Hue & Surrounding

Introduction:

Palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, culture and history make up Hue, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty still resonates with the glories of Imperial Vietnam, even though many of its finest buildings were destroyed during the war.

Situated on the banks of the picturesque Perfume River, Hue, the capital of Thua Thien Hue province, is around 700 km south of Hanoi, 1,100 km north of Ho Chi Minh City and just a few kilometers from the East Sea. Hue originally came to prominence as the capital of the Nguyen Lords who dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th to the 19th centuries. In 1802, Nguyen Anh, later known as Emperor Gia Long successfully put his control over the whole Vietnam and changed the country’s capital from Thang Long (the present-day Hanoi) to Hue. The city remained its title until 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai, the last King of Vietnam, abdicated.

The famous US chef Anthony Bourdain once said: “Hue is, in many ways, a city of ghosts, of memories and spirits.” If you are interested in history and culture of Vietnam, then Hue definitely should be on your top list. The city represents an outstanding demonstration of the power of the last Vietnam feudal empire including a complex of monuments, tombs, and ancient pagodas. Many things in Hue are considered as the standards of Vietnamese beauty. The image of Hue women wearing the traditional Ao dai and conical hat is regarded as the most beautiful in Vietnam. Local people’s pleasing accent also is reputed the most perfect. In brief, travel to Hue is like going back in time to an ancient world, a charm that you may not find in any other regions of Vietnam.

When to visit

Hue features a tropical monsoon climate. In addition, its weather is influenced by Southwest wind flows from Laos, therefore Hue is much hotter than its neighbors such as Da Nang in summer. Hue is divided into town seasons. The hot and dry season lasts March to August, with high temperatures of 35 to 40 °C.

The cool and wet weather starts from September to January, with a flood season from October onwards, the average temperature is between 20 to 30°C. Spring lasts from January to late February.

October to March is the perfect time to visit the city. Try to avoid July and August which is the domestic tourist season and the city overheating in scorching temperatures.

Getting there

Phu Bai Airport is located 15km south of the city center, presently only serves domestic flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The travel time is around 1.5 hours.

Buses from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Hue are long overnight trips. Ticket can be purchased in tourist area of all three cities. Buses from neighboring cities to the city takes around two or three hours.

Hue is the main stop on the north-south train line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The railway station is situated at the end of Le Loi Road, on the south bank of Ben Ngu River.

Top things to do and see:

Vi Da
Located along the Perfume River, Vi Da Village was established 200 years ago. Even today, tourists can see along the two sides of the road to Thuan An those ancient houses, built after the classical architecture. Made up of 3 principal rooms and 2 auxiliary ones at the 2 ends, the roof is covered with "yin & yang" tiles, with its top featuring 2 dragons. In front of the house, there is a court-yard paved with bricks, and a brick screen is accompanied by stone work. Vi Da is also famous for its gardening traditions, with its gardens which blossom all year long throughout the 4 seasons. Some popular sites include the residence of the Prince Tuy Ly Mien Trinh, the Ba La Mat Pagoda, built at the be-ginning of the 19th century, the communal Temple of Vi Da, and the Tu Bi Hi Xa Pagoda.

Imperial Citadel
Most of Hue’s sights and a sizeable chunk of its population reside within the 2m-thick, 10km‑long walls of its Citadel on the north bank of the Perfume River. Built between 1804 and 1833, its ramparts are encircled by a moat, 30m across and about 4m deep, and there are 10 fortified gates. The water in the moat is routed from the Perfume River through a series of sluice gates. This enclosure is the Citadel. Inside the Citadel is the Imperial City, with a perimeter wall some 2.5 kilometers in length. Within the Imperial City is the Purple Forbidden City, a term similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Access to the innermost enclosure is restricted to the Nguyen Imperial family

Tombs of Nguyen Kings
The Dynasty of Nguyen in Vietnam consisted of thirteen emperors. Only seven royal tombs remain in Hue nowadays, they are Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh. The architectural style of these tombs follows rigid regulations relating to natural environment and geographical objects, such as rivers, mountains, ponds and lakes, streams and particularly to what is termed “mysterious palace” – the architectural focal point of all structures built during the Nguyen Dynasty.

Thien Mu Pagoda
Built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River, 4km southwest of the Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda is considered a symbol of Hue. The Pagoda was originally founded in 1601 by Nguyen Hoang, governor of Thuan Hoa province. Over the centuries, its buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt several times.

Its 21m-high octagonal tower, Thap Phuoc Duyen, was constructed under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri in 1844. Each of its seven stories is dedicated to a manushi Buddha.

The Pagoda itself is a humble building in the inner courtyard, past the triple-gated entrance where three statues of Buddhist guardians stand at the alert. In the main sanctuary behind the bronze laughing Buddha are three statues: A Di Da, the Buddha of the Past; Thich Ca, the historical Buddha (Sakyamuni); and Di Lac Buddha, the Buddha of the Future.

Perfume River
The Perfume River (Vietnamese: Sông Hương) runs through Hue. Its name comes from the fact that it flows through many forests of aromatic plants be-fore reaching Hue, bringing with it a pure and fresh aroma.

As one of the most popular attractions in this romantic city, a boat excursion or cruise along the river is included in most itineraries to Hue. Along the river, you can visit Da Vien, Phu Xuan, and Truong Tien Bridges, visit the royal tombs of Nguyen Dynasty’s Kings, Hon Chen Shrine, and Thien Mu Pagoda.

