Pixabay

Situated on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was Vietnam’s capital city from 1802 to 1945 under the Nguyen Dynasty. It’s recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site today. Why? Well, the most significant attraction is the 19th-century citadel encased by towering walls and a surrounding moat. Within lies the Imperial City, home to palaces and shrines used by past emperors.

Hue was a target during the Vietnam war and was under attack from the Northern Vietnamese Army in January 1968, who wanted to overthrow the communist South and reunite the country. Of the 160 buildings within the Hue citadel, only a handful remain.

Explore Hue: Things to Do

Photo of the outside of the Hue Citadel.
Hue Citadel in Vietnam
Image by Minh Thái Lê from Pixabay

Visit Hue’s ancient citadel, first completed in 1833. Once known as The Forbidden Purple City, here lived the country’s emperor of the time and his family/maids during his reign. Because of wartime devastation, many buildings in Hue were being restored during my visit. It was still incredible. While the site is vast and rich in history, you must use your imagination to visualize the damaged relics to appreciate the scene. Entry fee to the Hue Citadel: 150,000 dong (about US$6.65).

Take a trip along the Perfume River on one of Hue’s memorable dragon boats. They are beautiful marine constructions with ornate detailing. Aboard your hosts will sell traditional handmade Vietnamese gifts which will be offered to you regularly. Try to buy something if you can. In Vietnam, lots of families survive on tourism. Your boat will arrive at Thien Mu Pagoda where you can explore the country’s Buddhist religion and witness the tiered towers we know East Asia is famous for.

Visit the tombs outside of Hue city center to understand just how much the emperors meant to the Vietnamese. Imagine mosaics, towering cloisters, and serene lakes. Ascending steps, stone statues, and spectacular views. They’re a must for anyone visiting Hue.

Explore Hue: Getting Around

A Vietnamese cyclo driver pedaling along.
A Vietnamese cyclo driver
Image by Đoàn Tiến from Pixabay

If you caught last week’s post, you’ll already know about cyclos–the three-wheel bicycle taxi. Sit at the front and watch the Vietnamese scenery pass as your knowledgeable driver cycles you around Hue. This was a peaceful and clean way to travel within the Hue’s citadel and beyond. This is a great option to stay green and support local Vietnamese, whose work is almost always dependent on tourism in Hue. While not the cheapest option, the Vietnamese are proud of this service. There are few left of their kind in this era of motorbike reign.

If you’re traveling further afield to popular Minh Mang or Tu Duc Tombs, you’ll need a private car or motorbike rental. We booked a private car through our hotel for around 500,000 Vietnamese dong/$22. You will drive for roughly 25 minutes before you reach the first tomb. Alternatively book motorbikes with your hotel/hostel in Hue. Most establishments in Vietnam provide motorbike rentals for their customers.

Explore Hue: Cuisine

Photo of Hue soup in Vietnam
Famous soup in Hue
Image by Thu Truong from Pixabay

Vietnamese cuisine is exquisite. Every region of Vietnam is famous for distinct flavors and spices. Central Vietnam is all about spice and highly decorative food, showing the influence of Vietnamese royal dishes. We know Hue for Banh Khoai, a traditional Vietnamese crepe served with peanut sauce. This dish reflects Hue’s royal past with lavish ingredients of egg, liver and pork belly. It’s crunchy and delicious. Enjoy this noble feast fit for an emperor.

Next up is Bun Bo Hue, a Hue twist on the classic Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Balancing salt and spice with a lemongrass twist, this beef and pork seasoned soup is thicker than the usual Vietnam favorite, Pho. Traditionally, the Vietnamese eat this Hue dish with cubes of pig’s blood, but you can always ask for this to be omitted. It’s cheap too, with prices as low as 70 cents for a bowl.

For those with a sweet tooth, try Vietnamese sweet soup Che Hue. There are 36 different variations of Che Hue in Hue. Usually, Vietnamese locals will sit with friends and enjoy this dessert in the afternoon. Variations include fruits, sugar, beans, tapioca flour, sweet potato, taro, and the list goes on. In Vietnam, you can pay as little as 5000 dong (22 cents) for this.

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I hope I’ve got you excited about your trip to Hue or refreshed your memory of spending time here while in Vietnam. It can be just as jam-packed or slow and steady as you make it. Thanks for joining me for another in my Vietnam series. See you next time!

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