Hue Vietnam was a must see for us. We decided early on that it would be a good place to get a real taste of small town Vietnam.
And so it was, except for the growing number of tourists and the limited number of unique sites to visit in Hue City.
Hue VN has a wonderful sounding history. It would make a good book.
The Imperial Nguyen Dynasty was based here and ruled from 1804 to 1945. Emperor Bao Dai abdicated and paved the way for the infamous Ho Chi Minh Revolutionary Government.
Hue Vietnam was the center of a lot of fighting during the Vietnam War.
If you're interested in seeing the sites of the Viet Cong slaughter of about 1,000 Vietnamese people, then there are many 'off the path' sites to see.
But for me the best thing I did was rent a motorbike and ride. The streets of Hue Vietnam are lush with green life and wonderful views.
God has been kind to this part of Vietnam but the poverty of the people is evident everywhere. It was cool to sit by the river and watch the everyday life of the Vietnamese people pass me by as it had in that city for a 1000 years.
The main Landmark in Hue Vietnam is the Perfume River (Huong Giang). It cuts the city in half.
The old city and the church are off to the north of the river with the new city emerging to the South.
It's odd looking to me with the new city so void of character in relation to the old. But the Temples and the 9 Dynastic Earns were all unremarkable.
I had been to Angkor Wat so maybe I had been spoiled!
How Do I Get to Hue Vietnam?
Hue Vietnam is about 540km (335 Miles) South of Hanoi and about 644km (400 Miles) North of Ho Chí Minh City.
Hue's small Phu Bai airport receives daily flights going to and coming from both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. But the airport is 40 minutes by taxi away from the city center of Hue Vietnam.
It's also so god dam old and crumbling you might knock over a building or 2 if you lean too heavily on one. They were built by the Americans during the war and NOTHING seems to have been done to them since.
A chance to see what the American soldiers saw upon arrival in Hue before the Tet Offensive.
If you are keen to fly into Hue Vietnam then check out this online Flight booking system. It searches all travel sites and databases for the best prices.
Tickets booked online are about $50USD (At the low season) for a one-way ticket from either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
I have yet to find a travel agent with a better price than those online but that doesn't mean they don't exist.
The research goes on.
Hanoi to Hue by Bus:
Going by bus from Hanoi to Hue will take between 14 and 16 hours. The buses usually leave at 7pm in the evening and travel all night, arriving in Hue Vietnam at about 9am in the morning.
Travel agents are everywhere hawking their bus tickets and most of them should be avoided.
They will show you pictures of buses that are beautiful and only once the bus arrives to pick you up will you see the true beast that will take you to Hue Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City to Hue by Bus
A bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue Vietnam will take you about 15 to 17 hours. It's an evening departure of 7pm with arrivals in Hue Vietnam at 11am.
The better options are available in Ho Chi Minh City than in Hanoi as far as quality on the dollar goes.
Shop around to all the travel agencies in District 1 (Pham Ngu Lao, Saigon)and you might get a sweet deal. But remember that you only get what you pay for.
There are three public bus stations in Hue Vietnam. They are:
6 Tran Hung Dao Street.
3 Le Duan Street.
333A Hung Vuong Street.
Train Hue railway station is on the east bank at the south-west end of Le Loi road, tel: 822-175. Booking office is open from 7.30am to 5pm.
The train station in Hue Vietnam is at 2 Bui Thi Xuan Street. Call them @ 822175 for information but often they will hang up on you if you speak English.
There is one lady there though that seems to take the challenge and is quite helpful as far as the train schedules go and booking seats. But the only way to be sure, is to go there yourself.
For me the train is the only way to go. I can't sleep on those damn buses and a sleeping berth on the train is a Godsend for this LONG ride.
A second-class sleeper ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue costs 545,000 dong ($33USD). Not far off the price of the plane ticket but the journey is a wonderful opportunity to see the country-side.
Something you'll miss from 20,000 feet in the air.
But it's a longer ride on the train. Some people have reported up to 22 hours from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue Vietnam. Bring ear plugs as the Vietnamese speak very loudly and their babies seem to cry in a way that is ear-drum busting.
Also, the constant Vietnamese music blaring over the speaker system has forced one or two travelers to hop out the window of the moving train never to be seen again.
If you truly want to see the Vietnamese countryside then the train is the way to go. Especially beautiful is the section of the ride between Danang and Hue Vietnam.
Despite all the hassles with people trying to fleece you of you money, the train ride to Hue Vietnam was friggin' amazing. The train offers the feeling of connection with the surrounding jungle because of the lack of a road and cars.
The Source of Top Quality Accommodation in Hue
It's the same old story when it comes to pricing on accommodation for tourists in Hue City. The hotel that sits in the best location always costs more than better quality rooms in undesirable locations.
Hue is no different. The 'Old City' is the most interesting place for tourists. A room in the old part of the city will cost you more than in the newer, more modern parts of town.
You'll get more for your money at the hotels furthest away from the 'Old City' but I would never take a room outside of the Hue's 'Old City'. It may be a bit noisier in the 'Old City' of Hue but it is by far the safest and most interesting part of town. The modern sections are lifeless in comparison because everything happens in the 'Old Town'
Just avoid any room that looks directly out onto the main road. The motorbike drivers will start revving their motors at 5am every morning.
That will shock you to life no matter how hard you try to sleep.
What is There to See in Hue Vietnam?
The Most Popular Itinerary:
The old Imperial Capital City of Hue Vietnam requires three or four days to fully explore. There is the Citadel (Imperial City), Thien Mu Pagoda and The Royal Tombs of the Emperors.