Quoc Hoc Hue
Situated on the banks of the Perfume River, it boasts the largest high school campus of Vietnam with many large shady trees, stone benches and French architectural designed buildings.

Dong Ba Market
On the northern bank of Perfume River, this is Hue’s largest market. The market reaches an area of up to 16,000 m2 and is divided into different sections, depending on the types of products. The whole floor upstairs is for garment and clothes. All of the most special cultural gifts and souvenirs of Hue that remain today can be found here, including Non Bai Tho (or Poem conical hats having poems woven into their design). In Dong Ba, people can get most of Hue’s delicious dishes.

Lang Co Beach
Lang Co is an attractive island-like stretch of palm-shaded white sand, with a crystal-clear, turquoise lagoon on one side and 10km of beachfront on the other. As a beach resort, it is more geared to Vietnamese day trippers than Western travelers, but if the weather's nice, the ocean is certainly inviting .High season is April to July. From late August till November rains are frequent, and from December to March it can get chilly.

Bach Ma National Park
Bach Ma National Park features stunning mountain landscape, spectacular waterfall and natural trails. The national park, extended in 2008, stretches from the coast to the Annamite mountain range at the Lao border. More than 1400 species of plants, including many rare ferns and orchids, have been discovered in Bach Ma, representing a fifth of the flora of Vietnam. There are 132 kinds of mammals, three of which were only discovered in the 1990s: the antelope-like saola, Truong Son muntjac and the giant muntjac. Nine species of primates are also present, including small numbers of the rare red-shanked Douc langur. It’s hoped that wild elephants will return from the Lao side of the border.

DMZ
Hue makes a perfect base for day trips to the DMZ which is approximately 70 km north, with many war settings such as Khe Sanh Combat Base, Vinh Moc tunnels or the Rockpile.

Where to eat:

The cuisine of Hue which forms the heart of central Vietnamese cuisines has both luxurious and rustic tastes. With such a rich history, Hue’s foods is the combination between taste and aesthetic. It includes some distinctive dishes from small and elegant creations so as to please the appetites of Nguyen royal family. Another thing that makes Hue an amazing culinary center is the traditional foods, which is so distinctive from other regions.

Com hen (rice with clam) 
Unique and true to Hue, Com hen consists of rice, boiled mussels, star fruit, fish sauce, cabbage, onion, pepper, roasted peanut and chili in a bowl, all are cold. When eating, people pour hot boiled mussel broth over all the ingredients.

Bun bo Hue
This dish is one of the most typical foods in Hue.  A bowl of bun bo includes rice vermicelli and sliced cooked beef and is greatly admired for its unique balance of spices and flavors. The broth is prepared by boiling the beef bones and shank, lemongrass, fermented shrimp sauce and chili oil. It is served with thin slices of marinated and boiled beef shank, chunks of oxtail, pig knuckles, pork rolls, fresh herbs and vegetable such as sliced banana blossom and bean sprouts. The dish is flavored with a little shrimp paste adding directly into the bowl.

Banh khoai
Banh khoai is similar to Banh xeo (sizzling cake) but is served open faced instead of being folded in half. It is made of rice flour, water, and turmeric powder, stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion and bean sprouts. Banh khoai goes with fermented soy bean sauce. It is considered as a food of winter because of its greasiness and spicy sauce. Therefore, local people often make them when winter comes.

Banh bot loc
A small, clear looking, chewy tapioca dumpling stuffed with shrimp and ground pork and often topped with fried shallots. It is wrapped inside banana leaves, either be steamed or boiled, and served with sweet chili fish sauce. The dish can be eaten as appetizers or a light snack.

Nem lui
Pork meat moulded around sticks of lemongrass and grilled.

Mam tom chua
Hue is the best place for this unique dish. Mam tom chua (sour shrimp sauce) is made from shrimp which are cleaned by salt water and soaked in strong rice wine until its color turns to red. Then put the mixture of shrimp, sticky rice, sliced lesser galangal, garlic and chili into a jar covered by guava leaves. After a week or so, the sour shrimp sauce is ready to use. It is best served with boiled pork and vermicelli.

Hue Surrounding Areas:

Demilitarized zone (DMZ)

According to the Geneva Agreement signed in 1954 between French and Ho Chi Minh`s government, the Ben Hai River at 17th North parallel (80km north of Hue) marked the political division of Vietnam, separating the then Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, North Vietnam) from the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, South Vietnam). The agreement stated that the division of Vietnam into two zones was merely temporary until the nationwide general election expected to be held after two years. However, said election could not be held and The 17th parallel (17 degrees latitude) has served as a indisposed boundary for nearly 20 years of war (1954-1973). Hien Luong Bridge joins the two banks of the Ben Hai River was also divided into two parts, each serving as border gate. On either side of the river was a five kilometre wide area known as the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which, notwithstanding its name, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the American War:  Khe Sanh, Quang Tri citadel....  

Today the province receives some 10,000 visitors each year, most of them foreigners keen to visit this former battleground.
 
