Hue City, in Thua Thien-Hue Province, is in the geographical centre of Vietnam. Established as the capital of unified Vietnam in 1802 CE (Common Era), Hue was not only the political but also the cultural and religious centre under the Nguyen Dynasty (the last royal dynasty of Vietnamese history from 1802 to 1945 CE).
We arrived in Hue in the early morning after an uncomfortable fourteen hour overnight train ride. Read about how we somehow got scammed out of our first class seats. We had to wait a bit at the train station because none of the taxi driver’s would use the meter. Once the rush of people was gone it was easy to find a driver willing to take the fare.
Even though it was before 10 a.m., the lovely Cherish Hotel let us check in to one of our rooms. We dropped off our luggage and set off exploring.
We found the meals in Hue a bit more expensive as the city caters to tourists (particularly western tourists). Ben had a burger (surprise) and the rest of us ate breakfast. We were more adventurous as the days passed and had our best meal in a little restaurant by the hotel, A Lau – Dzach Lau. We enjoyed a feast of fried squid, shrimp, sautéed beef, sautéed chicken and beefsteak Vietnamese style along with drinks for everyone at a whopping 535,000VND or $28.64CAD. Still surprising to us, the kids’ non-alcoholic drinks (mostly smoothies) were more expensive than my beer.
The Ngu Binh Mountain (known as the Royal Screen) and the Perfume River running right through the city combine to make a setting of great natural beauty and define the city’s symbolic importance. The site was chosen for its combination of natural features – hills representing a protective screen in front of the monuments take on the role of “a blue dragon” to the left and “a white tiger” to the right. The beasts shield the main entrance and prevent the entry of malevolent spirits. The main features of the city are laid out within this landscape.
The Imperial City is impressive to visit. It was built between 1804 and 1833 with over 140 buildings set in an area of 640m x 568m. The original complex was surrounded by a moat with access at each of the cardinal points. The Hue Citadel contained structures to conduct the administrative and military functions of the Empire, and also the Imperial Residence, the Hoang Thanh (Imperial City), the Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple City) and related royal palaces.
Hue was a wonderful reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and allowed us to recharge and carry on our move further south.