Hue

Introducing Hue

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Still packed with the accoutrements of its dynastic past, HUÉ is one of Vietnam’s most engaging cities. It boasts an unparalleled opportunity for historic and culinary exploration, thanks in no small part to its status as national capital from 1802–1945. Though the Nguyen dynasty is no more, Hué still exudes something of a regal, dignified air – its populace, indeed, are considered somewhat highbrow by the rest of the country. It’s still a breeding ground for poets, artists, scholars and intellectuals, and you’ll notice far more youngsters here than in other cities – largely because, unlike elsewhere in Vietnam, female students still wear the traditional ao dai.

Hué repays exploration at a leisurely pace, and contains enough in the way of historical interest to swallow up a few days with no trouble at all. The city divides into three clearly defined urban areas, each with its own distinct character. The nineteenth century walled citadel, on the north bank of the Perfume River, contains the once magnificent Imperial City as well as an extensive grid of attractive residential streets and prolific gardens. Across Dong Ba Canal to the east lies Phu Cat, the original merchants’ quarter of Hué where ships once pulled in, now a crowded district of shophouses, Chinese Assembly Halls and pagodas. What used to be called the European city, a triangle of land caught between the Perfume River’s south bank and the Phu Cam Canal, is now Hué’s modern administrative centre, where you’ll also find most hotels and tourist services.

See more Hue travel guide at here.

Pine-covered hills form the city’s southern bounds; this is where the Nguyen emperors built their palatial Royal Mausoleums. And through it all meanders the Perfume River, named somewhat fancifully from the tree resin and blossoms it carries, passing on its way the celebrated, seven-storey tower of Thien Mu Pagoda. If you can afford the time, cycling out to Thuan An Beach makes an enjoyable excursion. Hué is also the main jumping-off point for day-tours of the DMZ.

With all this to offer, Hué is inevitably one of Vietnam’s pre-eminent tourist destinations. The choice and standard of accommodation are generally above average, as are its restaurants serving the city’s justly famous speciality foods. Nevertheless, the majority of people pass through Hué fairly quickly, partly because high entrance fees make visiting more than a couple of the major sights beyond many budgets, and partly because of its troublesome weather. Hué suffers from the highest rainfall in the country, mostly falling over just three months from October to December when the city regularly floods for a few days, causing damage to the historic architecture, though heavy downpours are possible at any time of year.

Culture

Hue is one of the main cultural, religious and educational centers of Vietnam. So far, Hue remains to be the only originally historical vestiged city in Vietnam. Many of Hue’s attractions are found along the banks of the romantically named Perfume River with 11km length. This valuable construction includes more than 100 architectural works, which are the reflection of the life of Emperors and mandarins under Nguyen’s reign.

Architecture in Hue is the combination of royal architect, folk, religious ones, tradtional and modern sides. On December 11th, 1993, it was classified by UNESCO as the world cultural heritage. On the north bank of the river is the Imperial Citadel, built along the line of Peking’s Forbidden City, enclosed by 10-metre thick walls and surrounded by a moat. A few kilometers further up the river are perhaps Hue’s best-known religious site. Inside the citadel, there are still wonders. For example, the seat of the Nguyen emperors occupying a large, walled area on the north side of the river. Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the concubines, emperors, and those close enough to them were granted access, the punishment for trespassing was death penalty.

If you like something mysterious and valuably architectural, you should take a visit to the tombs of ancient Kings. Situated in the middle of the hills on the Southern bank of Perfume River are very beautiful tombs of Nguyen Kings. Among these tombs are the four famous ones with the name and the arrangements of the tomb reflecting each Emperor’s points of view, personality, and tastes. This is majestic Gia Long tomb, imposing Minh Mang tomb, poetic Tu Duc tomb and magnificent Khai Dinh tomb. No architects who would like to discover ancient architecture of Vietnam could ignore Hue’s old citadel vestiges.

Royal Music

A lot of foreign tourists are curious about Hue’s ritual royal music. Originated from 8 kinds of ritual music under Le dynasty, under Nguyen dynasty, it has improved into 2 kinds of music: “Dai nhac” and “Nha nhac”, which are really magnificent, and skillful. Those are only played on formal occasions. This city is proud to be the cadral of traditional music. The Royal Refined Music was proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on December 1993.

Religion

Hue is also an important center of Buddhism. In Hue and the surroundings still exists tens of pagodas constructed more than 300 years ago, and a hundred of temples and pagodas built in the early century. Thien Mu Pagoda, with its distinctive seven-storey octagonal tower.

Besides all these, Hue’s culture is also found in its famous “non la” or conical hats. You can buy these at the enormous Dong Ba Market as a remarkable and graceful piece of souvenir of Vietnam. A foreign friend of mine had a chance to meet a long-haired Hue’s Vietnamese girl in the traditional violet long dress and a graceful conical hat. And can you guess what happened? He fell in love with her at first sight, and they are now a very happy couple – husband and wife!! Vietnamese cultural grace could win any heart!

Festival and Cuisine

Festivals are also attractions of Hue. There are two main kinds of festival here. Royal festival reflects the life and ritual activities of Nguyen dynasty, almost paying more attention to the ritual than the ceremony. Folk festival consists of multi activities such as Hue Nam festival in Hon Chen temple which follow Champa’s belief, handicraft’s father memory festivals, and some cultural activities as boat racing, westling,…

The cuisine of Hue are rich, but one of the most striking differences is the prominence of vegetarianism in the city. Several all-vegetarian restaurants are scattered in various corners of the city to serve the locals who have a strong tradition of eating vegetarian twice a month, as part of their Buddhist beliefs.

No one who has come to Hue could ignore its ancient beauty and romance. Taking a cruise along the Perfume River, having some special cuisine, and listening to Nha Nhac Royal Music, you can feel the actual picturesque view of this natural classical mysterious city!

See more Hue travel guide at here.

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