Khe Sanh: Khe Sanh is located in Hướng Hoá District, Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam, located 63 km west of Đông Hà. Khe Sanh Combat Base was a United States Marine Corps outpost in South Vietnam (MGRS 48QXD850418) used during the Vietnam War. The airstrip was built in September 1962. Fighting began there in late April of 1967 known as the "Hill Fights", which later expanded into the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh. U.S. commanders hoped that the North Vietnamese Army would attempt to repeat their famous victory at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and the battle ended as a failure for the North Vietnamese Army. The defense of Khe Sanh became one of the largest sieges of the war and commanded heavy international attention in the media one of several climactic phases of the Tet Offensive. On July 5, 1968, Khe Sanh was abandoned, the U.S. Army citing the vulnerability of the base to enemy artillery. However, the closure permitted the 3rd Marine Division to construct mobile firebase operations along the northern border area.

In 1971, Khe Sanh was reactivated by the US Army (Operation Dewey Canyon II) to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese incursion into Laos. It was abandoned again sometime in 1972. In March 1973, American officials in Saigon reported that North Vietnamese troops had rebuilt the old airstrip at Khe Sanh and were using it for courier flights into the south. As of 2009, Khe Sanh Combat Base is a museum where relics of the war are exhibited. Most of the former base is now overgrown by wilderness or coffee and banana plants.

Khe Sanh Combat Base can today be visited as part of the tours through the Demilitarized Zone starting daily in Huế. In a small museum on the area of the former combat base historical pictures and weapons are shown. Additionally, abandoned helicopters and restored bunkers are part of the area. A remaining rest of the airstrip is also visible.

Camp Carol: Camp Carroll was a United States Marine Corps artillery base during the Vietnam War. It was located 8 km southwest of the town of Cam Lo, Quang Tri province.

The camp was commissioned on November 10, 1966 and became home for the 3rd Marine Regiment. It was one of nine artillery bases constructed along the DMZ and had 80 artillery pieces including M107 175mm guns from the United States Army. From a tactical perspective, therefore, the 175mm self-propelled gun was the most important weapon at Camp Carroll. The 175mm guns put Camp Carroll on the map, particularly the tactical maps of the North Vietnamese forward observers. The most powerful American field artillery tube, the 175mm could fire a 150-pound projectile 32,690 meters and effectively return fire on any enemy gun that could hit it.

Camp Carroll diminished in significance after the 1968 Tet Offensive. The 3rd Marine Division began relying on highly mobile postures rather than remaining in their fixed positions as sitting targets. The Marine Corps began pulling out of Vietnam in 1969 as part of President Richard Nixon's Vietnamization Policy.

Pock pile: The Rockpile is known in Vietnamese as Thon Khe Tri, is a karst rock outcropping near the former DMZ of South Vietnam. It rises to an elevation of 240 m (790 ft) MSL, about 210 m (690 ft) above the surrounding terrain. Its relatively inaccessible location, reached only by helicopter, made it an important United States Army and Marine Corps observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1968.

Hien Luong Bridge: The historic Hiền Lương Bridge over the Bến Hải River served as a border between North and South Việt Nam from 1954 to 1975 under the Geneva Agreement on Vietnam signed in 1954. The Bridge is now an national historical vestige. It has been reconstructed in period style along with a gateway, flagpole, Negotiation House and Demarcation Police Station on the northern bank and a watchtower on the southern bank.

Vinh Moc Tunnel: Vinh Moc (Vịnh Mốc) is a tunnel complex in Quang Tri, Vietnam. During the Vietnam War it was strategically located on the border of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The tunnels were built to shelter people from the intense bombing of Son Trung and Son Ha communes in Vinh Linh county of Quang Tri Province in the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone.

Vinh Linh district in Quang Tri has as many as more than 60 tunnels such as Tan My, Mu Giai, Tan Ly tunnels, among which Vinh Moc is the most solid and firm village tunnel, with 3 floors and round staircase, still remaining as in its past days.

Vinh Moc tunnel was constructed in several stages, beginning in 1966 and coming into use until 1971. The complex grew to consist of wells, kitchens, rooms for each family and clinics. Around 60 families lived in the tunnels; as many as 17 children were born inside the tunnels as well. Finally, the tunnels were a success and no villagers lost their lives thanks to them. The only direct hit was from a bomb that failed to explode, the resulting hole was utilized as a ventilation shaft.

Today, the tunnels are a tourist attraction. In comparision to the Cu Chi tunnels, walking through the Vinh-Moc-tunnels is a lot more comfortable, because they are situated in a less humid climate zone and the height of the tunnels allows even western tourists to stand upright.

Phong Nha Ke Bang

The Phong Nha Nature Reserve is situated on the edge of the Phong Nha/Ke Bang Karst plateau in central Viet Nam. It is only part of the total plateau, which extends to and adjoins the Hin Namno karst of the Lao PDR. Phong Nha contains many large and spectacular caves. The karst landscape is an extremely complex and ancient one, with high geodiversity and some geomorphic features of considerable significance. It has an Earth crust development history from the Ordovician period (464 million years ago). This has produced three types of topography and geomorphology. One type is the non-karst landforms, which consist of low, round-top mountains with planation surfaces and abrasion-accumulation terraces along the valleys of the Son and Chay rivers and at the margins of the central limestone massif. The other major type is karst landforms, which are characterized by old tropical karst mainly from the Mezozoic era, but two-thirds of the site consists of karst from the Cenozoic. Extensive transitional landforms comprise an extremely complex intercalation of limestone massifs and terrigenous terrain with a diversity of rock types. The limestone occupies an area of about 200,000 ha, with a similar adjacent area in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and its highest point is 1,290 m above sea level.


