Even though it is no longer the capital of Vietnam as it once was, Hue still has a tremendous cultural and historical value for potential visitors. There are many different buildings and areas that are worth a visit here, including tombs and interesting pagodas. These older buildings connect the tranquil and lush countryside with the city’s historical past. These are a few things that you have to consider when traveling to Hue.
Visit Elephant Springs (Suối Voi)
Despite the fact that tourism is booming in Vietnam, this location makes for a great sanctuary when traveling between Da Nang and Hue. Many of the stones here resemble elephants, made to look as though they are playing in the flowing stream. You can enjoy the fresh air on the flat rocks or decide to take a swim in the cool water. If you plan to visit Elephant Springs, it is highly recommended that you do so during the week – especially because weekends tend to be crowded.
Visit The Thien Mu Pagoda
Located just outside Hue City Centre, the Thien Mu Pagoda is going to offer you tremendous views of Hue Imperial City and Perfume River. You can get here on a bicycle ride (provided you are feeling full of energy) or take a dragon boat along the river. Inside the pagoda you can find a two-ton bell that was cast in 1710, gold-plated Buddha statues, and wooden sculptures of temple guardians. The pagoda was also home to Thich Quang Duc – a Buddhist monk who self-immolated in 1963 to protest the South Vietnamese government’s persecution of Buddhists.
Address: Kim Long, Hương Long, Tp. Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam
Phone: +84 97 275 15 56
Explore On Bicycle
If you want to cycle in Vietnam, Hue is arguably the best city to explore that way. Especially when compared to the other major cities, there is less traffic and less local rush in Hue, which means that you can easily cycle along the banks of the Huong River. The area surrounding Hue is great if you want to explore the area and enjoy some fresh air. Hue is home to a number of great lagoons, and you only have to get out of the city a bit to explore the different villages, flower and vegetable farms, and rice paddy fields. If you are interested in exploring Hue on your bicycle, it might be possible to join a bike tour as well.
The Japanese Bridge (Thanh Toan)
Around seven kilometers east of Hue, you will find the Japanese Bridge (Thanh Toan). Even though the bridge might not be spectacular to look at, it does have a great story behind it. The story behind the bridge is that Tran Thi Dao, wife to a high-ranking officer in the court of Le Hien Tong, ordered the construction of the bridge to improve communication and transport to the village. Before the bridge was built, the village was separated by a canal.
After hearing about the charitable act, the Emperor decided that the village did not have to pay taxes. Because she did not have any children of her own, Emperor Khai Dinh demanded that villagers built an altar to Tran Thi Dao in 1925. To this day, villagers still pray to the shrine found here.
One might hardly call the Citadel ancient (having only been built in 1805), but it is still worth a visit. In order to fend off would-be attackers, fortifications were strengthened over the years and new buildings were constantly being added. At its height, we can compare the Citadel to the Forbidden City in China in terms of size and importance. This is one location where you want to find a qualified guide who can tell you about the intricacies found here.
Explore The Different Tombs
If you wish to explore the culture of Hue, chances are that you could get lost within these tombs for days on end. Many of the tombs found here are around two centuries old, which might surprise you as you see them – considering that many of them are falling apart. This is partly because of the way these were constructed at the time, and partly because of poor upkeep.
If you are going to see just a handful of tombs, we highly recommend that you check out Khai Dinh, primarily because it has a different style than most other tombs (and is well preserved) and Minh Mang or Tu Duc. Both have expansive grounds and will take a while to explore.
Discover The Dong Ba Market
Central Vietnam’s largest marketplace, the Dong Ba market is certainly worth a visit if you want to taste the local culture. It has the features you may expect from a traditional Vietnamese market, including the bazaars, bus station, and sampan landing. You can find everything here ranging from Hue sesame sweetmeat to souvenir items. You should certainly take a moment to explore this area if you want to explore the Vietnamese culture or its local cuisine.
Experience The Brass Works
Buyers all over the world have their massive brass statuary made here. They still use very basic techniques, making the craftsmanship very impressive. You will find that a number of different tours are going to have you explore this area, possibly in the hopes of getting you to buy something. Make sure that you come early during the day or later in the afternoon, because during the early afternoon, most craftsmen are going to be out for lunch.
The Tiger Fighting Arena
Even though it is often overlooked by visitors, the Tiger Fighting Arena (Ho Quyen) is one of the most interesting sites in Hue. The arena was built in 1830 and you could see battles between a tiger and an elephant here each year. The last fight in the arena took place in 1904. Even though it may have been a spectacle to behold, the outcome of the fight was always predetermined, primarily because the tiger had its claws and fangs removed before the fight and was often drugged. The reason for this was that the elephant represented the monarchy while the tiger represented rebellion.
Stroll Along Thuan An Beach
Thuan An is the nearest beach to Hue – around 14 kilometers removed from the city. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in Central Vietnam, despite its underdevelopment. If you want to escape the city heat, this is a great place to get away. The village that surrounds the beach has some tremendous seafood restaurants that are certainly worth a visit.