We escaped the crowd of Hoi An and arrived Hue, the former capital city of Vietnam during Nguyen dynasty. Central Vietnam is infamous for its unpredictable wet weather during winter months and as we have experienced that in Hoi An, we moved on while holding our breath.
We took the train from Da Nang to Hue and it was about 3 hours journey; had to say that it was a very interesting journey – from trying to figure whether we boarded the right train, the right seats and arguing with Vietnamese aunties who boarded the wrong train and mistook that we were taking their seats amidst the language barrier. Despite all the excitements, the train ride was rather smooth and the route well deserved its fame for being the most scenic railway view of Vietnam.
The most adventurous part of the train ride was getting the lunch bought from the food car – partially converted into the sleeping lounge for the train staff and bringing them to our seats and eat while ignoring the rats running around. The food was pleasant and we didn’t had any problem; so either the food was alright or our immune system leveled up. I felt that it was a rather nice experience to go through even if it was slightly out of my comfort zone.
Rather a simple town, we fell in love with Hue soon after arriving. The streets are wide and clean; strolling around the town is rather pleasant with proper pavement on the big roads which is a rare find in Vietnam. What I liked most was the laid-back atmosphere and the friendly locals whom were amused at the two visitors fanatically snapping photos at their seemingly ordinary routine life.
Finally, we managed to reach the imperial citadel after our second; could have been the third breakfast. The visit to the citadel was, by far and large, the most wonderful place I visited on this trip. It was surprising how much influence the ancient Chinese dynasties had toward the Vietnamese Nguyen dynasty; well, essentially it was under tribunal systems of Imperial Chinese back in its days.
We walked over from our hotel at the other side of the Perfume river, across the bridge and into the ancient city toward Ngo Mon Gate. The walking from the river to the gate was delightful – lots of green space and many heritage buildings along the way. Ngo Mon gate, the southern entrance into the citadel, served as the main entrance for the emperors in the glorious day, still stood tall and impressive. I wasn’t expecting this level of details or grandeur in the architecture, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the gate.
After passing through the Ngo Mon gate, was a beautiful courtyard leading toward Thai Hoa palace, the coronation hall and also the place to receive dignitaries. The palace looked old but well preserved; reminded me so much of the Chinese Imperial drama series that I grew up with. Sadly though, the forbidden city behind the palace was almost entirely destroyed and only some remnants were left behind as the reminder of its existence.
We saw major restoration works inside the citadel, so hopefully, it will be restored back to its formal glory although one can’t help but wonder if they are restoring or building new buildings.
These hallways were some of the areas going through restoration-reconstruction; my experience of visiting the place is heightened by the lack of the crowd and the pleasant weather. Hue is infamous for its wet winter climate but the weather held back on the morning when we were there.
My biggest regret was not giving sufficient time explore Hue and missed out on the emperor tombs. With more time, I reckon we could ride bicycle around the town through the neighborhoods and visit the market for a meal or two. Well, this gave us the excuse to visit Hue again. Perhaps, I will be back before I know.