Hue – The ancient capital of Vietnam and UNESCO World Heritage site. Lot of importance is attached to Hue for being a place of intellectual, spiritual, and historical importance to and in Vietnam. If you are travelling North to South or vice versa and stopping in between, then it becomes a good stop. There is not much to see except two or maybe three sites. But two of these three sites are the most important in Vietnam’s history.
Built in early part of 1800s, it is and has everything that we associate with a forbidden city, city of king, moats, impregnable fortress, opaque colour thick walls. Now mostly in ruins, but restoration work is going on. There are few places inside the Citadel which are a must see. While buying the ticket, you will get a map guiding you to different points of interest. Be prepared to walk for few hours to see the entire Citadel. Entry is from the Flag tower gate or gate on the big road and not the side gates. Towards the end of the Citadel you will have the option of dressing like a king and getting yourself clicked 😉
An impressive but small museum dedicated to the war and role of Hue in the war. Museum has loads of military hardware used and captured in the war and is on display in the open. Museum is next to citadel, on the right hand side when facing the entry gate. It is best reached from the small exit only gate of the citadel city. This gate has bicycle and moto-bike parking too.
Beach and Sand Dunes:
Located about 15km north of town, there are some beautiful beaches and luxury resorts – Thuan An Beach. Continue south east from here, there is quiet coastal road running through coastal islands and lagoon. Islands and lagoon is on one side of the road and beach and sand dunes on the other. 7km further on this road, south east of Thuan An, is another supremely quiet beach with sand dunes – Phu Thuan. Cross the sand dunes to relax on the beach. This side of town (Thuan An and Phu Thuan) is quiet / under developed part of Hue hence don’t accept lot in facilities or places to eat.
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ):
The center point of war. About 2hr drive from the town, DMZ is a must visit area. Various day tours are available for DMZ starting at budget price to expensive. Key difference lies in the guide and ability to actually stop at DMZ border – 17th parallel. For the expensive tours, expect to be guided by a real veteran and stop close / around the 17th parallel bridge.
During this tour, you will be seeing the Vinh Moc tunnels where the whole village went underground during bombing raids. These tunnels were built with the objective of staying / living underground and are equipped with kitchen and hospital. Sixteen births were given in the tunnels and none of them today stays in the village. All work in the bigger cities of Vietnam.
Khe Sanh Combat Base, former military base of America, it has a small museum displaying how and what was captured here, left back military hardware of America and fabulous views. It is a joke which runs around the tourists after seeing the base – now we know why Americans did not dedict Ho Chi Minh movement and were late in responding.
Troung Son National Cemetary is one of the three stops on the tour. This stop is as mark of respect for the soldiers who laid down there life and also to show the cost of war and its brutality. Majority of 10,000 graces here are simply marked /Liet Si (Martyr) as their names or where about are not know.
If you are going to Vietnam in summers or spring then DMZ has some very beautiful beaches to relax on. Do stop here for a night or more and explore DMZ yourself while enjoying the beach. You may get whole beach to yourself maybe a couple more.
Connectivity / Reaching Hue:
Hue is very well connected by road, rail, and air. Railway Station is less than 2km from the city centre. Hue is an overnight journey from Ninh Binh, and ¬12hrs from Hanoi. Hue Airport is international airport but flight connectivity might be limited.
Moving Around in Hue:
Moto-bike and cycle both are available on rent. Cycling will be a better way to move around as distances are not big and you can move slowly and see the city.
Staying / Accommodation:
Multiple hostels and hotels are available in Hue concentrated around the city centre and close to Citadel.
Eating and Food:
Largely local cuisine, there are few western / English food based bars and restaurants in the backpacker area of the town.