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Exploring History and Chili Pepper: Discover Hue

A day on the Vespa to discover all the richness of Vietnam’s ancient capital.
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Duration: from morning to evening

Itinerary: a stroll through history, approximately 35km

Equipment: a poncho for sudden rain

For history lovers, Hue, the ancient capital of Vietnam, is an unmissable must; its complex of temples, monuments and pagodas is undoubtedly the most popular in the country. Starting from the city centre, the Citadel is definitely the fastest place to reach. Your visit could last either an hour or a full day, because the complex is huge and full of curiosities. For only 280,000 VND, about 10 EUR, buy the cumulative tickets that include a visit to the tombs of the emperors Minh Mang and Khai Dinh; It’s a versatile and complete package to see it all.

Look around. The over six-meter-high walls contain the heart of the entire complex: the ancient Imperial City, which follows the plan of the famous Forbidden City in Beijing. Despite the devastating fire that occurred in 1947, the best parts are still well-kept thanks to frequent renovations. And walking through the courtyards and alleyways is really exciting. The colours of the lacquered doors are uniquely beautiful.

Get on your Vespa to continue the tour through the wonders of Hue, but not before having a nice meal. The Madam Thu Restaurant (45 Vo Thi Sau Street) is a simple, unpretentious place, but perfect for discovering real traditional local dishes. The menu ranges from fresh rice paper rolls and meat skewers to stuffed crispy crepes – one tasty and affordable lunch!

 

Resume the journey. Approximately 13 kilometers from the Citadel is the Tomb of Minh Mang, the second Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. Built by his successor and son Thieu Tri between 1840 and 1843, it contains more than forty monuments and... a lake. Yes, that’s right. Among lotus flowers and lush vegetation, you can’t help but feel the solemn peace of the place. Not far from here is the Tomb of Khai Dinh, the 12th Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. Its construction took 11 years to complete (1920-1931) and the structure is famous because it is the only one to harmonize Eastern and Western architecture, consisting of many colours and dense decor that dramatically contrasts with the dark and austere façade.

Get your Vespa and proceed to the last stop of the day: the Thien Mu Pagoda, the tallest religious building in Vietnam, as well as the town's oldest pagoda. Admission is free, but because it is situated on a hill that towers over the Perfume River, you have to rely on the boats that go back and forth in order to reach it – after negotiating the price, of course.

Once visited, go back towards the city centre, embracing all the city charm along the way. It’s no surprise that Hue is the ancient capital, and its long history is evident everywhere, from the streets, fields, garden-houses hiding shyly behind the tall (but thankfully not too much) walls. These homes are often built according to Feng-Shui principles and are always surrounded by sumptuous vegetation. Many of these historic homes you will encounter along the way were owned by families linked to the ancient imperial court, and today, they are often owned by private landlords who like to have a chat with curious travelers. Some advice? Visit the beautiful home of Tha Om.

You will have to return to the city to explore the excellent regional cuisine. Hue, as you can discover in any traditional restaurant of the city, has a completely different style from the rest of Vietnam, where the cuisine is normally delicate and rich in herbs. Here, spices and chili peppers are the protagonist, giving dishes a tasty, zesty flair... A bit like the charm of Hue.

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