We’re at the geographical halfway-point of Vietnam. Hué (pronounced ‘hwey’) is one of the country’s most historic cities, the capital of a number of ancient dynasties and the site of one of the bloodiest battles in the American/Vietnam war. Now a thriving metropolis, Hué’s landmarks include the Imperial Citadel, the vivid Trang Tien bridge and the Perfume River, with yet more ancient pagodas and royal structures dotting the cityscape.
Unfortunately, we only had 24 hours in which to see the city, and it was hot as holy hell while we were staying there, so choices were limited. We had to forego the Perfume River tour and – much to my disappointment as a photographer – didn’t have time to visit the legendary Thuy Thien abandoned water park, so instead settle for Hué’s most prominent landmark: the Imperial Citadel.
The Citadel is a vast stone compound in the centre of the city, the outline of which is clearly visible on any map. Comprised of multiple Russian doll-like layers of courtyards and arenas, it was the imperial seat of Vietnam for over a hundred years before being partially destroyed during the Battle of Hué. Restorations are ongoing even now, but much of the interior still lies in ruins; what remains is a beautiful example of traditional Vietnamese architecture and tradition, with grand palatial promenades, perfumed Buddhist shrines and koi-filled ponds. Even in the enduring midday heat, it was impressive enough to hold my fascination while my brain gently fried.
Worrying that I was starting to actually emit a bacon-like musk, I retreated to the sanctuary of Hué’s air-conditioned restaurants along Hung Vuong road, in anticipation of the city’s glittering nighttime scene along the Perfume River. The Trang Tien bridge shimmers kaleidoscopically across the horizon as Hué’s traditional dragon-boats drift underneath, leaving behind the sounds of traditional music being performed live onboard.
The limitations of our stay prevent me from being able to explore Hué with any more detail, sadly; those of you with a more flexible travel time/ their own cross-country form of transport need to let me know what I missed.
For now, it’s yet another bloody bus and yet another gorgeous bloody drive. Next stop: Ninh Binh.