The karst formation process has resulted in many features such as underground rivers, dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves and intersecting caves. The active river caves are divided into the nine caves of the Phong Nha system discharging to the Son River, and the eight caves of the Vom system discharging to the Chay River. The Phong Nha Cave is the most famous in the entire system, with a currently surveyed length of 44.5 km. Its entrance is the last part of an underground river that connects with the Son River and tour boats can penetrate inside to a distance of 1,500 m. Other extensive caves include the Vom cave at 15 km in length and the Hang Khe Rhy cave with a length of 18,902 m.

Some 92% of the park is covered by tropical forest, 92.2% of which is primary forest. By far the largest vegetation type is tropical dense moist evergreen forest on limestone. Although this was severely damaged by fire during the war, it is recovering rapidly and is now in a healthy state. It has a high level of faunal diversity and there are many vascular plants.

A total of 568 vertebrate species have been recorded in the site, comprising 113 mammals, 81 reptiles and amphibians, 302 birds and 72 fish. The fauna is typical of the limestone karst forests of the Annamite mountains. The high mammal species richness includes threatened species such as tiger, Asiatic black bear, Asian elephant, giant muntjac, Asian wild dog, gaus, and the newly discovered sao la. The site is particularly rich in primates, with 10 species and subspecies forming 45% of the total number of species in Viet Nam.

The Phong Nha-Ke Bang karst has evolved since the Palaeozoic era and so is the oldest major karst area in Asia. It has been subject to massive tectonic changes. The karst landscape of the park is extremely complex with high geodiversity and many geomorphic features of considerable significance.

The limestones of Phong Nha are interbedded with a number of other rocks. There is also strong evidence that sulphurous solution and hydrothermal action have played an important role in shaping the broad-scale landscape and the caves. The incorporation of the Ke Bang forest into the park has added another very important dimension.
This sector has many 'fossil' caves at a high level, which occur when the groundwater and rivers move to a lower level. Only a very few have been visited to date. It is one of the most important eco-regions of the Indo-Pacific. A large number of faunal and floral species occurs in the park, including some endemic to the site.

Phong Nha cave: Phong Nha Cave is a cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. It is 7729 meters long and contains 14 grottos, as well as a 13,969 meter underground river. While scientists have surveyed it to a depth of 44.5 kilometers, tourists are only allowed to explore the first 1500 meters. It is the second biggest cave in Vietnam. Before discovery and exploration of Thiên Đường (Paradise) Cave, Phong Nha Cave was considered the most beautiful cave in Vietnam.

Paradise cave: Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave) is a cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, UNESCO's World Heritage Site, 60 km northwest of Đồng Hới city. Thiên Đường Cave is located on an elevation of 200 meters above the sea level, near the west branch of Ho Chi Minh Highway, in Son Trach Commune, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. The cave was discovered by a local man in 2005 and 5 first km of this cave was explored by explorers from British Cave Research Association in 2005, the whole 31 km was explored and publicly announced by the British cave explorers. This cave is 31 km long, longer than Phong Nha Cave which had been considered the longest cave in this national park. The height can reach to 100 m and 150 wide. The limestone formation is also more spectacular than that of Phong Nha Cave. The British cave explorers was impressed by the beautiful and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites inside this cave and they named it Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave).

 
Hue & Surrounding

Tours in Hue & Surrounding

General information about the country: history, war time, tradition, culture, natural landscape, colonial legacy, religious signification... Humanity and social aspect, Vietnam’s Natural & Cultural world Heritage sites, Impacts of human activities on the environment, Experience truly local people’s daily life in the city by visiting their home, trying farm work and daily life activities

From the ancient capital of Hue, you can take a trip to discover specific culture of the Central Vietnam. First of all of this trip is Hue, of course. It became the nation`s capital in 1802. The city remained Vietnam`s capital until 1945. Although time and warfare have taken their toll, the local residents act as if Hue still is and Hue`s atmosphere of regal serenity remains intact.

Hue became the nation`s capital in 1802. The city remained Vietnam`s capital until 1945. Although time and warfare have taken their toll, the local residents act as if Hue still is and Hue`s atmosphere of regal serenity remains intact. UNESCO has called Hue `an adorable architectural poem` due to its harmonized combination of nature and human inspiration.

Central Vietnam is the middle part of the country of the South East Asia which is packed with historic sights and cultural interest, and blessed with wonderful beaches and outstanding national parks.

Hue became the nation`s capital in 1802. The city remained Vietnam`s capital until 1945. Although time and warfare have taken their toll, the local residents act as if Hue still is

From the mordern Da Nang, you can take a trip to discover unique culture of the Central Vietnam. First of all of this trip is Da Nang, of course, the city is located on the east coast of Vietnam, a thriving seaport midway between capital of Hanoi in the North and Ho Chi Minh city, in the South. 

Hue, Phong Nha, My Son and Hoi An are destinations any tourists can not afford to miss when in the middle of the land of elongated "S". A part of Vietnam history many thousand of years reappears through the Center Heritage Trail.

Vietnam is a country of a long history and ancient traditions. It is such as Hanoi – the capital of one thousand-year culture and unique cuisine; the Citadel of Hue as the beginning of the Center Heritage Trail; Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) - Vietnam's largest and most dynamic city or My Tho appearing as a taste of authentic delta life and so on

Thanh Toan village is located in Thuy Thanh commune, Huong Thuy district. The village is regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in Hue with roads, peaceful rural landscape and particularly the tile-roofed bridge, which has become an attraction for tourists.

