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