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Bienvenue à la ville impériale Hue, Vietnam
Bienvenue à la ville impériale Hue, Vietnam
Founded as a Royal city in 1687, the original citadel city of Phu Xuan was built on the site of present day Hue, the gateway to the treasures of Vietnam's royal past. The city served as Vietnam's political capital from 1802 to 1945 under the 13 emperors of the Nguyen dynasty and was a major center of Vietnamese culture, religion and education. This small and quiet city is justly famed for the magnificient architecture of its citadels, palaces, royal tombs, pagodas and temples built under the Nguyen dynasty in an elegant verdant setting on the banks of the Parfume River. Hue is also listed by UNESCO in 1993 as ''World Cultural Heritage'' and a beautiful architecture poem.
WHEN TO GO
Hue is quiet and charming city in the Central Vietnam. The weather is warm and hot around the year. Visitors can travel to Hue every season to indulgence into the royal beauty.
HOW TO GET THERE
• From Hanoi, there are a wide choice of transportation. You can access to Hue by plane (1hour), by night train (08hours), or by bus (08 - 10 hours). Many Vietnamese people or tourists take the night bus with Open Tour or Sing Café travel agency.
• From Saigon, Hue is accessible by plane (1hour) or by train (1Day).
WHERE TO STAY
Please contact us to book room suitable to your preferences, budget, comfort in Hue.
WHAT TO DO
Hue is rich of sightseeing to explore: Imperial citadel, Forbidden city, royal tombs, ancient pagodas and temples:
Hue Imperial Citadel
Hue's days of glory go back to the early 19th century. It was during this period that Emperor Gia Long planned a huge citadel, which would have three concentric enclosures. In those days, the city must really have been glorious! The glazed yellow and green roof tiles would stand out against the azure sky and verdant vegetation. Closer up, as you made your way past ponds with lotuses in them, you would see beautiful pavilions embellished with the traditional bright red and gilded lacquer. Unfortunately, of the original 148 buildings, only 20 have survived. Entry to the citadel was through the 10 gates in the wall. The visitors entered through the Ngan Gate, east of the flag tower.
The wall has a second moat and another defensive wall inside the citadel. These secured the Imperial City. You can visit it between 6 am and 5.30 pm, and the cost is US $ 3.70. A guide is optional and is made available for US $ 3. The Imperial Citadel has a symmetrical arrangement and is laid out on a north-south axis, just like Beijing's Forbidden City. The most impressive gate is Ngo Mon, which faces south. It was the Imperial City's main entrance and is considered to be a masterpiece of Nguyen architecture.
The gate was huge; it had five entrances. Only the Emperor could enter through the central entrance. There were two gates through which civil and military officials could enter. The other two entrances were for the servants and royal elephants!
At the top of the gate you will see a beautiful pavilion. It is named the Five Phoenix Watchtower, because the nine roofs on its top represent five birds in flight. North of Ngo Mon lies the Thai Hoa Palace which has a fantastic interior with wonderful, red and gold lacquer work. This was the venue for the main ceremonies of the court.
The present building traces its history to 1833, and luckily, it happens to be the only major structure in the Imperial City that did not suffer extensive bomb damage. However, time takes its toll - the 80 ornate ironwood pillars in the throne room were re-lacquered in 1991. Each pillar weighs two tonnes.
Lying north of Thai Hoa Palace is the Forbidden Purple City. With an area of 10 hectares, it was sheltered by a low wall. The Forbidden Purple City was an exclusive enclave of residential palaces. A fire in 1947 destroyed many of them and only a handful remain. Of particular interest are the Left House and Right House, which have been restored. Both these buildings face each other and they are located immediately behind the Thai Hoa Palace, across a courtyard. Civil and military officials would spruce themselves up here before being presented to the Emperor. Incidentally, the Right House will be to your left - the two are named from the viewpoint of the emperor! The Right House has ornate murals and two huge mirrors, magnificently framed.
