YOUR INSIDER'S TRAVEL GUIDE BLOG TO HUE
IN VIETNAM 🇻🇳 SINCE 2008
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL HUE HUE HISTORICAL CONSERVATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION
By JK Hobson
The Central coastal city of Hue is of remarkable significance in the history of Vietnam.
Once the capital of the country, Hue straddles the famous Perfume River, was the hub of Vietnam’s imperial dynasty, and holds the last remnants of what it left behind. In 1993, the major sites of the city received World Heritage status, a fact that the city is quite proud of, as it boasts of the honour on signs outside the city Citadel and the Nguyen royal tombs. More than 30 million visitors have visited the city since the declaration 25 years ago. Overall, Hue has received a significant boost in tourism which has been growing incrementally on an annual basis, the results of which have been both positive and negative.
La Residence is a five-star hotel centrally located in Hue. During Vietnam’s French colonial era, it was a guesthouse for French elites. In 2005 it became a hotel that caters mostly to French and American tourists. Ms Nga, one of the concierge workers there, is hopeful about the rise in tourism, and the changes in development and infrastructure that are taking place as a result. “I’m excited about the walking street!” she says.
“The government is working on a walking street between the two bridges (along the Perfume River). It will go from the Citadel to the major places in Hue!”
Although enthusiastic about the changes, she has concerns about the conservation of some of the lesser-known buildings and relics in her city, fascinating places like Ho Quyen, the famous fighting arena where Nguyen emperors like Minh Mang were entertained by annual battles between tigers and elephants. “If we build up more places like that, they will be more popular to the guests.”
Hue on the Forefront of Ecological Preservation in Vietnam
Hue officials have recognised that the upsurge in tourism comes with a cost to the ecology and have been working with international organisations as a means of preserving Hue’s natural environment, especially when it comes to carbon emissions. In 2016, Hue was recognised by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a National Earth Hour Capital, according to VietnamTourism.com. At that time, Hue committed to cutting 20 percent of its gas emissions by 2020 compared to 2011 by focusing on urban green coverage, wastewater and garbage treatment, eco-tourism products, smart public lighting systems, renewable energy, and environmentally friendly building materials.
Hue’s biggest challenges to tourism come from the extreme weather conditions the city endures during its wet season. Heavy rains and flooding deluge the city, bringing normal daily activities to a standstill as people focus on the safety of their families, property and possessions. During this period, tourism is at a low, and tourists who endure this season rarely return. Despite the challenges, tourism is likely to increase in Hue, and the small city will have to rise to the challenge of maintaining a balance between development and ecology preservation, or else squander the elements that make it one of the hidden gems of Vietnam.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL HUE DISCOVER: HUE, VIETNAM
Hue city is a fabulous collage of culture, history, natural beauty and modern luxury. The grand old dame of Vietnam.
Many visitors make the mistake of overlooking it or viewing it as a transit city that can be explored in a day or two. Hue’s ancient imperial city harbours awe-inspiring structures that cannot be appreciated in a short time frame, starting at The Citadel and fanning out through a town full of regal charm and contemporary culture.
History is the main attraction here, whether you look for it in spectacular ruins, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fabled culinary traditions or merely in the tales of its people. That said the development of high quality hotels and service providers ensures that this city is not merely left in the past, but embraces the future as well.
For the macabre at heart, there are a number of famous tombs and mausoleums throughout, perfect places to pay your respects or simply take in classic architecture and royal furnishings. With traditional dynastic surroundings rubbing elbows with French influenced opulence, the collection of burial sites is one of the big draws in town. But the town has so much more to offer than historical ruins and sites, this was, after all, the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, which was carefully sited with views of mountains in back and river out front, making this so-called hidden beauty easy on the eyes.
Surrounded by the majestic sights, there is a multitude of options in the imperial city. Try cooking classes, get a taste and learn how to prepare Hue’s regal cuisine: banh beo, banh nam, banh bot loc, and bun bo hue. For a classic tour, get a boat ride up and cruise along The Perfume River. Top your experience with the one-hour motorbike trip to Tam Giang Lagoon, where the seafood is always fresh and plentiful.
To see Hue city at its finest, head to town during the Hue Festival, which happens once every two years (the next one will be in April 2014). It’s a chance for visitors to observe the rituals and life of the Nguyen royal family as well as partaking in many traditional forms of entertainment, lifestyle and foods. Be aware that Hue city is very crowded and expensive during this time. For a more peaceful break, visit Hue, Vietnam in autumn, when the weather is agreeable and the city is quiet.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL HUE TOP THINGS TO DO IN HUE
Hue is rich in history and a few days wouldn’t be enough to over all the beautiful and significant sites of the this ancient city.
