Hue : Vietnam’s nr. 1 cultural destination
The Imperial Citadel
Construction of the Imperial Citadel, designed for exclusive use by the emperor, his family, and his retinue, started in 1804.. The citadel is protected by a series of four enormous outer walls that are 7-10 metres thick. Access to the walled citadel is via four arched gates, the best known of which is the Ngo Mon Gate, built in 1834. The Imperial Citadel contains a series of palaces, ornate halls, libraries, residences, and colleges. Much of the City, including the Forbidden Palace, was destroyed during a vicious battle between opposing forces during the Tet Offensive of 1968. One can spend an entire afternoon wandering around the grounds of the Imperial Citadel, viewing the ancient architecture of the Nguyen emperors and scars of recent battles.
Hue Museum of Antiquities
Built in 1845, the French converted this former temple into a library, and then a museum in 1923. The museum now houses a collection of hundreds of poems, decrees, and valuable relics salvaged from the Imperial City. On display in the museums front courtyard are various Nguyen Dynasty statues, gongs, and bells.
The Imperial Tombs
The imperial tombs are one of the highlights of Hue, and are more like small palaces than burial grounds. The architecture of each tomb is unique, but common themes are a large stone courtyard filled with life-size statues of soldiers, horses, mandarins and elephants. Inside the grounds are a pavilion with engraved biographies of the deceased king written by his successor, and the temple where the king is buried. Ponds and moats filled with lotus flowers add life to the grounds. The most prominent tombs of Hue include:
Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang
Much of the Imperial City was built under the reign of Emperor Minh Mang. His tomb is located at the juncture of two tributaries of the Perfume River. The site is considered one of the best examples of Nguyen Dynasty architecture and artwork.
Tomb of Emperor Tu Duc
This tomb is located in an area of rolling hills and pine trees seven kilometers outside Hue. The tranquil grounds are filled with trees, ponds and pavilions where Tu Duc would write poetry. Emperor Tu Duc had his tomb built 16 years prior to his death and actually wrote his own biography prior to his death.
Tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh
Khai Dinh’s was the last Mausoleum built during the Nguyen Dynasty, and it is perhaps the most beautiful of all the royal tombs. Situated on one of the Chau Mountains, amidst pine, cassava and sugar cane, Khai Dinh’s tomb is surrounded by natural beauty. Its architecture is a blend of East and West. It took eleven years to build and was completed in 1931.
Thien Mu Pagoda
Thien Mu Pagoda is one of the oldest religious structures in Hue and is also one of the most impressive. It was constructed during the 14th century to worship the legend of a celestial lady. In 1844, Emperor Thieu Tri added the Phuoc Dien stupa. This seven-storey stupa is 21 metres high, with each level dedicated to one of the various human forms taken by Buddha. In the 1930s and 1940s the Thien Mu Pagoda became an important meeting place for Buddhists. It became well-known worldwide when, in 1963, Thich Quang Duc, a 66 year old resident monk, died after setting himself on fire to protest anti-Buddhist policies of the government of South Vietnam. It is best to visit the pagoda by sampan as it sits on the banks of the Perfume River.
Huong River (Perfume River)
White river – Green leaves, Huong River is like “a silver sword upright to the sky”. Huong river is really an invaluable godsend to Hue. It would be an unforgetable experience to take a boat trip along the river to some sites of interests like Thien Mu pagoda and enjoy a royal singing show en route.
Tu Dam Pagoda
Built by a Chinese monk on the north bank of the Perfume River in 1683, Tu Dam Pagoda was a popular gathering point for Buddhists during the protests of the 1960s. In 1963, South Vietnam’s President Diem ordered Catholic armed forces to fire on a group of Buddhists. Thirty monks and followers were shot. Though the pagoda has been damaged numerous times during Hue’s turbulent past, many areas have been rebuilt.
“Ho Quyen” – Tiger’s Arena
Ho Quyen was the arena where duels between elephants and tigers were arranged for the entertainment of the Emperor, the royal family and mandarins.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Called the Redemptorists by Hue people, this cathedral took three years to build (from 1959 to 1962). The interior of the cathedral is 38m wide and 72m long, always being lit by stained glass. In the bell tower, there hangs four bells, 30m from the ground. Located at the center of the city, this cathedral occupies a solemn position and is held in high regard to the Catholic followers in the region.
Thanh Toan Bridge
If you miss the famous Japanese bridge in Hoian, or prefer the less beaten track, there is another classic covered footbridge called Thanh Toan in Hue. The bridge is architecturally similar to its cousin in Hoian though it reiceives far less visitors. It is best reached by motorbike or bicycle. The dirt road to the bridge through villages, rice paddies and several pagodas.