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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrCentrally located along the coast of Vietnam, Hue is cut in two by the Perfume River (Hương Giang). The rich cultural history and practical central location makes Hue a must-see city in Vietnam.
Travelers traversing the length of Vietnam will spot Hue as a midway stop from the first time they look at the map and those travelers coming over from southern Laoswill most likely pass through Hue after passing over the border.
HistoryHuế's rich pre-colonial and wartime history make it a cultural hub not to be missed. Huế has a massive complex consisting of temples, palaces; walls, moats; museums, and shops spread mostly over the north side of the city since Hue was once the imperial seat of government.
Imperial CityThe Imperial City Huế is still under construction and looks like it will be for many years to come but in the meantime, the entrance fee is about $ 1.50 USD . The Imperial Citadel was almost completely destroyed during the fighting by the Viet Minh and the French and then further wrecked by the shelling of the Viet Cong and Americans throughout the Tet Offensive. Today it is slowly being rebuilt and is worth the trip to see how the home of the highest seat of the Vietnamese feudal system once looked.
Tomb of Khải ĐịnhThose who ruled were later buried at the Tomb of Khải Định that line the river a few miles away. A boat cruise can take tourists there for a modest fee and is a great way to see the city and nearby countryside. The tombs can also be reached by bicycle or taxi. There are several Emperors buried here and all are decorated in elaborate Vietnamese Buddhist carvings to show the importance and dominance of the monarchy.
Beach and LagoonMost tourist activities in Hue tend to focus on the city and the ancient past of the region but the beautiful yellow sand beaches and fisherman filled boats on the lagoon offer another view of the city. Thuan An Beach is located about 20 kilometers away from Hue's city center and is worth the taxi fare to see the nearly deserted beaches and eat some deliciously cheap seafood. Hotels at Thuan An Beach are few and far between and offer cheap accommodation to those looking to have a quiet beach getaway. If you want to have an authentic rural water based adventure ten head out to the Tam Giang Lagoon with a tour guide who can introduce you to the local fisherman who make their living fishing just like their ancestors did. Small boats slowly trace back and forth over the water throwing nets and bringing in the days catch. Small fishing villages line the lagoon and will give you a glimpse into the real Vietnamese rural life that is taking place just outside the city of Hue. Kayaks and canoe tours also offer a unique way of exploring these calm waterways. Sunsets reflecting over the lagoon are so peaceful that you might actually forget about the buzzing mopeds on Vietnam's streets.
OthersOther local landmarks include the Thiên Mụ Pagoda and the Thanh Toan Bridge which are nice stops outside of the city and provide another view of the local culture. There are the usual motorbike tours and massage parlors but there are also some hot springs available at the Alba Thanh Tan Hot Springs which lie about 30km outside of the city. At the hot springs spa there is also a zip-line for thrill seekers as well as a high wire to challenge yourself and do something different.
ShoppingThe local shops have a tradition of hand embroidery and there are many shops that still continue the practice today. Huế is also a good place to get hand-tailored clothes like dresses and men’s suits. The traditional conical hats can be seen being handmade and there are several shops that offer personalization. Converse shoes seem to be a popular item to buy here and there are several shops that are geared towards providing every color available.
AccommodationAlthough Huế was once the home to the Emperors of Vietnam, the lodging in Huế is focused more on the mid-range and lower-end. There are a few high-end hotels available but the value for these rooms is arguable. The rooms available can be had at a competitive price and the standard of the rooms available is quite high compared to rooms at the same price in other South East Asian countries. Most hotels offer a breakfast that is included and several have pools and spa facilities. Most of the hotels and backpacker hostels are clustered around Pham Ngu Lao.
DiningDining in Vietnam is one of the best reasons for visiting and Huế does not let one down. There are several local specialties and a number of restaurants offering their versions. Bún bò Huế is regionally famous and is a spicy noodle soup with thinly sliced beef and various vegetables. A small pancake filled with pork and bean sprouts is a favorite here and can be found on most menus under the name Banh Khoai.
There is also a locally made sesame candy called mè xửng that is very tasty. There are a couple of top-end restaurants here that try to have an imperial feel but usually fall short except for hiving a high bill at the end of the meal. There are several vegetarian options for restaurants around town.
TransportationThere are buses from here to nearby cities in Vietnam and to bordering Laos. Be careful when booking with some bus ticket resellers and check with fellow travelers as to which travel companies and buses are the most reliable. The bus trips in Vietnam are famously terrible and travelers are often left at bus stations for hours at a time or never picked up at all. Some bus rides will go on for more than 12 hours without a toilet stop and locals will crowd the aisles to pad the driver’s pockets. It is best to travel in groups and leave at least one person to watch the groups' luggage on the bus and also to make sure that everyone’s seat are not taken by aisle riding locals.
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Author: 30literbackpack. Last updated: Apr 01, 2015