Hue The Former Imperior City

Vietnam’s former imperial city, Hue, is one of the main cultural, religious and educational centres of Vietnam. Hue became the nations capital under the Nguyen Dynasty when Emperor Gia Long, the first of the Nguyen emperors, chose the location for the imperial city in 1802. The city remained Vietnams capital until 1945, when Bao Dai, the last of the Nguyen emperors, abdicated.

Many of Hue’s attractions are found along the banks of the romantically named Perfume River that flows through the centre of town. On the north bank of the river is the Imperial Citadel, built along the lines of Peking s Forbidden City, enclosed by 10-metre thick walls and surrounded by a moat. A few kilometres further up the river is perhaps Hue s best-known religious site, Thien Mu Pagoda, with its distinctive seven storey octagonal tower.

The elaborate mausoleums of the Nguyen emperors, more like palaces than tombs, are scattered around the rural areas surrounding the city. The mausoleums of emperors Tu Duc, Khai Dinh and Minh Mang are particularly impressive being extravagant complexes of pavilions, temples, courtyards and lakes. A leisurely cruise by dragon boat up the Perfume River is a good way to see many of Hue’s attractions. Hue is also famous for producing the best non la or conical hats in Vietnam and the place to buy these is at the enormous Dong Ba Market. The very successful international arts event, Festival Hue, brought Hue to the attention of the world when it was first held in 2000 and again more recently in 2002. Festival Hue looks like becoming a firm fixture in the arts world calendar in the future.

For a day trip from Hue visit beautiful Bach Ma National Park, a hill resort in colonial times, with its stunning mountain scenery, waterfalls and nature trails. For those interested in Vietnam s recent history it is possible to visit some former battle sites in what was once known as the Demilitarized Zone or DMZ . Alternatively, around 70 km south of Hue, nestling at the bottom of the Hai Van Pass, is the idyllic fishing village of Lang Co with its blue lagoon, coconut palms and wonderfully fresh seafood which makes a nice break on the journey between Hue and Danang.

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