8 Awesome Things to Do in Hue, Vietnam
Located right in the central of Vietnam (about 680km from Hanoi, 1.100km from Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City), Hue was the capital of Vietnam for 143 years (from 1802 – 1945 during the Nguyen Dynasty). It is a city rich with very history and culture. Hue is home to 7 royal tombs of Nguyen Kings as well as the ancient imperial forbidden city. During the Vietnam war (known as American War to Vietnamese), Hue had to suffer badly. The “Battle of Hue” was one of the longest and deadliest battles in Vietnam. Along with the human casualties, many of the historic sites were damaged or destroyed.
Hue City has also long been the center of Buddhism in Vietnam and several major events during Buddhist Crisis of 1963 are connected to Hue City. Add to the historical significance of the city, the beautiful scenery, and breathtaking historical monuments. It seems like everywhere you turn in Hue there is something very new to learn about and explore!
1. Hai Van Pass (known as cloudy pass):
If you choose to drive to Hue from Da Nang, you have two options. The first option is to take the Hai Van Tunnel (cloudy pass tunnel). Hai Van Tunnel is the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia at a length of 6.28 km, which was built with Japanese technology from the year of 2000 - 2005. The other option is to take the Hai Van Pass (known as cloudy pass).
Hai Van Pass is a beautiful mountain road which takes you up and down and around the coastline. This pass is about 500m above sea level and separates Vietnam into 2 climate zones. The road views are spectacular, and this is a route that is incredibly popular with people traveling by motorbikes and also car/bus in the area. Drivers and tour buses park for a few moments at the highest peak (500m above sea level) of the pass to take in the view and stretch their legs.
Not only known for its beautiful views, but the Hai Van pass is also known for its danger and difficulty (one of a reason why the Hai Van Tunnel was built in 2005). At times the sharp curves make it completely impossible to see oncoming traffic. Often the road is covered in thick fog (that is why this earns a name cloudy pass). There are cement railings to help prevent falling off of the mountain into the ocean, but they are broken in many places. Occasionally you pass shrines marking where travelers met their end. Not to mention a cow or two and motorists driving like they are racing along a flat country road. Is it worth the trip? You bet!
2. Hue Imperial City (also known as Forbidden City):
This walled fortress and palace were once the home of Vietnam’s emperors - Nguyen Kings. Also called “The Citadel” the palace grounds are surrounded by an impressive moat filled with waterlilies in summer. Much of the structure was damaged in the French War (1947) and Vietnam War (1968), but the restoration is ongoing. Once inside you can see different buildings in their original, restored and damaged stages.
Make sure your taxi drivers drop you off at the correct entrance! There is only one entrance to the Imperial City at the front complex but some taxi drivers like to pretend that they don’t know that tourists wish to be dropped off at the main entrance.
Just a little down the street from the Imperial City is the Hue Provincial Museum. The museum is in a bad need of maintenance. The grass hasn’t been cut in ages and there are many holes in the walkways. There is an indoor museum with photos and artifacts but very few English explanations. Considering the significance of the battles which took place in Hue the museum doesn’t do the memory justice.
If you are interested in history or wars though the museum is worth a quick visit. It is easy just to pop over if you are already visiting the Forbidden City and it costs only about US$1. In the front grounds, they have several old tanks, old planes and a helicopter from the Vietnam War. In both Vietnamese and English, the placards explain where the vehicle was captured and from whom which is quite fascinating to visit. In particular, children from both local and tourist families seemed to be thrilled to be able to check it all out without the crowds.
4. The Perfume River (Song Huong):
Through the center of Hue flows the Perfume River. Many tourists choose to take a dragon boat cruise along Perfume river. Passengers can enjoy beautiful river views, have a meal and visit some of the major tourist spots around the area that are accessible by Dragon boat.
Another way to take in Perfume river is to stroll along the walkways along the river’s edge. In the morning’s joggers take their morning runs here and in the evening the area becomes transformed. Little shops and restaurants that were closed during the day open at sunset and lanterns are lit.
Families gather to chat and play. Vendors sell snacks, and small toys and some musicians can be heard.
5. Khai Dinh Tomb:
King Khai Dinh Tomb is the last of the imperial tombs built in Vietnam. The tomb took 11 years to build (from 1920 - 1931). Despite being quite a recent addition, Khai Dinh Tomb is one of the more popular tombs for tourists in the area. This was built with blended architecture of Vietnamese, Indian and French.
In his lifetime Emperor Khai Dinh spent some time in France. As a result, the tomb is a mixture of both Eastern and Western designs.
A climb of 127 steps up the side of the mountain will bring you to the temple fortified by statue guards. Once inside visitors are in awe of the walls adorned with stunning images made from inlaid glass and porcelain (the most impressive porcelain work still remain in Vietnam).