Indeed, this is one of Vietnam’s most touristy spots given it has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. Just by scanning through every place I had been to, I’d say the majority of the tourists were Europeans who were travelling in big groups aging 50 and above, followed by young couples in their mid 20s or 30s and very few solo travelers.
With the pink bus, I toured Hue together with other tourists from different corners of the globe. The guide first introduced The Citadel. He was like a walking Wikipedia of Hue but he talked a bit too fast; I could hardly remember all he’d said. What is still vivid to me was when repeatedly said that the kings had one wife and four hundred ninety-nine concubines; followed with a smirk! I’m sure he was exaggerating; there might have been lots but not that number!
Now let’s talk about the morning excursions:
The Hue Imperial Citadel
I remembered the Angkors temples as I entered the Citadel’s gate. A Very old structure that would leave anyone in awe with its intrinsic details of architecture. I don’t know, seeing something ancient is always a treasure because it is a treasure. I imagined how many soldiers marched in and out of this gate with their horses or elephants and then I also thought how many tourists had walked in and out of this cultural heritage.
Then I saw the flag pole and I thought that was all I came for. But then there was another entrance, the entrance to the ‘Forbidden City’. Just by its enchanting name, you’d want to dash and go there already. There were so many doors and windows and passages. It’s a great vast of land and there was a lot of people still rebuilding Hue’s museum! I took 200 photos inside and I had forgotten about the time (again). I ran outside and well, not the first, I was the last one to be back on the bus. It has been a very bad habit, well, can we blame the ancient city for taking my time?
Thien Mu Pagoda
Less than 10 minutes on the bus and we arrived in another tourist attraction. This has got to be the most beautiful and interesting pagoda – Thien Mu Pagoda that I had ever been to! This is just along the banks of Perfume River and it is surrounded with pine trees. I didn’t climb up the steps right away; I wanted to see the pagoda from below while I was catching my breath by the riverbank. I saw the colourful boats and there were vendors selling souvenirs that we could take with us.
I took the steps, pausing every now and then, observing, looking, then taking snaps of the river and of the very tall pagoda. The inner and outer views are just breathtaking. I didn’t listen to the guide anymore as he shared the history of the place as I knew I wouldn’t have time to explore more of the place if I had to stop. I could just go ask him whenever I have questions, although I didn’t.
Then I saw the car which would tell the story about Thích Quảng Đức, a Buddhist monk who immolated himself as a way to preserve and protect Buddhism in Vietnam. Images of the monk writing on something and a heart on the left wall and behind the car was an image of the day the monk burned himself. I thought, this was the most striking image and information I had gathered in that pagoda that would remain in my mind for long.
Of course, I was late again for the bus. This time on the bus, as we headed to the next destination, the guide announced more than twice not to be late again. That was the most embarrassing;-) And yes, I’d guarantee you this- I was on my best behaviour in the afternoon and was never late again…on that day!
In this below video, uncover 7 MUST SEES in Hue, Vietnam
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HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL HUE FIVE FANTASTIC DUMPLINGS OF HUE
Hue cuisine is the most refined of all Vietnamese culinary traditions
It is note as much about the food as it is about the elegance and courtesy of the people of Hue. Be it because of their magisterial manner or their delicious food, Hue people are proud. Similarly, we’re proud to offer our selection of the five best Hue dumplings.
1. Bánh bèo (Water fern cake)
Water fern cake is one of the most popular snacks in Hue as well as in restaurants serving this cuisine throughout Vietnam. The fine, white steamed rice cakes topped with scallion oil and reddish shrimp floss are laid out on tiny ceramic dishes all placed on a round tray. This dish looks like water ferns floating on the surface of a lake, hence the name of the dish.
To eat it, use a spoon to sprinkle the rice cake with a sweet and spicy fish sauce before serving. Alternatively, you can use the spoon to get the rice cake out of the dish and dip it gently in the sauce, but be careful not to let the toppings float away! Feel the soft and chewy rice cake in tandem with the spicy sauce; the fatty, sweet minced shrimp; scallion oil and the crispy piece of fried pork skin. The harmonious combination of taste, aroma, color and texture makes this simple dish one you will forever remember.
