Experience about Hue City Tour, good information for traveller.
After going unprepared to many tours and wished I understood what the tour guide was talking about, I decided to do some research first before going to Hue City tour. I want to enjoy this tour more, it’ll be a waste paying $17 and not making the most out of it.
Was informed by the receptionist that I will be picked up at 8:00 AM but since I was too excited and have a little glimpse of the city, I asked for the VM Travel’s office location instead and decided to go for a walk. It’s just 7 minute walk away from Grace Hotel anyway.
The driver arrived at the office fifteen minutes before 8:00 AM. While the tour guide arrived few minutes later and told me that I will be going on this Hue City tour with a family of 5 from Indonesia. I got excited learning that one family including the grandparents is going on a tour with me. It’s been long times since I actually traveled with older people, normally I meet fellow young solo backpacker or couples with a kid or two but not with grandparents, the close family ties is so Asian.
By 8:00 AM, we went our way to The Imperial Hotel to pick up the family. Though, we had to wait a little while for the family, another Asian thing, being late. The family finally came and the tour guide greeted them excitedly and introduced himself as Binh.
Few minutes before 9:00 we started the Hue City tour and Thanh Toan Bridge or “Japanese Bridge” was the first stop. It’s an old Japanese looking bridge built around 18th century just outskirts of the Imperial city of Hue. As we walked on the bridge, Binh said that it was believed that this bridge was funded by a Japanese woman, who married a local in the village, saw how difficult for the villagers to cross the small river. The other side of the bridge is actually a public market which bridge villagers had to cross every day to sell and buy their daily necessities. The bridge still stands and until now it’s helping a lot of villagers to move their crops and sell it to the market. But according to some researchers, it was actually funded by a Vietnamese woman, a wife of a high-ranking Mandarin official, praying that god will provide her a child. The highest level on the bridge is designated as the praying area.
Thanh Toan Bridge – tiled roofed bridge which believes to be the only bridge with this design aside from the one Hoi An
The village has its own small museum as well, where old ladies show their daily routine during the war. They practically had to do everything since their husbands were in the field fighting for their freedom. It amazes how strong Vietnamese older women are.
The next 2 destinations are tombs of 2 famous kings. Tombs in Vietnam are considered as the second palace, it reflects the previous king’s personality. To save up entrance fees and finish the Hue City Tour in one day, we opted to go to just 2 tombs which bear 2 different architectural designs.
We first went to the tomb of Nguyen Dynasty’s second king, Minh Mang. Even far from the gate, I can see how humungous this tomb is; Binh told us its 18 hectares tomb. King Minh Mang ordered the construction in 1840 of this tomb with a vision that future generation will continue it. The king died in 1841 and his son, King Thieu Tri continued the task according to his father’s plan and was finished after 2 years. This tomb has oriental architectural designs, incorporated feng shui beliefs, which makes me think how noble the king was. There are parts of the tomb that are specifically designed for his reading and writing time. Binh mentioned the king was a poet.
Minh Pavilion this is where King Minh Mang read and wrote poems
Khai Dinh Tomb is definitely different from the Minh Mang tomb. It shows how majestic, luxurious the 12th king was. The tomb is on a mountain and over-looking two other mountains, Green Dragon Mountain on the right and White Tiger Mountain on the left. Feng Shui is highly followed; all the 5 elements should be in it. Entering the tomb, I am astonished by the fusion of oriental and western design. This is the smallest yet the most expensive tomb that the king raised taxes on 30% just to fund it.
Right below this platform is King Khai Dinh burial tomb
We head back to the city for lunch but before going to the restaurant, we made a short stop at Dan Nam Giao, where previous kings stand and pray for 24 hours no matter what the weather is, for the betterment of the country. There is a lot of pine trees planted around it, as King Minh Mang wanted to all his sons and mandarins to plant and take care of their own pine tree, but nothing shades the place where the king needed to stand before.
Holy Ground of Nam Giao Esplanade
Lunch was decent. Authentic Hue dishes were served. Learned that since it is the Imperial City, foods are prepared especially for royals and high-ranking official, which until now, they still cook and serve to tourists.
After lunch, we got ready for the biggest event of the day, the Hue Imperial City tour. The Citadel is protected by thick walls and moat. The Perfume River waters the moat. The first wanted to have pattern the citadel to the famous Forbidden City in Beijing, thus creating the Purple Forbidden City inside the Imperial City which only the Nguyen Imperial family can enter.
Binh started to explain the flag tower right in front of the gate, which then the training ground of the king’s soldiers. Then we went our way to the main gate of the Imperial city, we used the left side gate to enter the famous city, middle gates are only for the kings.
The Imperial City Main Gates
As we enter the Imperial City, Bridge of Golden Water greeted us with two big ponds with big koi fishes on its sides. Thái Hòa Palace (Hall of Supreme Harmony) is right after the bridge. This is where the king along with high ranking Mandarin officials listens to his people’s burdens and concerns. We are not allowed to take pictures inside of the palace, but at the back of the castle has video streaming which helps out a lot since explains mostly what the whole Imperial City is.
Bridge of Golden Water that leads to the Hall of Supreme Harmony
Most of the parts of the citadel got severely damage during the war. Bullet holes are visible in some parts of the Imperial City. To this day, Thế Miếu temples still stand and still the highest building in the Imperial City. No one in the citadel has the right to set up a higher building than this holy place. The Mother Queen quarters still remains, most of the furniture left are actually purchased by the King Khai Dinh from all of over the world. Which makes the place a little modern than it should look like. We went around the imperial city by electric car, which I might add, relaxing since it was really hot plus remember I am going around with 2 elderly people.
By 3:00 pm we went our way to An Hien Garden House, the only garden house remained after the war. Managed and being taken care of the direct descendant of the house’s owner. The owner offered as tea, as of Vietnamese tradition, serving tea to visitors show respect and sincerity. I enjoyed eating fruits at the backyard.
Last stop is the Thien Mu Pagoda, the most famous pagoda in the city of Hue. Its pagoda has seven stories making it the tallest religious building in Vietnam. It was built by Nguyen Hoang and believed to be a fulfillment of a prophecy of a lady from heaven. Thus, naming the pagoda Thien Mu which literally means “celestial lady”. The pagoda was erected at Ha Khe Hill right at the north bank of Perfume River.
Built in 1601 on the order of Nguyen Hoang, the first Nguyen Dynasty lord
We cruise the Perfume River on a dragon boat on our way back to the city center, a refreshing way after all day Hue City tour. Who would’ve thought it could be this tiring? To think it’s just 4:30 PM.
Dock area of dragon boats in the city center
This Hue City Tour is indeed a class tour and definitely amazing one. $17 did not go to waste. The family enjoyed the tour though it is a little tiring for the older couple, sure was worth it they said. I’m definitely bringing my family on this tour one day.