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A Day in Huế

When I told friends that I was going to be travelling to Vietnam and landing in Da Nang, a lot of them suggested going to Huế, Hoi An and Dalat. I didn’t make it to Dalat and if you don’t know how I feel about Hoi An yet based on my Instagram posts, well I have a whole post coming to you soon. But this post is about Huế, what I did there, and maybe what I would have done differently that would have enhanced my experience there.

Getting into Hue

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the city. Last post we left off at me getting on the (late) train in Da Nang. It was a comfortable ride to Hue with lots to look at. I got into Hue late-ish on the 30th. As soon as I alighted the train, I was naturally swarmed by taxis offering to drive myself and all the other passengers to their destinations. I decided to go with one man who offered me a fair price, hopped on the back of his rickety bike with my giant backpack, and was swiftly taken to my hostel.

I didn’t stay in a bad hostel. Just maybe not the most social one, which is where I would make my first change. After leaving Julia and Avery, it was weird being so alone and I would have loved to explore the temples with someone else. It wasn’t due to a lack of trying but most of the people in the hostel were in a group, which can sometimes make it harder to socialise. Anyways, the hostel was in a great location, had a good breakfast, and also had very friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Renting the bicycle

After I had settled in, grabbed some food, and looked up what there was to see in Huế, I decided I was going to rent a bicycle. I do not have a license, not even a learners permit, due to the anxiety I face with the idea of driving a motor vehicle. I did, however, own a bicycle back home in Canada that I would use to get around and even drove it on the road. I am aware of how silly it is that I was more willing to ride a bike on the road than drive a car. Anyways, I told the person at the front I wanted to rent a bicycle who looked at me in disbelief and asked where I intended to visit, as if I wouldn’t be getting very far.

Honestly, he wasn’t wrong. A thing I would change part two: either rent a better bike or now I’d even go back and rent a scooter. It was cheap to rent, 30,000 VND, but I think that was even too much for the bike I got. It was a single speed bike that had a seat that wouldn’t stay at the height that I would adjust it to. I could have just walked away and told them I changed my mind, but I was pretty headstrong on biking around that day, so I sucked it up and away I went.

I have to mention as well, at 9 am when I picked up the bike it was already 30 degrees outside. By the afternoon it reached a peak of 38 degrees and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got hotter that day, I stopped checking. My plan was to go to the Citadel and Pagoda first, grab lunch and then visit two tombs to the south. With my shoddy bicycle and the extreme heat working against me, as well as the fact that I’m not in prime shape, I didn’t get to the tombs but I still had a great time.

Huế Imperial City (The Citadel)

The rich colours really stood out to me amongst the clear blue sky in Hue.

It’s pretty difficult to miss the Imperial City when you are in Huế. Being a large fortified palace just north of the Perfume River, it’s very easy to get to from the area where most of the hostels are located. Vietnam is rich with history and the city of Huế is no exception.

In the 19th century, during the Nguyễn dynasty, Huế was the capital of Vietnam. Biking around the whole Citadel helped me grasp just how large this area was. The walls encompass many UNESCO heritage sites which all fall under the name “the complex of Huế Monuments” including the Forbidden Purple City. You have probably guessed it but, the layout was meant to mimic the famous Forbidden City in Beijing.

Doors and passageways like these are seen all around the Citadel. I even find the calcification of the ruins so interesting.

I’m the kind of person who likes to really take my time and soak in what I’m looking at. I went through every alleyway, every building, every garden. Sometimes I get lost in places like these and even forget to pull my camera out. I loved all the designs on the windows. The faded yellow paint. The intricate lattice and tile work. When I went, it wasn’t too busy but I turned off to a completely empty area in the southwest part of the city to start my exploration.

My First ever self-portrait!

I spent about two hours and there and honestly, I probably could have spent at least another hour there. It was here where I started taking self-portraits and gained a new love for a different kind of photography. There is something so fulfilling to me about having all the control of my own photo. Being able to capture the exact moments and vibe that I am feeling and aiming to share is so rewarding. It has given me confidence in front of a camera that I never thought I would have, even while people are gawking at me as I set up my tripod.

As I was leaving the Imperial Citadel to head to Thien Mu Pagoda, I met a man named Ty in the parking lot. As apprehensive as I was, I couldn’t have imagined the adventure he would be taking me on the next day…

Opening hours: Every day 8 am – 6:30 pm
Entrance fee: 150,000 VND per person
Parking: 5,000 VND

Thien Mu Pagoda (The Pagoda of the Celestial Lady)

Perfume River, next to Thien Mu Pagoda.

The goal was to bike to Thiên Mu Pagoda. It’s not very far from the Citadel and just one road all the way there along the Perfume River. On the way there, I stopped at a small cafe to grab something to drink and hide from the sun for a bit. This road contained a plethora of cafes, restaurants, and even garden eateries for you to choose from to stop for lunch.

When I made it to the Pagoda, there was a lot to take in. At the base is where the parking lot is as well and many, many stalls selling all kinds of different foods and goods. From my experience, the prices of the souvenirs here are pretty fair compared to some of the other places to shop in Hue. However, I was saving my shopping for Hoi An.

The grounds include this stunning 7-story pagoda, many more different doors and gates, as well as a stupa and a building in which monks can meditate in.

Thiên Mu Pagoda was built in 1601, at the request of one of the Nguyen Lords, long before the beginning of the Nguyen Dynasty. As with many other monuments in Vietnam and Hue especially, there is a lot of history attached to this simple pagoda. This site has gone from being a sign of prosperity granted by the beautiful Thien Mu to a place where Anti-Communism rallies were held in the 1980’s.

It is definitely not one of the fanciest or most elaborate temples I’ve seen, but it was very serene. With Perfume River flowing by and an abundance of foliage decorating the grounds, it was a relaxing place to take in some of my thoughts and feelings about Hue.

Opening hours: Every day from 8 am – 6 pm
Entrance: Free
Parking: 2000 VND

Hue at night

After my visit to The Pagoda of the Celestial Lady, I stopped for some food before making my way back to the hostel. I spent my last night exploring the streets enough though I was truly wrecked from the day’s adventure.

By that time, I had already decided to take a motorbike from Hue to Hoi An instead of the train or bus. Ty (the man I met in the parking area of the Citadel) was picking me up at 8:30 am and I knew I needed to make sure to get some rest.

Nevertheless, Hue comes alive at night. I went to the docks in search of the Night Market and got accosted by many people trying to sell me tickets to many different floating restaurants about to take off down Perfume River. I then wandered back towards and down walking street in search or a banh mi.

There were so many people, both travellers but also many Vietnamese. Eating at food stalls and restaurants. Testing their balance on a giant log game that was set up. Meeting up with their friends to head out to the bars and clubs. Old people and young people, families and friends. It was a vibe that reminded me a lot of the nightlife we saw in Spain.

I walked around for a couple hours, grabbed that banh mi that I was craving and some bubble tea, and headed back to my hostel. I still had to pack my bag and prepare myself for my trip. I was pretty nervous but that experience was AMAZING.


So the “next post” would be about my trip from Hue to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass, but guess what? It’s already out and you can read it here. I’m really excited because I get to now write about one of my favourite cities in the world; Hoi An.

Thank you so much for reading. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments and I’ll see ya next time!
–Candice


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This post first appeared on Voyage Bound Girls, please read the originial post: here

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A Day in Huế

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