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Central Vietnam: Hue

Hue:  the former Imperial Capital of the Nguyen Dynasty

Emperor Gia Long began building the Imperial Citadel in 1804.  Within the walled gates was the Forbidden Purple City, the private residence of the Emperor. The complex suffered damages during the conflict with the French in 1947 and then mostly destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968.  But wandering through the grounds gives you a great sense of history. You can still see The Emperor’s reading room and The Halls of the Mandarins which were used for court ceremonies. 

Continuing a short way along the Perfume River is the famous Thien Mu Pagoda.  Originally founded in 1601, named after a Fairy woman Tien Mu who, according to the legend, met Nguyen Lord Ngyuen Hoang telling him building a pagoda at this spot would bring prosperity to the country.
The 7-story octagonal tower was constructed under Emperor Thieu Tri in 1844 and dedicated to Manjushri-Buddha which is the Buddha that appeared in human form. A pavilion houses an enormous bell which was cast in 1710 and weighs 2052kg, said to be heard 10km away.
In the main sanctuary, in a case behind the bronze laughing Buddha, are 3 statues: A Di Da, the Buddha of the Past;  Thich Ca, the historical Buddha (Sakyamuni); and Di Da, The Buddha of the Future (Maitreya).

Thien Mu Pagoda was a center of anti-government protest during the 1960s and again in 1980s. Here you can see the Austin motorcar that transported Monk Thich Quang Duc to the site of his 1963 self immolation in Saigon protesting the policies of President Ngo Dinh Diem.

Royal Tombs
The Nguyen Dynasty was the last of the Vietnamese dynasties. There were 13 emperors and seven had elaborate tombs dedicated to them.
Hire a dragon boat for a leisurely cruise down the Perfume River. You will need several hours though, so an option is to maybe have a car drop/collect you one way, or if staying south of Hue at Pilgrimage Village,
it’s a shorter drive from there.

The most beautiful and interesting to visit:
Minh Mang: 1820-1841 who was the second son of Gia Long
Tu Duc:  1848-84
Khai Dinh: 1916-1925

The historical monuments of Hue were designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.

DMZ North of Hue
Day trips to this area can be arranged for those interested in American/Vietnam war history.
Links to good work there today:

Legacy of War

Project RENEW:

Crafts and Projects:

Silk Embroidery handcrafted in Hue is exquisite and a visit to the
XQ Gallery is a highlight!

Healing the Wounded Heart Shop
beautiful crafts and eco-friendly items produced by disabled artisans which support heart surgeries for poor children. Located on Vo Thi Sau Street

Accomodations in Hue:

Pilgrimage Village one of the finest small luxury resorts- truly a special oasis 15min drive from center and close to quiet pagodas.

Tu Hieu Pagoda – where Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh first ordained as a monk at this monastery outside of Hue  Learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village.

The commercial center of Hue
enjoys a very relaxed ambience for a Vietnamese city. Being a big University town, the river area is a favorite area to relax for locals.
Filled with cafes and restaurants, there are many very comfortable and reasonably priced small hotels and guesthouses which are found online such as:

Orchid Hotel comfy 3-star

Hotel Saigon Morin established in 1901:

Azerai La Residence:

Flying into HUE:
Domestic Flights serve HUE Airport  ( HUI ) with frequent flight from Hanoi or from Ho Chi Minh City

Also check into budget carriers  Jet Star or VietJet Air.

For Hoi An and My Son- approx 3.5 hours drive south of Hue:

TRAIN Travel:
The Reunification Express from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh stops in Hue.

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