Hue was the unexpected pleasant surprise of our trip to Vietnam. We weren’t supposed to go there initially, but as the weather further up north didn’t look good we decided to make a detour and spend a few days in Hue. I’m glad we did.
Hue used to be the country’s imperial capital during the time of the Nguyen dynasty so it’s not surprising that the town is well known for it’s historical monuments. The most famous place to visit is the Imperial City from which the Nguyen emperors used to reign. If you’re looking for something a little more of the beaten track though, you might want to go for a tour of the tombs surrounding Hue.
Of course there are tombs that are more touristy than others and you will see buses or vans full of tourists at some of the tombs. If you don’t want that (like us) there’s always the option to rent a bicycle or scooter. As we were now experienced Vietnam scooter drivers, we opted for the latter. The hotel arranged for two working scooters and off we went, following the Perfume River until we’d well and truly left Hue behind us.
Our improvised tour led us over narrow dust roads, through tiny rural villages and over an interesting looking bridge, but in the end we did find a beautiful, calm, architectural tomb complex.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the complex we visited was that of the Tomb of Minh Mang, about 12 kilometers from Hue. Besides the several temples, pavilions and staircases with dragon banisters that are worth seeing, what struck me most about this place was its almost mystical peacefulness.
On our way back we got hopelessly lost -we can’t go wrong darling, just follow the river- and almost ended up in the neighbouring country of Laos. Thank god for 3G (surprisingly working in the middle of the jungle) to get us back to Hue.
Hue was also the first town where we tried real Vietnamese street food. It started with a Vietnamese baguette -a baguette filled with meat, a fried egg, some spicy stuff and a piece of La Vache Qui Rit if you want, although I don’t think that’s part of the original version. We got it from a sweet old lady pushing her baguette-making-cart through the streets of Hue late at night.
It tasted so good that about 10 minutes later we found ourselves sitting around a mini plastic table on the sidewalk in front of our hotel, having a Pho soupe and a plate of fried rice with beef. Both were delicious; super fresh and full of flavour. I remember thinking why on earth are we only trying this street food after being in the country for almost a week?! From that moment on we pretty much only ate street food; super tasty, surrounded by the Vietnamese and not expensive at all.
Next up: Hanoi