Before departure, Hue wasn’t one of the places that was very high on our do-to list. Of course there were things we wanted to see in the city since we were passing through anyway, but there was just so much more to see in Vietnam that Hue wasn’t very much a priority.
But since the Imperial City was spoken about so much, we had quite some expectations nonetheless. Unfortunately, after the Khai Dinh Tomb, it all went downhill and we left Hue with a bad aftertaste. It wasn’t all bad of course but if there is one place in Vietnam I wouldn’t go back, I’d be Hue.
After our amazing visit to the Khai Dinh Tomb, our driver dropped us off at our hotel ‘Thanh An Guesthouse‘ and that’s when it all started going bad. The entrance to the hotel was through a back alley and the room itself was small, moldy and humid. Our first bad hotel experience. Sure it was a cheap room, but the many reviews were really great so we still don’t get where we went wrong. I guess we must have gotten the worst room. Luckily the staff were really friendly but that alone didn’t make up for the bad room.
Trying to stay positive – “It’s only for one night” -, we set out to explore the city. We had one afternoon and one day before our night train would take us to Ninh Binh. Plenty of time to see everything of great importance.
But once again, it went wrong. Everywhere we went, we were constantly harassed. People either tried to sell us stuff or tried to get us on one of the boats tours on the Perfume River. And they just wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was really annoying. Up to the point where we would almost rather go back to our humid hotel room. Yup, that bad.
Of course from the hotel room we wouldn’t get to see anything, so we contined to politely decline the harassment. We figured a brisk walk would do us good and instead of taking a taxi, we walked the 5km to the Thien Mu Pagoda.
This Pagoda of the Celestial Lady can be found on the banks of the Perfume River and is the unofficial symbol of Hue. It was built in the seventeenth century and is twenty-one meters high with seven storeys. Each of those is dedicated to a Buddha.
While the building itself was worth it, I had expected more of the site it stood on. There wasn’t much else to see. But well, we simply couldn’t go to Hue without seeing its symbol.
After all our disappointment that day, all we wanted was some good food. The receptionist at our hotel had told us that from 6pm until 10pm there was some ambiance on Nguyen Dinh Chieu street, so that was where we headed. And indeed, we found a lovely restaurant along the river. And that’s where we spend the rest of the evening, watching the sunset and enjoying some amazing spring rolls and fried noodles. After we strolled through the night market that was being held at Nguyen Dinh Chieu street. That’s the best memory I have of Hue.
With renewed energy and after a heavy – but delicious – milkshake for breakfast, we set out to explore the rest of the city. We first headed for the Dong Ba Market. It’s realy similar to all other markets we’d done so far in Vietnam, but it’s still so amazing to walk through and see all the food and goods that are so typical of Vietnam.
And then it was time for what I thought would be the highlight of Hue; the Imperial City. The Imperial City is a walled palace within the citadel – the former capital – of Hue. It was built in the fourteenth century and took about 200 years to complete.
There were quiet a few beautiful buildings and gates to be found on the property, but nothing that really made my mouth drop open with astonishment. Of course it’s all pretty old, but I had expected so much more of this palace.
So with yet another disappointment added to our list, we quit. We went back to the restaurant along the Perfume River where we had spent our evening the day before and just enjoyed some tea and coffee.
And then it was time to head to the train station for our night train to Ninh Binh. I’d never been happier to head to the next city. Goodbye Hue.