Da Nang is located on the east coast of Vietnam, a thriving seaport midway between capital of Hanoi in the North and Ho Chi Minh city, in the South.

Hue is not only famous for ancient imperial palaces, the city is also home of traditional crafts villages. These villages remain their production and manage to adapt to modern life in an attempt to preserve and develop these crafts.
 

Hue was the nation`s capital between 1802 and 1945.. Although time and warfare have taken their toll, the local residents act as if Hue still is and Hue`s atmosphere of regal serenity remains intact. In general, the architecture of Hue has harmonious, balanced and sober beauty, to which are added the charm of green garden, lotus ponds...

Talking about Hue, most immediately think of Vietnam former capital with golden palaces, temples, tombs and ancient landscapes. However, Hue culture is also learnt through the art of food processing and culinary philosophy. Let’s take a trip around Hue to enjoy special tastes of beautiful land.

About 15 kilometers from Hue City, Tam Giang Lagoon owns pristine beauty with the most beautiful moments as sunset when it turns purple and the skyline separating the water from the sky, with the whole lagoon’s surface shaking in the breeze. It is definitely attraction any tourist is dying to catch.

Located in the South East Asia and shares the long borderline with countries as China, Cambodia and Laos, Vietnam boasts a unique shape of an elongated S and a long coastline of 3,260km with a lot of wonderful sites.

Da Nang is located on the east coast of Vietnam, a thriving seaport midway between capital of Hanoi in the North and Ho Chi Minh city, in the South. The region is renowned for its scenic beauty, with endless stretches of unspoiled sandy beaches, crystal blue seas and luxurious, tropical hinterland.

It is 7km from Hue city centre, Thuy Bieu village is a ideal destination of nature and culture along the upstream bank of Perfume River. This is comfortable and enjoyable stay in Hue countryside that tourists cannot afford to miss when in Hue.

For tourists who are interested in countryside taste in Vietnam, Thuy Bieu Village is an amazing choice to enjoy nature and culture along the upstream bank of Perfume River.

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Hue & Surrounding

Introduction:

Palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, culture and history make up Hue, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The imperial capital of the Nguyen dynasty still resonates with the glories of Imperial Vietnam, even though many of its finest buildings were destroyed during the war.

Situated on the banks of the picturesque Perfume River, Hue, the capital of Thua Thien Hue province, is around 700 km south of Hanoi, 1,100 km north of Ho Chi Minh City and just a few kilometers from the East Sea. Hue originally came to prominence as the capital of the Nguyen Lords who dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th to the 19th centuries. In 1802, Nguyen Anh, later known as Emperor Gia Long successfully put his control over the whole Vietnam and changed the country’s capital from Thang Long (the present-day Hanoi) to Hue. The city remained its title until 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai, the last King of Vietnam, abdicated.

The famous US chef Anthony Bourdain once said: “Hue is, in many ways, a city of ghosts, of memories and spirits.” If you are interested in history and culture of Vietnam, then Hue definitely should be on your top list. The city represents an outstanding demonstration of the power of the last Vietnam feudal empire including a complex of monuments, tombs, and ancient pagodas. Many things in Hue are considered as the standards of Vietnamese beauty. The image of Hue women wearing the traditional Ao dai and conical hat is regarded as the most beautiful in Vietnam. Local people’s pleasing accent also is reputed the most perfect. In brief, travel to Hue is like going back in time to an ancient world, a charm that you may not find in any other regions of Vietnam.

When to visit

Hue features a tropical monsoon climate. In addition, its weather is influenced by Southwest wind flows from Laos, therefore Hue is much hotter than its neighbors such as Da Nang in summer. Hue is divided into town seasons. The hot and dry season lasts March to August, with high temperatures of 35 to 40 °C.

The cool and wet weather starts from September to January, with a flood season from October onwards, the average temperature is between 20 to 30°C. Spring lasts from January to late February.

October to March is the perfect time to visit the city. Try to avoid July and August which is the domestic tourist season and the city overheating in scorching temperatures.

Getting there

Phu Bai Airport is located 15km south of the city center, presently only serves domestic flights from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The travel time is around 1.5 hours.

Buses from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Hue are long overnight trips. Ticket can be purchased in tourist area of all three cities. Buses from neighboring cities to the city takes around two or three hours.

Hue is the main stop on the north-south train line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The railway station is situated at the end of Le Loi Road, on the south bank of Ben Ngu River.

Top things to do and see:

Vi Da
Located along the Perfume River, Vi Da Village was established 200 years ago. Even today, tourists can see along the two sides of the road to Thuan An those ancient houses, built after the classical architecture. Made up of 3 principal rooms and 2 auxiliary ones at the 2 ends, the roof is covered with "yin & yang" tiles, with its top featuring 2 dragons. In front of the house, there is a court-yard paved with bricks, and a brick screen is accompanied by stone work. Vi Da is also famous for its gardening traditions, with its gardens which blossom all year long throughout the 4 seasons. Some popular sites include the residence of the Prince Tuy Ly Mien Trinh, the Ba La Mat Pagoda, built at the be-ginning of the 19th century, the communal Temple of Vi Da, and the Tu Bi Hi Xa Pagoda.