The Royal Reading Pavilion is towards the northeast. It is a nice, two-tier structure around which are many specimens of bonsai. The Mieu dynastic temple is to the southwest. It is an unpretentious, low building with red lacquer work. In it are 13 altar tables dedicated to the Nguyen emperors.
Thien Mu pagoda
A local legend gives the pagoda its name. It is said that a long time ago, on the hill where the Thien Mu Pagoda has been built now, there appeared an old woman every night. She said that one day, a Lord would build a Buddhist pagoda and this would lead to prosperity in the country. When Lord Nguyen Hoang heard this story, he had the pagoda constructed and it was named the Pagoda of the Heavenly Lady.
The pagoda is located on Ha Khe, which is situated on Perfume River's left bank, in Huong Long village. It is about 5 km from central Hue city. Originally built in 1601, it was renovated by Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan in 1665. Later (in 1710), a huge bell was cast by the order of Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu. It was 2.5m in length and it weighed an enormous 3,285 kg. A 2.58m high stele was placed by him on a marble tortoise's back in 1715.
The kings who contributed to the restoration of the pagoda include Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, and Thanh Thai. King Thieu Tri built the Phuoc Duyen tower, which was called Tu Nhan tower originally, in 1884. This tower is 21m high and this seven-storied structure is octagonal. Particularly magnificent is the Dai Hung shrine which is the main hall.
Here, some precious antiques are also kept besides the bronze cast statues. These include a bronze gong that dates back to 1677 and the 1714 gilded board made of wood with inscriptions attributed to Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu. A room for the bronzes and a guest room for visitors are on both sides of the pagoda. Flowers and ornamental shrubs dominate the forecourt and a romantic pine tree garden is at the rear.
When the pagoda was heavily damaged in 1943, it lay in a bad state till Priest Thich Don Hau organised a massive renovation effort that lasted from 1945 to 1975. The restored magnificence of the pagoda acts as a magnet for tourists from all over the world.
Ngo Mon gate
This is a three-storey gate. It is 58m long, 27.5m wide, 17m high and is the main entrance to the Imperial city. Within the central gate, there are five smaller entrances. The central one was only for the emperor, and the others for people of lesser rank.
The two gates next to the central gate were reserved for court officials. The other two, towards the edges, were used by servants and officials of the court. The Five Phoenix Tower is on top of the arch. This is from where the emperor observed the festivities.
Ceremonies were organised here to announce which candidates had successfully passed in the royal examinations. While the Nguyen Kings ruled Vietnam, the Ngo Mon Gate was reserved for their exclusive use or, as a special case, for certain foreign ambassadors.
Museum of antiquity
Hue's Museum of Antiquity has a wonderful collection of bronze ware, ceramics, chinaware, furniture, royal costumes as well as personal belongings of former Vietnamese emperors. Emperor Thieu Tri built the museum in 1845. The elegant building was called Long An Palace. It was rebuilt in 1909 at its present location, 3 Le Truc Street. It is both a library as well as an office. While the treasures it houses are priceless, the structure itself is very valuable. Of particular importance are wooden panels inscribed with poems and essays penned by Emperor Thieu Tri.
Trang Tien bridge
Though more than 10 bridges that span the Huong River, only one has become the symbol of Hue, the Trang Tien bridge. It was back in 1897 that King Thanh Thai, in the 9th year of his reign, started the construction on this 400m long metal bridge located south east of the Capital. The construction of the bridge concluded in 1899.
In 1904, central Vietnam was devastated by a typhoon. This typhoon broke six out of the eight spans of the bridge. The bridge was made again in 1906, and it has been repaired many times since. Close to the bridge's right gate there used to be little market, Dong Ba, at the Trang Tien wharf. Dong Ba has now become a trading centre of Hue city.
