Hué travel guide (part 2)
What to See & Do in Hué
The Citadel and the Forbidden City are the highlights in Hué itself, and the Emperors’ Tombs along the PerfumeRiver are also not to be missed. You can also get to Bach Ma National Park easily if you have your own transport or arrange a tour.
The present Citadel was laid out by Emperor Gia Long in the early 19th century. It consists of three layered enclosures, and used to have a moat (where the young boys now play soccer). You enter the Citadel through the FlagTower, and then you will see spread before you the restored ImperialCity and the purple/mauve Forbidden City.
You can walk around the entire Citadel on the in- or outside. But beware – it’s huge – 10 km/six miles in circumference.
See a large picture of the Citadel
The FlagTower. The FlagTower is actually three towers flanked by nine sacred cannons. You can climb to the top. The view at sunrise or sunset is spectacular.
The ImperialCityThe second moat and interior wall form the protective fortifications for the Imperial (administrative) City.
The layout is similar to Beijing’s Forbidden City. There are four gates, one at each compass point, with the most impressive being the southern one. The southern gate (Ngo Mon) is the main entrance to the ImperialCity. Most of the buildings were already in poor condition before the Tet Offensive in 1968, and subsequent fighting and neglect have taken their toll. Massive restorations are ongoing, however.
The remaining buildings (many were destroyed in a fire in 948) are:
The main buildings are:
-- The Ngo Mon (Southern) Gate, with the pavilion on top called the Five Phoenix Watchtower.
-- The Thai Hoa Palace, the most impressive of the palaces in the town. It is lacquered with gold and red, and seems to glow in the morning and evening light. This was the palace that held the throne and was the site of many important ceremonies.
The Forbidden City is approached from the Great Golden Gate. It is contained inside the third enclosure. Most striking is the purple color of the buildings.
-- The Left and Right Houses where mandarins would prepare for audiences with the emperor.
-- The Thai Binh Reading Pavilion, a two-story building surrounded by bonsai.
-- The Ancestral Altars at the southwest corner.
-- The Museum of Fine Arts, 3 Le Truc, with its displays of royal memorabilia. The museum is inside the Long An Palace. This palace was built in 1845 and was located in the ImperialCity. It was moved to this location in 1909.
-- The Provincial Museum, across from the Museum of Fine Arts, is probably still closed. If it’s open, you can see materials related to the Tet Offensive and the rest of the War.
This is the area alongside the Citadel where the merchants and other civilians lived. There are a number of Chinese Assembly Halls (as in Hoi An), and pagodas. The European part retains much of the French Colonial influence and buildings.
The main attraction close to Hué is the collection of Emperors’ Tombs along the PerfumeRiver. You can visit these on a boat tour, or rent a bicycle or hire a tri-shaw and explore them from the land.
Heading south from town, here are the tombs and related buildings you will come to:
-- Nam Gao, the altar of heaven. This was a key element in the religious life of Hué.
-- Van Mieu, the temple dedicated by Emperor Dia Long to Confucius.
-- The Royal Arena, on the other side of the PerfumeRiver, where elephant fights were held.
-- Thien Mu Pagoda and HonChenTemple, noted for their beautiful settings.
The Royal Tombs or Mausoleums
Tu Duc’s Tomb is the most harmonious tomb. There are pavilions, trees, a lake, and more. Emperors built their tombs while they were alive and used them as retreats from the Forbidden City.
Khai Dinh’ Tomb looks as if it escaped from somewhere in Europe and landed near Hué. It is a mish-mash of styles – European Baroque, Vietnamese, and even Cham.
Minh Mang’s Tomb is a series of pavilions and mounds set in a lake.
Gia Long’s Tomb was badly damaged during the War so there isn’t much to see any more.
Dong Khanh’s Tomb wasn’t built since he died at a young age. Instead, he is buried near a temple dedicated to his father.
Thieu Tri’s Tomb is very similar to his father’s (Minh Mang), with a determined avoidance of any Western influences.Duc Duc’s Tomb is rarely visited.
See also : Hué travel guide (part 1)
The Citadel picture
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