Entrance Fee: 55,000 dong (3.5USD)
This is the center of any travel to Hue for sightseers. Personally I enjoyed watching the people and the lives they lead in Hue Vietnam more than anything but if you are there then the Imperial Citadel is worth seeing.
The City was first built in 1805 and occupies 5.2sq km on the north bank of the Perfume river.
You could spend most of the day exploring it and getting some spirited exercise at the same time.
I didn't find a lot of places serving food that was appealing to me so I brought along a few ham and cheese sandwiches I had bought at the hotel earlier.
In the Imperial City you've got the Thai Hoa Palace, used by Mandarins to prepare for court ceremonies; Ngo Mon, the main southern entrance to the city and The Forbidden Purple City behind the Thai Hoa Palace, which was almost entirely destroyed during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
Not much is really left of the entire place but a few of the buildings are in good shape. Restoration is ongoing but the workers seem more of a posturing sort than results oriented.
The very best part for me was the quiet peacefulness of it all. Vietnam is one of the noisiest places I've ever been and we enjoyed sitting in the big open Courtyard of Ngo Mon and eating our sandwiches.
Entrance Fee: 55,000 Dong (3.5USD)
The Thien Mu Pagoda is located 7km west of the Hue city center. This Octagonal tower was built in the 14th century in honor of a red-robed goddess.
There are smaller pavilions on either side of the tower. One of them houses this huge bell that I was told could be heard up to 10kms away. And people never exaggerate so lets say 5kms.
If the weather is great and you are a hearty sort then you could ride there on a bicycle rented from your Hotel or Guesthouse.
It shouldn't cost you more than $2USD for a whole day's rental.
If you decide to cycle then you can ride along the river to the Pagoda, which is a short-cut at 4kms each way. So, 8kms round trip.
You could also rent a boat. Many tour groups go up their daily and if you join a big group tour the fee is cheap at $3USD.
Most include lunch in that price but never does it include the entrance Fee into the Pagoda.
You could also rent a boat and do the trip privately. It takes less than an hour to reach the temple by boat, which is located right on the river.
Upon arrival you can step from the boat right onto the steps leading up to the pagoda. Boats are available for hire at the Century Riverside hotel and the Huong Gian hotel for about $15USD a day.
Admission Fee: 55,000 Dong (3.5USD)
Another great attraction in Hue Vietnam are the Tombs of the Emperors. They are located along the Perfume River South of the city.
They range from 8kms to 16kms away from the city center. Hue Vietnam has eight notable royal tombs with Gia Long Tomb being the most outstanding and the furthest away from the city.
You can get to the Emperor's Tombs by taxi or motorbike from the city. The taxi costs 8,000 dong (.50C) for the first 2 km and from there tick up to 10,000 dong/km.
A metered trip out to see two of the tombs, with waiting time, came to about 400,000 dong ($19.45USD) for us.
Taxi drivers are usually honest, but make sure they turn the meter on, or negotiate a price ahead of time. Walk away if they are asking too much as they will usually give in after you show resolve.
Renting a motorbike only costs about 100,000 dong ($6.5USD) a day but many of the tombs are difficult to find and the trails leading into them are not always easy to see.
Take a map and fill your tank before embarking on a motorcycle trip to the tombs of Hue Vietnam.
The best way by far to see the Emperor's Tombs is to hire a River Boat and go for a cruise. Again, many group tours are available for under $4USD per person but you are often hurried through the experience by the tour operators.
They get extra commission based on how many sites they can rush you through in a day, spending more money on taxi drivers and the other establishments they have set up commission deals with.
40km outside of Hue Vietnam. This is the most remote of the tombs. It is a mess and obviously in disrepair. Gia Long was the first Nguyen emperor and he is known for being an ass.
12km from Hue. There are some large gardens and a few lakes here so it is a really serene place to relax. First you must get through the souvenir sellers and there cheap plastic 'made in China' wares but the mausoleum is worth it.
8 km from Hue. Built in 1848. Didn't see it and was told not to bother. Some said it was closed but I could not confirm that.
7 km from Hue. I think this is one of the largest of all the tombs. Maybe because of all the wives he had. I was told the number was 104. Who the hell needs 104 wives?
Many districts in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are names after this guy so he is well respected amongst the Vietnamese.
One of the better tombs if you are interested yet as with all the tomb sites, they are falling apart. Quality of foundation was obviously not a strong point of the old Vietnamese architects.
10 km from Hue. Built in 1925, this was the best tomb of them all because it is the best preserved and it seems someone has taken pride in keeping it well.
You can almost guess which of the Emperors was the most liked in his day. That's why I want to die unknown. Who the hell needs the publicity?
See this tomb if you plan on seeing any of them. If this is the only tomb you see then you've done well.
See the Perfume River in this video of Hue Vietnam:
Enjoy your trip and remember that most Vietnamese people are literally starving for money and consider any means of obtaining it as legitimate even if you get ripped off in the process.
I have been in Vietnam for more than a year now and I just find it a good central place to head off around Asia.
You can feel safe that there will be no terrorist attacks during your visit and also Vietnamese people avoid violence towards foreigners.
They are well meaning most of them but the standards are very low.
Where should I stay?:
You can view the many Hue Budget hotels we offer without charging any booking fees.
Just select any of the hotels and you'll get extensive information from a reliable booking agent.
It is a wonderful city but Saigon is Hectic and Hanoi is political and you can't avoid either on you way to Hue Vietnam. See the video again. A Great experience that's even better in reality.
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