We first visited Hue about 6 years ago on one of our first trips to Vietnam. We were on a package tour that included guided tours of the Citadel and tombs of Nguyen emperors. So, we didn’t want to do the touristy trip this time. We decided to go for a couple of days as Hue is only 130 km from Hoi An and we opted to catch the bus.
When I bought the tickets I was quote chuffed that it was a sleeper bus (yes the130km is in fact a 4 and a half hour bus ride) , Ivan on the other, was less excited, I had never been on a sleeper bus and assumed it meant that the seats reclined in order to be able to sleep – Ivan knew better – the “seats” are actually “beds” – a very loosely used term – and if you are of small and slim stature they are perfect but if you are over 5ft tall and over 50kgs they do prove slightly more difficult. Our morning didn’t get off to the best start because, as previously mentioned, we live in an area that is a little out of town (3km) and with no street names so simply calling a taxi is not feasible and Grab (same as Uber) don’t seem to want to accept our requests! We headed off on the 2.5km walk to the bus station at pace (only realising with 30 minutes to spare that we were not going to get a car of any sort), fortunately 1.5km into the walk a kindly gent offered us a lift on his bike and roped in his neighbour as well so we got there on time. The bus was fairly empty and the trip was uneventful.
We had booked a hotel off the main road near the Perfume river so that we could walk everywhere and didn’t need to get bikes, I was quite pleased about that as the traffic volume has definitely increased substantially since our last visit.Our hotel was really good value for money ($32 for 2 nights including a decent breakfast) with a decent room and great pool area.
On our walk from the bus we stopped off at the DMZ bar which we had visited last trip and, fortunately besides a bit or redecoration, this had not changed much– unfortunately I forgot to get a photo of the ceiling which depicts the Demilitarized Zone north of Hue (aka the 17th parallel) which played a significant part in the Vietnam War – it is a really good 3 dimensional map complete with a helicopter which has cleverly been used to house the ceiling fan.
There has also been a proliferation of development of hotels etc. In fact, everything has increased there are an incredible number of restaurants and pubs and we do not remember that being the case when we were last there. One thing that hasn’t changed is the street hawkers which make it very uncomfortable to sit outside at any restaurant without getting accosted to buy paintings cut out cards, you also get constantly asked to go on a cycloped and/or easy rider bike trips and/or boat trips, we decided that we should get stickers made saying “ I have been on a cycloped/easy rider/boat/bought cards/painting” kind of thing – similar to the t-shorts in Thailand that politely inform people that your do not want a massage/tuk-tuk or suit (ha ha ).
We decided that dinner was to be a Vietnamese affair and asked for recommendations for an authentic (not tourist) Vietnamese restaurant – we were sorely disappointed and felt that perhaps despite there being a number of Vietnamese in the restaurant this was in fact geared to tourists who had perhaps not had authentic food before as it was no where near the standard we have experienced.
We spent the next day walking along the river and ventured out to the flag tower at the Citadel – a casual 3km walk from our hotel – and we opted to do this at midday ! We did not go into the Citadel as we had previously been.
I was feeling the heat a bit and so we gave in and opted to get a cycloped back after what I thought were fairly good negotiations in Vietnamese, we ended up on one cyclo together !!!!!! Considering that the driver weighted about 25% of our combined weight and we were sitting in front of him this was a scary ride that we abandoned after about 500m when he was required to ride up a slight incline which we could see was not going to end well. So my amazing negotiation skills were a dismal failure as we then paid way over the top for a 500m ride.
We opted to try Tokyo BBQ for dinner and that was an amazing experience – similar to the Korean BBQ in Hanoi but with a barbeque built into the table – and the meat was extremely reasonable (as were the beers).
The bus on the trip home was full and we had to sit/lie in top bunk beds which was a lot less comfortable that the lower bunks but for the price of the ticket we could not really complain too much – although I hope this had out Ivan off his idea of doing more bus trips!
A bit of history
Hue was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors and the national capital from 1802 to 1945. The Citadel (also known as the Imperial City) was home to the emperors and was badly damaged in to two significant battles in the last century – the first in 1947 when large parts were destroyed and burnt by the French and again in 1968, during the Tet Offensive when the initial order to refrain form damaging the Imperial City has to be lifted when two separate sections of the Citadel were occupied by the Viet Cong and South Vietnamese army respectively and the Allied warplanes targeted the anti-aircraft guns mounted on the outer towers. Damage inflicted is still clearly visible in the form of bullet holes in the walls. Out of 160 buildings only 10 major sites remain because of the battle, such as the Thái Hòa and Cần Thanh temples, ThếMiếu, and Hiển Lâm Các. The city was made a UNESCO site in 1993. The buildings that still remain are being restored and preserved.