2. Bánh bột lọc (Tapioca dumpling)
Beside water fern cake, the tapioca dumpling is also famous to Hue’s visitors. Anyone would agree that this translucent dumpling encasing a bright red-orange shrimp inside looks very interesting and beautiful. This dumpling has a balance of chewy and sticky. Texturally, this dish’s pleasures are feeling the crust of shrimp shell playing against the softness of pork belly.
However, not everyone knows that to make it translucent and chewy, the tapioca starch must be mixed by hand with boiling water until it becomes a soft and smooth mixture. The shrimp and pork belly portions that go in to this dumpling are stir-fried in caramelized sugar for color and taste. The dumplings are then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.
3. Bánh nậm (Flat rice dumpling)
While this dumpling is not as famous as the others, it’s also a common street food sold in many places in Hue city. It has a white colour and a flat, rectangular shape with golden shrimp and pork fillings inside, all wrapped in a banana leaf. The dumpling is made from a rice flour batter mixed with a bit of tapioca starch. The fillings contain minced pork and shrimp stir-fried with shallots or green onions. First, the rice batter is spread on the banana leaf, with the fillings in the middle, then it is wrapped into shape and steamed. It is served with sweet spicy fish sauce.
4. Bánh ram ít (Sticky rice dumpling on a pancake)
This special dumpling was once a favourite in the royal court of Hue a long time ago, but it has remained popular since. Its name is derived from the dish’s combination of two distinct components: the steamed sticky rice dumpling (bánh ít) on top and the fried sticky rice pancake (bánh ram) at the bottom. You will find this combination of stickiness and crunchiness both novel and delicious.
Making this dumpling-on-a-pancake dish is a process that demands a lot of time as well as a skillful cook. First, make a smooth dough from glutinous rice flour, water and a little salt. Then, divide it into two parts. For the dumplings, wrap the dough around the filling—stir-fried minced pork and shrimp—then steam. For the pancakes, shape the dough into flat round pieces and deep fry.
5. Bánh ướt (Steamed rice sheets)
These are the same paper-thin, steamed rice sheets that go with Vietnamese sausages in other parts of Vietnam, but in Hue they get creative. Hue people fancy the dish with grilled or roasted pork instead.
The steamed rice sheets are made from a rice flour and tapioca batter, thinly spread out and steamed on the spot. The grilled pork is then put on the sheet together with fresh herbs to make a roll. It can be served with sweet and spicy fish sauce (nước chấm) or a bean dip made of fermented soybean sauce (tương), ground meat and peanuts.
Served with roasted pork, the steamed rice sheets are to be eaten as a type of noodle together with fresh herbs and pickles. To serve, put all the ingredients together in a bowl with spicy fish sauce sprinkled on top and experience a symphony of tastes.
Watch a Hue’s traditional village making their most famous dish: bánh ướt Lựu Bảo
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL HUE MY FIRST IMPRESSION OF HUE
Why you must visit the Ancient Imperial City of Hue
After the 15-hour train ride from Hanoi, I arrived in Hue hovered by gray skies on the 12th of November. I stepped outside and there were people from the travel agencies or hotel bringing papers with them bearing names of tourists they had been waiting for. I knew my name wouldn’t be there; I didn’t ask to be picked up. The misty air would tell the rain has just stopped-probably few moments ago-but the atmosphere was still very cool for 10am. There were a lot of taxis and motor taxis (Xe Om) outside the train station and I hired the latter to drive me to Saigon Morin, the hotel where I’d be staying during my visit in Hue.
So my first interactions were with the Xe Om driver and the hotel staff. For me, people from Hue are very accommodating, warm and sincere. You can feel it by the way they say “Xin chao” or “Hello” to you. This I proved right as I would go around meeting more people in my 3-day stay in the city. As soon as I had settled in, I did my own walking tour. I took the map the hotel had given me and just roamed around the city with it. I had walked past the post office, the schools, the hotels, the banks, the tailoring shops, and the market.
‘First things first’, I told myself. I had to eat! Since Bun Bo has been my top 1 favorite Vietnamese dish, I took the chance to try it in Hue! I’m glad I tasted the original one at Ly Thuong Kiet Street. The food was more spicy compared to the one I always have in HCMC. The noodles were also thinner and the soup-more yellowish. I had another Bun Bo Hue special at the hotel for breakfast the following day, too. No doubt, this food is more delicious in Hue than in HCMC!
Connected to this street were Chu Van An, Pham Ngu Lao and Doi Cung where you can find cheap guest house accommodations and there are also a lot of restaurants in these areas where many backpackers hang out in the evening. I dropped my laundry at Pham Ngu Lao; it was 20,000 VND per kilo. Also on Le Loi, a sight made me stop and I took a photo of the Hue National School.