6. Minh Mang Tomb:
The Tomb of King Minh Mang is another of the more popular and best royal tomb in Hue. Unlike Emperor Khai Dinh’s tomb which took more than a decade to complete, this tomb was completed in only three years (from 1840-1843). Emperor Minh Mang started construction of the tomb in September 1840 but passed away around four months later so the tomb was completed by his son - King Thieu Tri (1840-1847).
You would never suspect that the tomb was completed so quickly, though. As well as the beautiful architecture, the grounds include landscaped lakes, canals and gardens…
Visitors to the grounds of this tomb can freely explore most of the sites, but the gate to the tomb is only opened once a year on the anniversary of Emperor Minh Mang’s death and not accessible for visitors.
Dam Chuon is considered like untouched place by tourist flow. Place can be reached on Motorcycle, Bicycle and Car. The best way to visit is to be on tour with motorbike or bicycle to visit beautiful local villages and do fishing with local before you enjoy local seafood lunch here. We spend one day on Hue Biking and Fishing Tour with Adventure Journey - Hue to bicycle around the hidden lanes to visit Hue Countryside and Village, local market and Fishing Village in Dam Chuon. Such an interesting day when we had a change to do fishing with net and trap with amazing local seafood much in local stilted house restaurant.
8. Thien Mu Pagoda:
Overlooking to the Perfume River on small Ha Khe Hill, the seven-story Thien Mu Pagoda (celestial Pagoda) is the oldest pagoda in Hue. The pagoda itself was established at the location in 1601, but the tower was later constructed in 1844 by King Thieu Tri to worship Buddha for his Grandmother.
The pagoda grounds are not only beautiful, but it is also a site of political significance. During the “Buddhist Crisis” in 1963, the Catholic government of Ngo Dinh Diem cracked down on Buddhism in the country, despite the majority of Vietnamese people being Buddhist at the time. When nine unarmed Buddhists were shot in Hue, Thien Mu Pagoda became an organizing point for those involved in the movement. When the government refused appeals for religious equity, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc drove the car to Saigon street (Ho Chi Minh City) and in protest, sacrificed himself by setting himself on fire.
This event was captured in a world famous photograph by Mr Malcom Browne. In the back of the photo, you can see the car which Mr Thich Quang Duc drove. If you don’t know to look for it, you may even miss it, but tucked to the side in a building behind the main prayer hall of Thien Mu Pagoda the car sits on display commemorating those events.
Where to Stay in Hue, Vietnam
Best Budget Hotel in Hue, Vietnam – Jade Hotel
All rooms are fitted with a TV for entertainment and are fitted with a private bathroom with a bath or shower, with slippers and free toiletries provided. This accommodation features free wifi and private parking.
Hue Serene Palace Hotel is strategically located within 200 m from the famous Perfume River and Trang Tien Bridge. The hotel is just 1km to Hue Citadel and about 3 km to Hue Train Station. Hue Airport is 15 km away, while Da Nang International Airport is approximately 90 km away.
It features modern rooms equipped with a personal computer and offers free Wi-Fi access throughout this property. Fitted with parquet flooring, air-conditioned rooms are well-furnished with a wardrobe, personal safe-box, a flat-screen cable TV and seating area. Complimentary fruit, tea, and coffee making facilities are also included in price. The en suite bathroom comes with a hairdryer, bathrobes and free toiletries as well.
Hue Serene Palace Hotel has a tour desk at lobby that can assist with sightseeing and travel arrangements. Luggage storage, laundry, and babysitting services can be requested from the 24-hour front desk. Other conveniences include a business center, currency exchange and bicycle rental - car rental services.
La Residence Hue Hotel and Spa – MGallery by Sofitel Group is a classic colonial villa spread over 50 m on the banks of the romantic Perfume River, 200 m from the Ho Chi Minh Museum, Bao Quoc Pagoda and Hue Train Station. Local Dong Ba Market is just 2.3 km from the hotel, while Phu Bai International Airport is accessible with a 15 km drive.
The well-appointed rooms are individually designed with beautiful Art Decorate furniture and spacious terraces. Enjoying views of the city or river, all come with a Flat-Screen TV, minibar and private bathrooms. Offering also free WiFi, it has a tennis court, pampering spa treatments and a fitness center. Guests can also enjoy meals at the in-house restaurant - La Parfume Restaurant.
Guests can also enjoy a massage at the spa or spend quiet moments at the hotel’s library. Hue Day Trips and Hue Budget Car Rental can be arranged at the travel desk, while the complimentary use of bicycles are offered for guests who wish to explore the surrounding area by themself. Sports facilities that include a half-court basketball court, ping-pong, as well as billiard tables and a kids’ club, are also available in the hotel.
CAR RENTAL TIPS: You can rent your own cars/bicycles/motorcycles when we travel, so that you can explore off-the-beaten-path places on our own schedule. Check out the best deals on rental cars for your trip and explore your independence! Check cheap prices here, now!
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