Huong River (Perfume river)
The Perfume River, which is called Huong Giang in Vietnamese, has its two primary sources in the Truong Son mountains. They are the Ta Trach river and Huu Trach river. The Perfume River has a length of 30 km and its current is slow and leisurely because the water and the sea are almost the same level.
The river makes its way to the sea through the villages of Kim Long, Nguyet Bieu, Vy Da, Dong Ba, Gia Hoi and Bao Vinh. Both banks of the river have a magnificent view. The citadel, various gardens, magnificent pagodas and towers as well as temples caste their reflection on the water, inspiring many a poet. Locals attribute the peaceful and tranquil landscapes of Hue to the Perfume River. The imposing and symmetrical Ngu Binh mountain has the Ta Bat Son and Huu Bat Son mountains around it. During the Nguyen Dynasty, it was Emperor Gia Long who had the capital of Hue constructed next to Ngu Binh, to use it as a shield.
Hue, at times called Huong-Ngu city, is indeed blessed with a magnificent landscape. The Perfume River and Ngu Binh mountain make wonderful natural features that highlight the city.
Quoc Hoc Hue (Hue National School)
Quoc Hoc high school was founded following a royal decree issued on September 17, 1896. Subsequently, the French Resident-Superior in Indochina issued a decree on November 18, 1896. A former squadron headquarters of the royal navy became the site for this school.
It was rebuilt in 1915 following a decree annulling the ancient system of examinations in the province and the capital. Rows of thatch-roofed apartments that were in consonance with the local architecture were razed to the ground and instead of them came up two rows of solid, west European-looking buildings with brick walls and a tile-covered roof. You can still see these buildings at the old location.
Temple of Letters
The Temple of Letters is a temple of worship. Scholars of Confucianism are venerated in this temple, which was constructed in 1808 on a low hill near the Thien Mu pagoda, which is on the Huong Giang river's left bank. Everything in the Hue Temple of Letters was made on a 160 m square surface. La Thanh, or a surrounding wall, enclosed the structure.
At one time there was a large structure made up of 50 big and small constructions that included 32 steles which had the names of doctors inscribed on them. There are also four other steles there. Many renovations and structural additions have marked the Temple of Letters, notably in Minh Mang's and Thieu Tri's reigns. The temple is valuable not only from the point of view of history, but also because it helps us to understand Vietnam's ancient tradition, where education, appreciation of knowledge and the veneration of scholars played a pre-eminent role.
Throne Palace is where important court meetings were held. It faces the Noon gate and is on the axis that pierces the centre of the royal citadel. Emperor Gia Long had the palace made in 1805 and a year later, his coronation took place there. In 1833 the palace was moved to a 2.33 m high foundation by Emperor Minh Mang. The palace is 44 m long, 30.5 m across, 11.8 m high and it has a 5-compartment main building that has two bays. The main building is connected with another front building that is a 7-compartment, two-bay structure.
The columns are decorated with red lacquer work and painted with golden dragon motifs. The roof ridge has a design in which two dragons pay homage to the moon. Ornamented eaves and roof corners have beautiful dragon designs. Multicoloured ceramic chips are used as inlays on the eaves. Yellow enamelled tiles cover the roof. The architects of this wonderful Throne Palace have managed to create two features that would normally be contradictory: the interiors are cool in summer and warm in winter.
Solemn ceremonies including the coronation of the emperor and the Crown Prince, the Emperor's birthday's, etc took place at this palace.
Thanh Toan tile-roofed bridge
Thanh Toan tile-roofed bridge fords a canal that flows across the Thanh Toan village. This village is at a distance of 8 km from Hue city, in the eastern direction, and is included under Thuy Thanh commune, Huong Thuy district.
Thanh Toan tile-roofed bridge is an arched structure made of wood, which is 17m in length and has a width of 4m. There are two rows of platforms with low protective barriers on both sides of the bridge, so that those crossing it can rest, or take in the view.