That was just the beginning. I would actually be immersing myself in Hue’s ancient and rich history the following day. I don’t really like memorizing which 1500s or 19 forgotten sort of things but I’m always more fascinated with records of what had happened and why and how. For me, when and where could be Googled anytime but I appreciate people who are very keen on historical dates.
Before going back to my hotel, I had already booked my city tour which would start at 8 in the morning and would go right away to the city’s most visited tourist attraction, the Citadel. That was about my first day in the city and the next time you visit our blog again, you’d read about 5 most interesting sightseeing activities and Hue and I am sure you’d be delighted to know them and see the photos.
HCMC INSPIRATION TRAVEL HUE LA RESIDENCE HUE HOTEL & SPA
Located on the calm banks of the Perfume River amongst a lush garden, this renovated Art Deco mansion was once a Governor’s residence, where parties for Ambassadors and Generals were hosted during the 1930s.
The 5-star La Residence Hue is full of rich history, with uses including an American command center, a hospital for Vietnamese soldiers, and a government guest house in the 1960s. The mansion was repurposed as a luxury hotel in 2005. Over the years, La Residence Hue Hotel & Spa has won some serious accolades, and all for good reasons. Among these awards are two years on Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice – Best Hotels in Southeast Asia list 2014 and 2015; Travel + Leisure’s 500 World’s Best Hotels in 2014 and 2015; winner of the World Luxury Spa Award 2013; and multiple other awards throughout the years.
Placing an emphasis on preserving its historic architectural style, La Residence Hue is one of the best representations of Art Deco in the Indochina. The original wing of the mansion has 10 signature rooms and suites that preserve the feel and look of an era long past – perfect for those who wish to experience the luxurious past of the mansion in accurate detail.
The hotel’s 122 guest rooms and suites follow the Art Deco concept without flaw – louvered shutters, hardwood floors and high ceilings are romantic, charming and absolutely unique to sleep in. The hotel’s room service is available between 6 a.m. to midnight, with a selection of snacks and hot dishes from Le Parfum’s A la carte menu.
Evidence of passionate artistry runs throughout the hotel. Le Gouverneur Bar features a stunning fresco by French artist Roland Renaud, the piece inspired by the wall of the Musée des Colonies in Paris and Lyon’s famous main post office, is an atmospheric place for great cocktails. Two of the signatures, La Residence Madame and La Residence Monsieur, are highly recommended. The bowed facade, nautical flourishes and clean pastel colors are excellent representations of 1930s Art Deco – simply walking around here is a pleasant experience, and observing the attention that went into bringing the style to a contemporary era is a treat.
The hotel is about 20 minutes from Hue’s Phu Bai International Airport, and less than a five-minute drive from the city center. The hotel is also close to the Imperial Citadel, an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site. While remaining near Hue’s central attractions, the mansion maintains a serene distance to ensure guests feel comfortably secluded
Other notable attractions nearby include royal mausoleums, Dong Ba market, Thien Mu Pagoda, Thuan An beach, Alba Thanh Tan Hot Springs, Lang Co beach and Bach Ma National Park. The hotel is also a short walk from great local restaurants and bars.
Standout feature, besides the ambiance and preserved Art Deco style, is the award-winning luxury relaxation experience at Le Spa features a steam room, herbal sauna, jacuzzi and seven treatment rooms. The Swedish Massage in particular is superb, a true display of the resident masseuses’ skills. In fact, the service in general easily exceeds international standards.
The team at La Residence Hue consists of educated, highly professional staff, both locals and international expatriates, dedicated to provide complete customer satisfaction. Staff go out of their way to make guest experiences memorable.
On the culinary side, Le Parfum Restaurant provides style and substance with not only respectable fine dining options for Vietnamese and French dishes, but also the unforgettable experiences. These include an Imperial Dinner, which allows guests to dine at the historic sites of Hue; a Dinner Cruise on one of Hue’s signature dragon boats; a Governor’s Colonial Dinner – a poolside fine dining experience with views of the Perfume River; and other highlight experiences including a great cooking class, a historic culinary tour and more.
Facilities are top notch. The 30-meter saltwater pool is immaculate and highly pleasant to swim in.
Those who want to get some work done will find few places better than the hotel’s business center- Le Bibliotheque, available 24 hours with free Wi-Fi and computers for use. Books, board games, DVDs and travel guides are also available. Upon request, printing, scanning and photocopying are available if requested.