Hue was one of my favourite cities in Vietnam. The city is split in two by the Perfume River and is the capital of the Nguyễn Dynasty. The house of Nguyễn were the last ruling family of Vietnam and ruled for 143 years, finishing in 1945, the same year that the second world war ended. Even though a lot of the historic buildings were destroyed during the Vietnam War, Hue is still a stunning city and one I wholeheartedly recommend you go and visit. It used to be the capital of Vietnam
With only two days to explore Hue, we packed in as much as possible. Arriving in Hue from Tam Coc (an 11 hour sleeper train journey) at around 9.30am.
We quickly headed to the hostel for a much needed shower (the bath was teeny!) and then headed out for a quick breakfast at Ruby Bistro, a cafe around the corner from the hostel.
The pork rolls, infused on stalks of lemongrass were delicious! They had a delicate flavour and were sweet and spicy. The Pho, the national dish of Vietnam was a watery soup with chunks of chicken and thick noodles. It has little flavour but it designed to be a cheap, filling meal. The Loc Cake were ravioli like dumplings filled with shrimp and wrapped in a parcel of tapioca flour and were incredibly chewy. They were then wrapped in banana leaves and you had to unwap them before eating. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy these as much as I thought I would. It was like fishy chewing gum!
Our first stop was a private boat ride along the Perfume River. We were collected by a lady and followed her silently (she didn’t speak a word of English) to the boat. Well she didn’t speak a word of English until she had trapped us on the river, and then proceeded to set out her shop! We were then guilt tripped into buying little souvenirs, however we were both eternally grateful that she was selling fans. It just got hotter and hotter as the minutes ticked by and we got closer to the midday sun. We finally left the confines of the inside of the boat and retired to the deck to relax in the sun and just enjoy the peace and quiet.
The boat stopped at Thien Mu Pagoda (Pagoda of the Celestial Lady) for 30 minutes to have a look around. This stunning temple is 7 storeys high and is the unofficial symbol of the city. It isn’t hard to see why. Standing back from the edge of the river, you can see it from the boat. Advance up the stairs to the base, look up, and it doesn’t seem to end. It is magnificent.
We then got back on the boat and headed towards the Imperial City. The boat would then leave us here and we would make our own way back.
The Imperial City was phenomenal. Surrounded by a moat and with 2m thick stone walls concealing it from attackers, expect to spend at least a couple of hours here. It has two distinct sections; the Imperial Enclosure (housing the Emperor’s home, temples and palaces) and the Forbidden Purple City (the space reserved only for the Emporor). Unfortunately there is almost nothing left of the Forbidden Purple City, having be destroyed in the wars. I can’t even begin to imagine how impressive it would have been to visit while it was still standing. The intricacies of the design work and decoration is breathtaking. There is still a military base there apparently but we didn’t see it… although there was a large military presence.
After covering miles and miles by foot, we decided to get a taxi back to the main centre, shower and head out for a massage. The massages are Vietnam vary in quality, but you should never pay more than £10 for an hour, even in the most exclusive of places.
The next day, we had booked on to a tour of Bach Ma National Park. Now, Eleanor had told me that we were going for a lovely little walk around a park, and I believed her. I mean, I trust her, why would she lie? What she didn’t inform me was that this ‘little walk’ was going to last hours and we were going to cross 5 lakes by the end of it! The park itself covers 220km² and is luscious, green and FULL of bugs!
Firstly we stopped at a mini observatory to get a great view of Bach Ma, however the clouds were low in the sky and visibility was poor.
Before our tour guide decided whether to take up on an easy or hard tour (there was no choice, he just liked a laugh!) he took us into a small cave within the park. It was dark, damp and gloomy. We were on the tour with about 10 other people from various countries, but my favourite people were the three Irish lads not long out of college. Whilst in the tunnel a flock of bats emerged, flying close to our heads. These poor lads almost had a fit and what came out of their mouths was a shriek close to the sound only dogs can hear. It was hilarious! It reminded me of the video on social media when a bat gets into the Irish family home, and Eleanor and I couldn’t stop laughing at them. I think they are scarred for life!
The park offers a range of trails suitable to almost any activity level, and we had ‘chosen’ the 5 lakes trail. This consists of walking through the jungle and visiting the 5 waterfalls that fall into crystal clear lakes. This wasn’t anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be. The paths were well laid, hand rails or ropes were available for the majority of the most difficult footings and the scenery was stunning. There were a heck of a lot of spiders which I wasn’t thrilled about but other than that, it was spectacular. Without Eleanor, I doubt I would have headed here and I am so glad we did. Halfway through we sat by a lake for a dip in the ice cold waters and and ate a packed lunch provided by the tour. The lunch consisted of a delicious curry, tofu and vegetables. After a little rock jumping (no thanks) we dried off and continued through the jungle back to the bus.
We also got the chance to stop at the big Buddha statue at the top of the hill.
The bus then dropped us back to our hostel at 6pm, and we were going to have a dip in the pool. However the loudest wailing lady I have ever heard was sat on a sun lounger scream-crying while her family basically ignored her. The only time I have ever heard a sound like this was on television in a program dedicated to wailing mourners. I honestly didn’t think I would ever hear a sound like that in my lifetime.
We decided against the pool and explored Hue on foot at sunset instead. We stopped for a delicious Oreo ice cream shake to take the edge off the still searing heat and relaxed and watched the word go by.
For our final evening in Hue we decided to eat at the very busy Mr Tao restaurant. I really wanted to try more local food and so thought it would be a good idea to ask the table next to us what their favourite dish was. One lovely lady advised me to try the fried frog in pepper as she would always order this… It was horrible! The ‘pepper’ was actually chilli, it was so hot it burnt my mouth as soon as my tongue touched the sauce, and the frogs legs were the most fiddly, least satisfying thing ever. In hindsight I think this lady was pulling my leg, surely no one on earth can find that to be a good dish?? I gave up and ate some of Eleanors beef and chips. Never again will I attempt frogs legs, and certainly not in a sauce that searingly hot!
There were street performers gathering crowds, restaurants spilling on to the foot paths and a huge I LOVE HUE sign that I had to get a photo of.
The next morning, we headed back to Ruby Bistro for breakfast. this time Eleanor played it safe with delicious banana chocolate pancakes and I went for the more unusual Banh Beo. The Banh Beo were made from a combination of rice flour and tapioca flour. The rice cake was then topped with dried shrimp, crispy pork skin, scallion oil, and dipping sauce. It was bloody delicious and I ate every single one of them.
After breakfast it was then time to head to our final destination, Da Nang. We travelled by train and it took 2.5 hours and cost £12. We left Hue at 10.13am and arrived in Da Nang at 1pm. The train was comfortable and we had pre-booked a seat via Baolau.vn.
For more travel posts, please click HERE