Located on the banks of the romantically named Perfume River, the charming central Vietnamese city of Hue draws visitors owing to its royal history. From 1802 to 1945, Hue was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty, and it was during this period in 1804 that the expansive Imperial Citadel was constructed. Emperor Gia Long had it built for his household's exclusive use, and it has many similarities with the more well-known Forbidden City in Beijing. The palaces and temples provide fascinating glimpses into the luxurious and secretive world of the royal court.
Hue has a darker past, and during the war, it was the centre of numerous battles and horrific massacres most infamously during the Tet Offensive, when the Viet Cong carried out surprise attacks against civilians. Today, the only reminders of the war are in the battle scars you will see at the Imperial Citadel.
It is worth getting out of the city and visiting some of the Imperial Tombs sites that are out in the lush countryside. To get there, one of the best ways to travel is by boat along the Perfume River. For the more active, take a guided cycle-ride out to the sites. The tombs are well worth exploring, observing the differences between the early wooden Asian styles, and the 20th century European-influenced styles.
Prospective visitors to the city will not be disappointed with the accommodation on offer. Described as a 1920s ocean liner marooned inland, the art deco style La Residence is a stunning hotel, offering history, grandeur and style, right in the centre of the city overlooking the Perfume River.
One of the best ways to travel on from Hue, is to go overland to the charming small town of Hoi An, over the wonderfully scenic Hai Van Pass, which offers incredible views out to the South China Sea. Central Vietnam does have heavy rains during September and October, a time that’s best avoided. The optimal time to travel to Hue is between January and August when the weather is typically good.
I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
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