The bridge was built over 200 years ago. Time and elements have taken their toll; it has faced nature's fury in the form of storms and floods and man's destructive capacity in wars. Refurbished in 1991, the bridge is true to its traditional design and is now recognised by the Cultural Ministry as part of the country's heritage.
Hon Chen Temple
The Hon Chen temple stands near the bank of the Perfume river. It is upstream of Hue and is 10km from the city. The temple was built for the Po Nagar sect, a minority community, which worshipped the Goddess of the Cham. The sect continued with Vietnamese followers and the goddess was named Y A Na, the Heaven Goddess.
The centuries-old temple had a simple design, but when it was reconstructed in 1886, it became larger and more attractive. Situated on the slope of the Ngoc Tram mountain on a sheer cliff, the Hon Chen temple makes a lovely sight mirrored in the azure waters of the Perfume river.
Royal Tombs of Nguyen's dynasty
There are eight royal tombs in Hue. This is where the Nguyen Kings were finally laid to rest. Every tomb was meticulously constructed and normally the King had the tomb built in his lifetime. The tombs generally face the southwest direction, so that they look towards the Imperial city.
Every tomb has two sub-sections. The first part is reserved for funeral services while the second one is exclusively for the tomb. Generally, "la thanh", a surrounding rampart, encloses the tomb. At the same time, every tomb is unique in so far that the king's personality and his taste is reflected in the internal arrangements.
Ming Mang King's Tomb
The 18 ha tomb of Minh Mang was built between 1840 and 1843. It is located on a hilly area in Cam Khe village, 12 km from Hue's centre.
Minh Mang tomb is a basic architectural complex comprising 40 big and small buildings. It has palaces, a temple and pavilions. Every building has been placed on a symmetric axis along the Dai Hong gate, which is outside the foot of La Thanh.
Minh Mang tomb is a marvel that evokes painting, poetry and philosophy among the visitors even as it is offset by the rigidity, majestic beauty and symmetry of the architectural elements. Magnificent and formal, the tomb of Minh Mang blends harmoniously with its surroundings.
Tu Duc King's Tomb
The tomb of Tu Duc is located in such a manner that is in perfect symmetry with the Dai Hong gate, which is on Perfume River's bank and is just 8 km from Hue's centre.
Tomb of Modesty, as it is also called, was built between 1864 and 1883. A thick wall that follows the contour of the hill protects the complex which is located in a pine tree forest. Tu Duc's tomb is beautiful and truly romantic, placed as it is in the forest that offsets it magnificent architecture.
Khai Dinh King's Tomb
This tomb was built between 1920 and 1931. It is located in a huge stretch of wilderness on top of the Chau E limestone mountains. It is 10 km from Hue and when you look at it, it seems like a magnificent palace that rests on a mountain's slope. You have to climb 109 stone steps to get to the palace.
While traditional construction materials were used for making other tombs, modern materials such as steel and reinforced concrete were used to build the Khai Dinh mausoleum. A notable feature of the tomb are the splendid porcelain decorations on the walls, columns and ceilings.
Gia Long King's Tomb
The tomb of Gia Long is located 16 km from Hue's centre, at the top of the Thien Tho Mountain. It is on Perfume River's west bank. Gia Long's tomb took six years to complete (1814-1820), and it occupies a large amount of land. Lovely, ancient, pine trees provide a great backdrop to a monumental monument that retains its essential simplicity. A pond with lotus plants is at the front and a big terraced yard divided into three diverse levels at the rear. The first level was used as the waiting area. Two rows of statues of elephants and horses border it.
Dong Khanh King's Tomb
Dong Khanh's tomb lies on land that belonged to the Cu Si hamlet. It is now Thuong Hai village, Thuy Xuan commune, Hue. The tomb was built in 1917. It is a mixture of two styles of architecture, traditional and European.
