We arrived in Hue (pronounced ‘hway’) after a very early morning bus from Phong Nha, not quite sure what to expect.
Hue was the national capital of Vietnam between 1802 – 1945 and evidence of this has been left behind with many pagodas, tombs and the impressive Citadel built along the Perfume River.
As Tim had grown his confidence on a scooter in rural Phong Nha, we hired one for a day and set off to see what Hue was all about. At the recommendation from our amazing host, Toan (or as we have come to call him, Mr. Sunny Fine), we bought the ‘packet’ ticket to see two tombs (Khai Dinh and Minh Mang) and the Citadel for ₫280,000 (AU$16.40) each.
Khai Dinh Tomb
Located 10kms from Hue is the tomb of Khai Dinh – the emperor of Vietnam from 1916 – 1925. With a mixture of both European and Asian architecture, the monument is set against a mountain and there are 127 steps leading up the very extravagant tomb.
I have never seen such beautiful mosaic work in my life – it is so detailed, elaborate and colourful.
It was also here that a group of Asian tourists were absolutely giddy with excitement to pose in a photo with Tim and his red hair (& I was in it too, cause you know – I’m the wife of the red head).
Minh Mang Tomb
Our next stop for the day was the Tomb of Minh Mang, about a 3km drive from Khai Dinh Tomb. We unknowingly took a very local, dirt road to Minh Mang, but rest assured there is a tarmac road, which is a lot nicer to drive on (thanks Google Maps!).
The construction of Minh Mang tomb began in 1840 and has a beautiful forest setting, covering quite a large space. With three main areas that are all parallel, there is a path that joins them all in the centre. We made our way from each area and took a break in the shade as the heat was pretty intense.
Thien Mu Pagoda (FREE)
We decided to stop at Thien Mu Pagoda on our way back to The Citadel in Hue and with entrance being free it made sense. We sat on the stairs to the front as the heat was unreal! Like any free attraction, there were a lot of tourists and our visit was quite brief.
The pagoda has seven stories, making it the tallest religious building in Vietnam and it is regarded as the unofficial symbol of Hue. It’s quite impressive and definitely worth visiting.
A 4km drive from Thien Mu Pagoda along the river is The Imperial Citadel. It’s a massive complex, surrounded by a huge wall and moat.
You could easily spend a day inside, walking in the footsteps of the Emperors that had lived and conducted business there many, many years ago.
Unfortunately much of it has been badly damaged over the years, but nonetheless it is very impressive and grand – in a damaged/ruined kind of way.
There are many other pagodas and temples around Hue, but for a day – I think this is a great route to do. As Mr. Sunny Fine said to us – “You don’t want to be templed out”. We found the heat in Hue really difficult (we visited in early August) and after The Citadel, had to go back to our room to cool down a bit. Here is the route we did.
The roads were quite good for the circuit we did. The busiest part is going out and coming back into Hue, which involves a lot of weaving and beeping. Once you are out of the city, the drive is fine and manageable. Definitely not the worst roads we have seen in Vietnam.
Paying for parking
There was a fee for every place we visited to park our scooter. It shouldn’t cost more than ₫5,000 (AU$0.30) to park, which doesn’t exactly break the bank, but is something to be aware of. Also, we have found that it is generally pretty okay to leave your helmet with your scooter without the fear of it being stolen.
We hired our scooter directly from our guest house for ₫80,000 (AU$4.70). There are a lot of places in Hue that do scooter hire, but it’s a good call hiring from whoever you are staying with. You will also need to put some fuel in (we have found that most scooters come pretty empty).
The ‘packet’ ticket
You can purchase the ‘packet’ ticket from the first temple you visit. It saves you money doing it this way and you just present the ticket at the gate of each temple to get a stub ripped off.