Trip to Vietnam: Part 3 (Hue)

Welcome to the third part of my Vietnam vacation posts and this time, we’re moving to Hue, the Imperial capital of Vietnam! The city is very rich with beautiful architecture and wonderful sights, so as usual, this post is going to be picture-heavy!

We flew from Hanoi to Hue and arrived late at night, so there wasn’t too much to do by that hour except eat dinner in one of the small restaurants near our hotel. We tried a local version of their spicy noodle soup, called Bun Bo Hue. I hate spicy food but this one was oh-so-good and highly addictive! I love that they have lots of herbs and veggies with the soup, which enhances the taste of the broth. It also means that it’s a really healthy food option!

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One of the yummiest bowls of noodles I’ve ever had!

Since Hue is Vietnam’s imperial capital, we went to visit the mausoleums of the Nguyen emperors. Each one has a different architectural style and reflects each emperor’s personalities but some elements still remain the same, like the layout of the buildings and the statues in the courtyards. We stopped by Emperor Minh Mang’s (Nguyen Dynasty’s 2nd emperor) mausoleum first.

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Emperor Minh Mang's mausoleumimage

All tombs have a tablet in the middle of the structure which contains the biography of the deceased emperor written by the person next in line to the throne.

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Biographies often contain some information about the previous emperor and his accomplishments, written by the successor to the throne.

Then, we went to Emperor Khai Dinh’s mausoleum, which is an interesting fusion of Eastern and Western architecture. This is probably one of my favorite sights in Hue. Not only does it retain the Chinese style present in the other imperial period structures, it also has Indian and French influences. The mix of Eastern and Western styles offers an interesting look into the period in which Emperor Khai Dinh ruled Vietnam, which was the time when the French occupied the country.

Emperor Khai Dinh's mausoleum
People back then found this building weird because of the European influence and did not like it at all. But now it continues to amaze everyone who visits this site.

Entrance to Emperor Khai Dinh's mausoleum

Emperor Khai Dinh's altar
A statue of Emperor Khai Dinh inside the mausoleum. It is said that this mausoleum is one of the grandest and people needed to pay higher taxes in order to fund its construction.
A lot of European buildings have paintings on the ceiling, so Emperor Khai Dinh also applied this for this structure.
A lot of European buildings have paintings on the ceiling, so Emperor Khai Dinh also applied this for this structure.

Our next stop was the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, Nguyen Dynasty’s longest-reigning monarch. This tomb is different from the other mausoleums because the emperor actually spent a lot of time here even when he was still alive so there were lots of living amenities in the vicinity, such as hunting grounds, gardens, and sleeping quarters.

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I'd love to be a member of a royal family if it means that I get to ride in one of these!
I’d love to be a member of a royal family if it means that I get to ride in one of these!

Another thing that makes this mausoleum different is that Tu Duc was the only emperor who did not have a successor to write a biography for him; thus, he wrote an objective and self-critical autobiography. This autobiography, like the biographies in other tombs, is still displayed in his mausoleum.

Because Emperor Tu Duc decided to emphasize both the good and the bad aspects of his life, this stele contains the longest biography written about an emperor.
Because Emperor Tu Duc decided to emphasize both the good and the bad aspects of his life, this stele contains the longest biography written about an emperor.

We also went to the imperial citadel, a large walled fortress and palace where the royal family lived. Our guide said that there used to be lots of buildings inside but because of the war, only a few buildings are still standing. They are still in the process of restoring the whole citadel and he said that to achieve this, they need to know what the original buildings looked like. Inside, they showed a film that shows a digital reconstruction of the citadel. You can watch the video below to have a rough idea on how things looked like back then, and the extent of the damage caused by the war.

The remaining buildings, however, are well-preserved. There is so much to see inside the imperial citadel that it’s difficult to cover everything if you’re not rushing; but if you’d like to enjoy the sights, just take your time and look at the ones you’d like to see. Going with a tour guide is nice if you would like to know some background about the place but you won’t be able to explore the other places on your own. It’s a huge place and it’s really tiring to walk around in a rush.

