After leaving behind the north of Vietnam, we arrived in Hue, in the center of the country and former imperial capital of Vietnam. It is a very touristy city thanks to its precious Imperial City, which is the best preserved of the whole country and UNESCO World Heritage. But attention! Hue has the reputation of being the rainiest city in all of Vietnam! Are you coming to discover Hue with us? Here we go!
How to get to Hue from Hanoi?
There are different ways to get to Hue, such as the bus, train and plane. We did not want to waste hours and hours on a bus, especially knowing that we were going to travel the country from north to south, so we bought an internal plane ticket from Hanoi to Da Nang (30 € per person and 1:30 hour flight with Jetstar). We stayed for one night in Da Nang and the next morning we boarded a train in the direction of Hue (59000 dongs or 2.45 € per person). With the Vietnamese driving style, during our trip we tried to avoid the buses as the train and the plane seemed much safer!
Where to sleep?
We chose the Charming Hotel, as always for its good location and the great opinions that I had on the internet. We paid € 10 a night for a room with air conditioning and private bathroom, and we got upgraded to a superior room from the time we arrived! Great! The hotel staff was extremely nice and friendly throughout our stay. Breakfast is included in the room and we were always more than full! And to top it off, every time we came back from an afternoon tour we were greeted with a fresh fruit juice (mango, banana, etc.). We thouroughly recommend this hotel!
Day 1 in Hué: Dong Ba market and night market
The first day we arrived by train to Hue at 1pm, a bit tired as we had not slept much, and mostly stunned by the heat (31 degrees of humid heat!). We checked in at the hotel and they gave us some juices which made us feel great! We left our stuff in the room and left to get something to eat. Luckily, all the streets around the hotel are full of restaurants of all kinds so it was hard to choose! We went to the Hana Lounge, where they served European and Vietnamese dishes. We ate some very tasty sandwiches!
To take advantage of the nice afternoon, we went across the river across the bridge and reached the Dong Ba market. It is Hue’s local market, quite large and with all kinds of products! We had a good time taking pictures of the specialties of the area and the people while they worked. It was great! You will find food as well as clothes, shoes, sunglasses … They incited us to buy several times but they were not unpleasant.
After seeing the market we returned to rest for a long time in the hotel and we waited until 6 pm, time to open the night market by the river. We went to take a look and see the atmosphere. It is a rather small but nice market, with lanterns between the trees and tables and stools for a drink or dinner by the river overlooking the illuminated bridge. The stands sell a little of everything, ideal to buy gifts to friends or family! After a stroll we looked for a restaurant for dinner. We chose the Hot Tuna and loved it! Alberto tried two Vietnamese specialties: a Banh Khoai (kind of rice crepe with chicken and soy bean sprouts) and a Pho Bo (noodles and beef soup). Very nice!
Day 2 in Hué: Citadel and pagoda
For this day we decided to rent two bikes at the hotel for € 2 a day. So we set out for Imperial Citadel, the most attractive place in Hue. We decided to spend half a day to visit it to enjoy it well! Hue is a much smaller city than Hanoi, so cycling it presents almost no risk. It’s okay to stick to the right and not slow down! And also, with the heat it does, feel a little fresh air when pedaling!
When arriving at the Citadel, we had to park the bicycles in a “parking” for 10000 dongs the two (0,42 €). The entrance to the place is 100000 dongs (4.15 €) per person but the Citadel is really worth it! We expected to see buses full of tourists but not! We were able to appreciate the visit quietly.
It is also possible to hire a guide or visit with an agency, but as always we decided to do it alone as the big children!
Built in 1804, the Imperial Citadel is the only example of imperial city that is preserved today in Vietnam.
The Citadel is really very nice, and it reminded us a little of the Forbidden City of Beijing, but with more charm! It is in very good condition (some areas are still under restoration). Do not hesitate to take your time and visit it from top to bottom, because there are beautiful places and monuments!
We rested for a while in the Queen Mother Pavillion, and we had a cold drink (it was very hot!). It’s a very nice place, surrounded by water and quiet!
After visiting the Citadel we went back to the bikes to go to the Thien Mu Pagoda, a few kilometers from there.
Upon arrival, we again left the bikes in the parking lot for a few euro cents, and this time the entrance to the pagoda is free.
The Thien Mu Pagoda (or the Heavenly Lady) is the highest in Vietnam with its 6 floors! Although we recognize that we did not find it so great! The tower Phuoc Duyen (Source of Happiness) rises 21 meters from the terrace of the Pagoda. Each level symbolizes a reincarnation of the Buddha.
Behind the Pagoda are other monuments like the porch where the Guardians of Good and Evil are, other sanctuaries and very cool gardens.
It is a beautiful place but you can visit quite quickly, despite its importance in the recent history of Vietnam (the temple was a major source of protests during the last Vietnam War).
As we were getting late we set off towards the hotel, and in the middle of the road we had a huge storm falling on us! So we were wet to the bones when we finally arrived at the hotel (the raincoats have their limits!) Then we had a real shower. It was already 3pm and we were hungry, so we headed to the Boulangerie Française, quite known in Hue and only 7 minutes from the hotel! The Boulangerie Française is actually a nice humanitarian project that helps young people in the city’s precarious situation to receive a vocational training and find a decent job. There we ate some sandwiches and a pair of delicious croissants, almost almost as tasty as back home in France! We took our computers and worked a bit on the blog, since the weather forecast was not very hopeful!
In the evening we strolled through the streets near the hotel and dined at the Risotto (an Italian, definitely it was a day without Vietnamese food!)
Day 3: An Dinh Palace
We already knew, Hue has the reputation of being the rainiest city in the country. We had read on different blogs that many travelers spend whole days locked in their hotels because of the rains … and we confirmed the rule! After breakfast at the hotel, we tried to get out to do something but … three minutes later we were back to the hotel and totally wet! Impossible to walk. So we spent the morning working the room and planning our itinerary for the following weeks.
At noon the rain calmed down and we went to eat at Hue spring.
Then we went on foot to visit the An Dinh Palace. Admission costs 10000 dongs (€ 0.40) per person. It was interesting to get there on foot because it is in a non touristy area of Hue. The Palace itself is very beautiful but the visit does not last long. It is a European-style palace, built by the heir of the king in the 1920s. Today it is a museum where you will find furniture, photographs and other objects belonging to the Nguyen dynasty.
We then went to Sinh Tourist, an agency that organizes excursions but also routes to take bus tickets for the next day in the direction of Hoi An (119000 VND, 4.94€/pers). It was with this same agency that we made the excursion to the Halong Bay.
So far our way through Hue! We were able to take advantage to rest a little. In addition to the things we saw, you can also visit the famous royal tombs that surround the city, in agency or on scooter. But between the rain and they are very crowded places (there are only four tourist places in all of Hue), we decided not to visit them. Travel agencies will make you pay for the transport (about 10km), the entrances to each tomb and a boat trip to return to the city center). The tours did not attract us much and we decided to stay in the rain.
We really liked Hue, even though it is not our favorite city in Vietnam. The Citadel is breathtaking, though! Next stop Hoi an!