After our couple of days in the idyllic Hoi An, our next destination, Hue, was just a bit further up north. The calm and elegant Hue sits along the banks of the Perfume river and it is known as the historical capital of Vietnam. Hue was the the Imperial Capital of the Nguyen dynasty, dynasty that ruled Vietnam from 1802 to 1945, when the last emperor abdicated in favour of Ho Chi Minh.
Entering through the main gate of the Imperial City feels like traveling back in time, you almost expect to be welcomed by the emperor. The Imperial City was divided in different areas: the Forbidden Purple City – private residence of the emperor and his servants, the Queen and Queens mother residences, the temples, the palace – where the emperor held receptions, the city gardens, the reading hall, the theater. The imperial city was badly damaged during the fighting with the French and Vietnam’s war, and while it is still possible to get a grasp of its splendor, it is mostly ruins what is left nowadays. But even with the few buildings and temples that are still up (some of which have been beautifully restored) we got an idea of the city’s beauty and magnificence. We were specially enchanted by the serene beauty of the Queen and Queens mother residences and the beautifully carved wooden temples.
We rented a bicycle to visit the city. We cycled around the citadel and along the Perfume river towards Thien Mu pagoda, a tiny seven layers pagoda. On our stroll along the river we also visited the Temple of Literature, a Confucian temple. Even though Confucianism was widely extended through Vietnam in the past, nowadays there aren’t many followers, and there are very few temples left, the most important one in Hanoi. On our way back to the city we passed by a residential area looking for the Garden Houses (privately owned houses with attractive gardens) and although the gardens weren’t really anything special, it was very relaxing to cycle through the quiet neighborhood without any motorbikes around.
We had seen people traveling by cyclo all throughout Vietnam and Cambodia, but we hadn’t yet get on one. So this time we didn’t want to miss the opportunity and we decided to go by cyclo to the train station. We wanted to take a cyclo each, but when we were negotiating the price with a driver he suggested he could take both of us and our heavy backpacks in one. A little bit sceptical we gave it a go. We both got on it and as soon as the driver put the last backpack the cyclo turned over and of course us with it… what a show! Finally with the help of another driver who served as counterweight we managed to get on the cyclo with all our backpacks and we reached the train station in one piece! Though the poor driver was sweating like a pig from the effort!
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Original Binh Duong I Hotel – This hotel is set on a hidden alley. When we arrived to Hue and walking around trying to find accommodation a guy from Binh Duong I Hotel approached us offering a room. Without any compromise we followed him. The hotel was basic but clean. We agreed to pay 189,000 dongs for a double room with attached bathroom with hot water. We had satellite tv and free wifi. We rented the bicycles in the hotel, we paid 20,000 dongs each.
From Hoi An to Hue by bus (5h) – All agencies in Hoi An gave us the same price for the bus to Hue, 105,000 dongs. As it was more convenient for us we ended up buying it at our hotel. We were told pick up time was 7.30am, but the bus didn’t arrive until around 8am. After that we toured around Hoi An for about another hour just picking up people from other hotels (this is the norm in Vietnam). The bus dropped us in Hue at the city centre, near Hung Vuong street.