Imperial Citadel
Most of Hue’s sights and a sizeable chunk of its population reside within the 2m-thick, 10km‑long walls of its Citadel on the north bank of the Perfume River. Built between 1804 and 1833, its ramparts are encircled by a moat, 30m across and about 4m deep, and there are 10 fortified gates. The water in the moat is routed from the Perfume River through a series of sluice gates. This enclosure is the Citadel. Inside the Citadel is the Imperial City, with a perimeter wall some 2.5 kilometers in length. Within the Imperial City is the Purple Forbidden City, a term similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Access to the innermost enclosure is restricted to the Nguyen Imperial family

Tombs of Nguyen Kings
The Dynasty of Nguyen in Vietnam consisted of thirteen emperors. Only seven royal tombs remain in Hue nowadays, they are Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh. The architectural style of these tombs follows rigid regulations relating to natural environment and geographical objects, such as rivers, mountains, ponds and lakes, streams and particularly to what is termed “mysterious palace” – the architectural focal point of all structures built during the Nguyen Dynasty.

Thien Mu Pagoda
Built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River, 4km southwest of the Citadel, Thien Mu Pagoda is considered a symbol of Hue. The Pagoda was originally founded in 1601 by Nguyen Hoang, governor of Thuan Hoa province. Over the centuries, its buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt several times.

Its 21m-high octagonal tower, Thap Phuoc Duyen, was constructed under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri in 1844. Each of its seven stories is dedicated to a manushi Buddha.

The Pagoda itself is a humble building in the inner courtyard, past the triple-gated entrance where three statues of Buddhist guardians stand at the alert. In the main sanctuary behind the bronze laughing Buddha are three statues: A Di Da, the Buddha of the Past; Thich Ca, the historical Buddha (Sakyamuni); and Di Lac Buddha, the Buddha of the Future.

Perfume River
The Perfume River (Vietnamese: Sông Hương) runs through Hue. Its name comes from the fact that it flows through many forests of aromatic plants be-fore reaching Hue, bringing with it a pure and fresh aroma.

As one of the most popular attractions in this romantic city, a boat excursion or cruise along the river is included in most itineraries to Hue. Along the river, you can visit Da Vien, Phu Xuan, and Truong Tien Bridges, visit the royal tombs of Nguyen Dynasty’s Kings, Hon Chen Shrine, and Thien Mu Pagoda.

Quoc Hoc Hue
Situated on the banks of the Perfume River, it boasts the largest high school campus of Vietnam with many large shady trees, stone benches and French architectural designed buildings.

Dong Ba Market
On the northern bank of Perfume River, this is Hue’s largest market. The market reaches an area of up to 16,000 m2 and is divided into different sections, depending on the types of products. The whole floor upstairs is for garment and clothes. All of the most special cultural gifts and souvenirs of Hue that remain today can be found here, including Non Bai Tho (or Poem conical hats having poems woven into their design). In Dong Ba, people can get most of Hue’s delicious dishes.

Lang Co Beach
Lang Co is an attractive island-like stretch of palm-shaded white sand, with a crystal-clear, turquoise lagoon on one side and 10km of beachfront on the other. As a beach resort, it is more geared to Vietnamese day trippers than Western travelers, but if the weather's nice, the ocean is certainly inviting .High season is April to July. From late August till November rains are frequent, and from December to March it can get chilly.

Bach Ma National Park
Bach Ma National Park features stunning mountain landscape, spectacular waterfall and natural trails. The national park, extended in 2008, stretches from the coast to the Annamite mountain range at the Lao border. More than 1400 species of plants, including many rare ferns and orchids, have been discovered in Bach Ma, representing a fifth of the flora of Vietnam. There are 132 kinds of mammals, three of which were only discovered in the 1990s: the antelope-like saola, Truong Son muntjac and the giant muntjac. Nine species of primates are also present, including small numbers of the rare red-shanked Douc langur. It’s hoped that wild elephants will return from the Lao side of the border.

DMZ
Hue makes a perfect base for day trips to the DMZ which is approximately 70 km north, with many war settings such as Khe Sanh Combat Base, Vinh Moc tunnels or the Rockpile.

Where to eat:

The cuisine of Hue which forms the heart of central Vietnamese cuisines has both luxurious and rustic tastes. With such a rich history, Hue’s foods is the combination between taste and aesthetic. It includes some distinctive dishes from small and elegant creations so as to please the appetites of Nguyen royal family. Another thing that makes Hue an amazing culinary center is the traditional foods, which is so distinctive from other regions.

Com hen (rice with clam) 
Unique and true to Hue, Com hen consists of rice, boiled mussels, star fruit, fish sauce, cabbage, onion, pepper, roasted peanut and chili in a bowl, all are cold. When eating, people pour hot boiled mussel broth over all the ingredients.

Bun bo Hue
This dish is one of the most typical foods in Hue.  A bowl of bun bo includes rice vermicelli and sliced cooked beef and is greatly admired for its unique balance of spices and flavors. The broth is prepared by boiling the beef bones and shank, lemongrass, fermented shrimp sauce and chili oil. It is served with thin slices of marinated and boiled beef shank, chunks of oxtail, pig knuckles, pork rolls, fresh herbs and vegetable such as sliced banana blossom and bean sprouts. The dish is flavored with a little shrimp paste adding directly into the bowl.

Banh khoai
Banh khoai is similar to Banh xeo (sizzling cake) but is served open faced instead of being folded in half. It is made of rice flour, water, and turmeric powder, stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion and bean sprouts. Banh khoai goes with fermented soy bean sauce. It is considered as a food of winter because of its greasiness and spicy sauce. Therefore, local people often make them when winter comes.