The worship temple is built according to traditional elements and it therefore has the primary temple and subservient buildings. It has beautiful, traditional red and gilt decorations on time-honoured themes: (i) the four seasons and (ii) four holy animals. The Ngung Hy temple is one of the most well-conserved and finest examples of its kind - it is a palace that has the wonderful red lacquer work embellished with gilt.
The other architectural influence seen in the Dong Khanh tomb is European, and in the tomb area we see a change in the materials used for construction, and even in the decorative models used. Bi Dinh reflects a somewhat Roman influence and even the traditional statues of the guardians of the temple have been made from cement and bricks (instead of the traditionally used stones, carreau bricks and tiles).
Thieu Tri King's Tomb
Thieu Tri died within seven years of his ascending the throne and his tomb was built by his son in an area near Chu Chanh village, which is a part of Thuy Bang commune, at a distance of around 8 km from Hue.
Constructed in 1849, the tomb has the traditional two-part division. In the tomb area is a beautiful bronze gate that leads to a big courtyard called Binh Dai. As you walk past two rows of statues of guardians, you are transported to the 19th century. The crescent that the Nhuan Trach lake forms adds to the richness of the experience.
You walk through a marble gate to go to the temple area, and after you climb three steps, you get to Bieu Duc temple. The main temple has the distinction of having a collection of major works of literary importance contained in word boxes that number more that 450. Set at the base of the Thuan Dao mountain, the tomb makes a powerful statement with its simplicity and the beauty that is inherent in it. The land facing the tomb is flat and offers a grand view of an agriculturally rich area.
Boat trips on the Perfumme River
One of the highlights of touring Hue is to take in the sights on a boat. You can get a tourist-oriented boat at the Dap Da causeway where you can negotiate directly with the sailors, or if you are less adventurous, there is the option of relying on tour agents or hotels, who would not only arrange for the boat tour, but can also arrange for you to be picked up and dropped back to the hotel, if necessary.
As your motorised boat goes past various row boats you will see the Thien Mu Pagoda, the Citadel and the Hon Chen Temple from your platform, or you will sail past various royal tombs. The river tour starts at around US$2 for each person and a group can charter a boat for $ 20-25. Those who love to be off the beaten track can put a bicycle on board, and make their way back to Hue riding a bicycle!
Folk Song performance
Go back into history, to the times of the Nguyen emperors who made Hue a pre-eminent cultural centre. In those days, the artistes would sing and recite poetry for royalty and other high-ranking people from flat-bottomed Chinese wooden boat called sampans on the Perfume River.
Now you too can enjoy that experience of 90-minute performances that are held at night on the river for US $3-5. You must be at Le Loi before 7 pm because boats depart from tourist boat berths there till 8:30 pm. They normally pause at the citadel. For groups, special cruises that offer dinner and traditional folk music can be arranged. At a cost of US $ 30, the Minh-Hai Boat Company (Telephone number: 054/845-060) puts together a package for 15 people. The package is inclusive of the folk music as well as the dinner.
WHERE TO SHOP
You can find hand-made products on Pham Ngu Lao and Chu Van An streets or in the backpacker era.
WHERE TO EAT
1. Hoa Mai restaurant – Huong Giang hotel – 51 Le Loi street, Hue – Tel: 054 3822122
2. Truong Tien 1 Restaurant – 1 Truong Tien street, Hue
3. Phuoc Thanh restaurant – 30 Pham Ngu Lao street, Hue – Tel: 054 3830989
4. Paradise Garden restaurant – 17 Le Loi street, Hue – Tel: 054 3832220/ 3832221
5. Thien Phu – 26 Nguyen Hue street, Hue – Tel : 054 3845112
6. Tinh Gia Vien – 7/28 Le Thanh Ton street, Hue – 054 3522243
7. Cung Dinh restaurant – 38 Nguyen Sinh Sac street, Hue – Tel : 054 3897 202 - 3812 761
8. Thao Nhi restaurant – Citadel road, Hue – Tel : 054 3855037
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