Hue on the Central Coast of Vietnam is a city with an astonishing history. From its early days during the Nguyen Dynasty right through to today, it has lived in interesting times. Originally called Phu Xuan it was named as the nation’s capital by Emperor Gia Long in 1802. It remained the national capital until 1945. Following Emperor Bao Dai’s abdication the communist government was established in Hanoi, whilst the French colonists established a state capital for the South in Saigon.
During the war the city suffered terrible damage especially in the 1968 Tet Offensive, due to its proximity with the border between North and South Vietnam. Sadly some of the City’s greatest treasures were terribly damaged; and what treasures it has.
The Citadel of Ancient Monuments is one of Vietnam’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Imperial City was the seat of the Nguyen emperors. It covers a large, walled area to the north of the delightful Perfume River, so called because in the Autumn blossoms from fruit trees drop into the water upstream and float down. This creates an aroma that pervades the city. Sadly most of the Forbidden City was destroyed by American bombs, though efforts are now being made to restore it.
The attractions don’t end there; along the Perfume River other famous and important monuments are found. The tombs of the Emperors Minh Mang, Kai Dinh and Tu Duc are popular tourist attractions. Also the Thien Mu Pagoda is here, the largest in the city and its official symbol.
Hue now receives in excess of two and a half million visitors per year, providing a useful economic boost to the town. This is of course a difficult balancing act, to maintain the level of tourism without having a negative impact on the environment. The authorities are, thus far, managing it.