Banh bot loc
A small, clear looking, chewy tapioca dumpling stuffed with shrimp and ground pork and often topped with fried shallots. It is wrapped inside banana leaves, either be steamed or boiled, and served with sweet chili fish sauce. The dish can be eaten as appetizers or a light snack.

Nem lui
Pork meat moulded around sticks of lemongrass and grilled.

Mam tom chua
Hue is the best place for this unique dish. Mam tom chua (sour shrimp sauce) is made from shrimp which are cleaned by salt water and soaked in strong rice wine until its color turns to red. Then put the mixture of shrimp, sticky rice, sliced lesser galangal, garlic and chili into a jar covered by guava leaves. After a week or so, the sour shrimp sauce is ready to use. It is best served with boiled pork and vermicelli.

Hue Surrounding Areas:

Demilitarized zone (DMZ)

According to the Geneva Agreement signed in 1954 between French and Ho Chi Minh`s government, the Ben Hai River at 17th North parallel (80km north of Hue) marked the political division of Vietnam, separating the then Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, North Vietnam) from the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, South Vietnam). The agreement stated that the division of Vietnam into two zones was merely temporary until the nationwide general election expected to be held after two years. However, said election could not be held and The 17th parallel (17 degrees latitude) has served as a indisposed boundary for nearly 20 years of war (1954-1973). Hien Luong Bridge joins the two banks of the Ben Hai River was also divided into two parts, each serving as border gate. On either side of the river was a five kilometre wide area known as the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which, notwithstanding its name, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the American War:  Khe Sanh, Quang Tri citadel....  

Today the province receives some 10,000 visitors each year, most of them foreigners keen to visit this former battleground.
 
Khe Sanh: Khe Sanh is located in Hướng Hoá District, Quảng Trị Province, Vietnam, located 63 km west of Đông Hà. Khe Sanh Combat Base was a United States Marine Corps outpost in South Vietnam (MGRS 48QXD850418) used during the Vietnam War. The airstrip was built in September 1962. Fighting began there in late April of 1967 known as the "Hill Fights", which later expanded into the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh. U.S. commanders hoped that the North Vietnamese Army would attempt to repeat their famous victory at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, and the battle ended as a failure for the North Vietnamese Army. The defense of Khe Sanh became one of the largest sieges of the war and commanded heavy international attention in the media one of several climactic phases of the Tet Offensive. On July 5, 1968, Khe Sanh was abandoned, the U.S. Army citing the vulnerability of the base to enemy artillery. However, the closure permitted the 3rd Marine Division to construct mobile firebase operations along the northern border area.

In 1971, Khe Sanh was reactivated by the US Army (Operation Dewey Canyon II) to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese incursion into Laos. It was abandoned again sometime in 1972. In March 1973, American officials in Saigon reported that North Vietnamese troops had rebuilt the old airstrip at Khe Sanh and were using it for courier flights into the south. As of 2009, Khe Sanh Combat Base is a museum where relics of the war are exhibited. Most of the former base is now overgrown by wilderness or coffee and banana plants.

Khe Sanh Combat Base can today be visited as part of the tours through the Demilitarized Zone starting daily in Huế. In a small museum on the area of the former combat base historical pictures and weapons are shown. Additionally, abandoned helicopters and restored bunkers are part of the area. A remaining rest of the airstrip is also visible.

Camp Carol: Camp Carroll was a United States Marine Corps artillery base during the Vietnam War. It was located 8 km southwest of the town of Cam Lo, Quang Tri province.

The camp was commissioned on November 10, 1966 and became home for the 3rd Marine Regiment. It was one of nine artillery bases constructed along the DMZ and had 80 artillery pieces including M107 175mm guns from the United States Army. From a tactical perspective, therefore, the 175mm self-propelled gun was the most important weapon at Camp Carroll. The 175mm guns put Camp Carroll on the map, particularly the tactical maps of the North Vietnamese forward observers. The most powerful American field artillery tube, the 175mm could fire a 150-pound projectile 32,690 meters and effectively return fire on any enemy gun that could hit it.

Camp Carroll diminished in significance after the 1968 Tet Offensive. The 3rd Marine Division began relying on highly mobile postures rather than remaining in their fixed positions as sitting targets. The Marine Corps began pulling out of Vietnam in 1969 as part of President Richard Nixon's Vietnamization Policy.

Pock pile: The Rockpile is known in Vietnamese as Thon Khe Tri, is a karst rock outcropping near the former DMZ of South Vietnam. It rises to an elevation of 240 m (790 ft) MSL, about 210 m (690 ft) above the surrounding terrain. Its relatively inaccessible location, reached only by helicopter, made it an important United States Army and Marine Corps observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1968.

Hien Luong Bridge: The historic Hiền Lương Bridge over the Bến Hải River served as a border between North and South Việt Nam from 1954 to 1975 under the Geneva Agreement on Vietnam signed in 1954. The Bridge is now an national historical vestige. It has been reconstructed in period style along with a gateway, flagpole, Negotiation House and Demarcation Police Station on the northern bank and a watchtower on the southern bank.

Vinh Moc Tunnel: Vinh Moc (Vịnh Mốc) is a tunnel complex in Quang Tri, Vietnam. During the Vietnam War it was strategically located on the border of North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The tunnels were built to shelter people from the intense bombing of Son Trung and Son Ha communes in Vinh Linh county of Quang Tri Province in the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone.