The entrance to the walled fortress. This kind of reminds me of Manila's Intramuros.
The entrance to the walled fortress.
The turtle is a lucky animal in Vietnamese culture, symbolizing long life. That's why even the plants inside the Forbidden City of Hue are shaped like it!
The turtle is a lucky animal in Vietnamese culture, symbolizing long life. That’s why even the plants inside the Forbidden City of Hue are shaped like it!
One of the gazebos where the royal family goes to relax. In front of this gazebo is French-educated Emperor Bao Dai's tennis court, the only Western structure in the whole imperial complex.
One of the gazebos where the royal family goes to relax. In front of this gazebo is French-educated Emperor Bao Dai’s tennis court, the only Western structure in the whole imperial complex.
The royal family's library. Wouldn't it be cool to have a large place like this all by yourself and read all the books that you want?
The royal family’s library. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a large place like this all by yourself and read all the books that you want?

After a long walk around the citadel, we stopped over at Thien Mu Pagoda for some peace and quiet. Perfect way to end a tiring day!

Thien Mu Pagoda

And that wraps up part 3 of my Vietnam vacation! Next up is Hoi An and Da Nang in part 4!

18 Comments

  1. I’m going to say that I love dynasties and love royalty and I find these palaces/architecture/buildings very interesting and gorgeous. You snapped some beautiful photos. Man, this makes me wanna travel the world in search of beautiful gems like these. Vietnam, despite the past, is beautiful in the present and still has a rich future ahead of itself. This is proven in your posts. Glad you enjoyed your Vietnam vacation and I love reading/seeing pictures of your adventures. I’m not much for traveling but I love hearing people’s tales and seeing their adventures.

    1. Thank you Michelle! 🙂

      I agree, Vietnam has been through a lot and I really love how the people remained so optimistic and eager to contribute to their country’s development. I’m glad you’re enjoying the photos!

  2. Wow, I love all of the architecture! I’m especially amazed by all of the details on Emperor Khai Dinh’s mausoleum. I also love that they shape their plants like turtles. I didn’t know it was considered a lucky animal, but it is true that turtles can live a long time 🙂 Looks like Hue has a lot of things to see in it!

    1. I love Emperor Khai Dinh’s mausoleum too! Everything looks so grand 🙂

      Hue is actually my favorite place because you can see and learn so many things about Vietnamese culture and history here! 😀

  3. They look so amazing and they are really beautiful, it would have been a great experience to see them and I love the photos. 😀

  4. I have to say, I never really had any inclinations to visit Vietnam, but your photos are making me want to now! I especially love the Emperor Khai Dinh’s mausoleum and agree that the east and the west architecture makes for a beautiful fusion design. Love it.

    That noodle dish also looks delicious! Now I want me some pho!!!

    1. I admit that even I didn’t know what to expect at first but what I’ve seen during my stay was all worth the trip! 🙂

      I love the east and west architecture fusion too. It’s definitely a very interesting sight, and to think the people found it ugly and unusual during the time it was made! 😀

  5. Ahh the photos are beautiful! 🙂 One of my friends went to Vietnam last time and that just made me want to explore the place myself!

    1. Glad you liked the pictures, Deanna 🙂 The whole place is actually filled with history and you can see it in so many places around the city! 🙂

  6. It sounds like you had a lot of fun with your trip to Vietnam! I’ve heard of Hue so many times. Maybe it’s a place to visit if I go to Vietnam in the future. It’s amazing how there are historic landmarks that are still up today! It’s interesting to see the design with a mix of Chinese, Indian, and especially French. I can’t imagine how much time and accuracy it must’ve taken to write out the autobiography in stone correctly!

    1. I would definitely recommend Hue, it’s my favorite place in Vietnam! 🙂

      The autobiography also amazed me because the writer really needs to be accurate with his words and would need to convey his thoughts in a few words; it must have been so difficult to learn and accomplish at the time!

  7. What a beautiful vacation! I’d love to explore Vietnam, and about 100 other countries. So much history and gorgeous architecture. It’s really interesting to the French, Chinese, and Vietnam fusion in Emperor Khai Dinh’s masoleum.

    1. I loved that part of Emperor Khai Dinh’s mausoleum too! It’s really great to see how a fusion of different cultures would turn out to be in works of art like this 🙂

  8. I haven’t thought of Vietnam before as a country that I wanted to visit, but wow – how beautiful it is! Rich full of history and all that architecture, I would love to visit someday! It looks like a beautiful trip – and great photos!

    1. Thank you Becca! 🙂

      It’s a lovely country and very historical; I’m sure you would enjoy it because you’ll learn a lot while seeing and experiencing lots of new things 😀

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