Vinh Linh district in Quang Tri has as many as more than 60 tunnels such as Tan My, Mu Giai, Tan Ly tunnels, among which Vinh Moc is the most solid and firm village tunnel, with 3 floors and round staircase, still remaining as in its past days.

Vinh Moc tunnel was constructed in several stages, beginning in 1966 and coming into use until 1971. The complex grew to consist of wells, kitchens, rooms for each family and clinics. Around 60 families lived in the tunnels; as many as 17 children were born inside the tunnels as well. Finally, the tunnels were a success and no villagers lost their lives thanks to them. The only direct hit was from a bomb that failed to explode, the resulting hole was utilized as a ventilation shaft.

Today, the tunnels are a tourist attraction. In comparision to the Cu Chi tunnels, walking through the Vinh-Moc-tunnels is a lot more comfortable, because they are situated in a less humid climate zone and the height of the tunnels allows even western tourists to stand upright.

Phong Nha Ke Bang

The Phong Nha Nature Reserve is situated on the edge of the Phong Nha/Ke Bang Karst plateau in central Viet Nam. It is only part of the total plateau, which extends to and adjoins the Hin Namno karst of the Lao PDR. Phong Nha contains many large and spectacular caves. The karst landscape is an extremely complex and ancient one, with high geodiversity and some geomorphic features of considerable significance. It has an Earth crust development history from the Ordovician period (464 million years ago). This has produced three types of topography and geomorphology. One type is the non-karst landforms, which consist of low, round-top mountains with planation surfaces and abrasion-accumulation terraces along the valleys of the Son and Chay rivers and at the margins of the central limestone massif. The other major type is karst landforms, which are characterized by old tropical karst mainly from the Mezozoic era, but two-thirds of the site consists of karst from the Cenozoic. Extensive transitional landforms comprise an extremely complex intercalation of limestone massifs and terrigenous terrain with a diversity of rock types. The limestone occupies an area of about 200,000 ha, with a similar adjacent area in the Lao People's Democratic Republic and its highest point is 1,290 m above sea level.


The karst formation process has resulted in many features such as underground rivers, dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves and intersecting caves. The active river caves are divided into the nine caves of the Phong Nha system discharging to the Son River, and the eight caves of the Vom system discharging to the Chay River. The Phong Nha Cave is the most famous in the entire system, with a currently surveyed length of 44.5 km. Its entrance is the last part of an underground river that connects with the Son River and tour boats can penetrate inside to a distance of 1,500 m. Other extensive caves include the Vom cave at 15 km in length and the Hang Khe Rhy cave with a length of 18,902 m.

Some 92% of the park is covered by tropical forest, 92.2% of which is primary forest. By far the largest vegetation type is tropical dense moist evergreen forest on limestone. Although this was severely damaged by fire during the war, it is recovering rapidly and is now in a healthy state. It has a high level of faunal diversity and there are many vascular plants.

A total of 568 vertebrate species have been recorded in the site, comprising 113 mammals, 81 reptiles and amphibians, 302 birds and 72 fish. The fauna is typical of the limestone karst forests of the Annamite mountains. The high mammal species richness includes threatened species such as tiger, Asiatic black bear, Asian elephant, giant muntjac, Asian wild dog, gaus, and the newly discovered sao la. The site is particularly rich in primates, with 10 species and subspecies forming 45% of the total number of species in Viet Nam.

The Phong Nha-Ke Bang karst has evolved since the Palaeozoic era and so is the oldest major karst area in Asia. It has been subject to massive tectonic changes. The karst landscape of the park is extremely complex with high geodiversity and many geomorphic features of considerable significance.

The limestones of Phong Nha are interbedded with a number of other rocks. There is also strong evidence that sulphurous solution and hydrothermal action have played an important role in shaping the broad-scale landscape and the caves. The incorporation of the Ke Bang forest into the park has added another very important dimension.
This sector has many 'fossil' caves at a high level, which occur when the groundwater and rivers move to a lower level. Only a very few have been visited to date. It is one of the most important eco-regions of the Indo-Pacific. A large number of faunal and floral species occurs in the park, including some endemic to the site.

Phong Nha cave: Phong Nha Cave is a cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. It is 7729 meters long and contains 14 grottos, as well as a 13,969 meter underground river. While scientists have surveyed it to a depth of 44.5 kilometers, tourists are only allowed to explore the first 1500 meters. It is the second biggest cave in Vietnam. Before discovery and exploration of Thiên Đường (Paradise) Cave, Phong Nha Cave was considered the most beautiful cave in Vietnam.

Paradise cave: Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave) is a cave in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, UNESCO's World Heritage Site, 60 km northwest of Đồng Hới city. Thiên Đường Cave is located on an elevation of 200 meters above the sea level, near the west branch of Ho Chi Minh Highway, in Son Trach Commune, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. The cave was discovered by a local man in 2005 and 5 first km of this cave was explored by explorers from British Cave Research Association in 2005, the whole 31 km was explored and publicly announced by the British cave explorers. This cave is 31 km long, longer than Phong Nha Cave which had been considered the longest cave in this national park. The height can reach to 100 m and 150 wide. The limestone formation is also more spectacular than that of Phong Nha Cave. The British cave explorers was impressed by the beautiful and spectacular stalactites and stalagmites inside this cave and they named it Thiên Đường Cave (Paradise Cave).

 

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