Hue is a must city to visit in Central Vietnam. It is rich in history and culture. If you are a history buff and a culture junkie like myself, this place is your cup of tea. Hue was once the ancient imperial city, back to the days, when Central Vietnam was ruled by emperor specifically the Nguyen Dynasty.
Since I stayed in Hoi-an, I joined the group tour for a day tour in Hue. We left Hoi-an around 8AM. On our way to Hoi-an, we pass the Hai Van Pass. Hai Van is a mountain road which takes you up and down, which has a panoramic view of the place. Most drivers, stop at the viewpoint of the Hai Van pass, you have a bird’s eye view of the place.
A must see in Hue
Visiting Hue without dropping at the Imperial Citadel, it means you have never been to Hue. This attraction is the magnet to the tourist. The citadel was where the Emperors reigned the country from 1805 until 1945. It is a walled fortress and equipped with ramparts that run for two kilometers on each side, and are surrounded by a moat. Inside the citadel, is another citadel where the emperor’s family stayed. Unfortunately, much of the citadel was devastated during the World War II, but restoration is ongoing now.
Ngo Mon Gate
This is a colossal structure that greets you the moment you enter the citadel. This serves as the viewing point of the royal families during ceremonies.
The flag tower
Opposite the Ngo Mon Gate is the flag tower. This was built during the reign of Gia Long.
Palace of Supreme Harmony
Directly in line with the Ngo Mon Gate along the Hue Citadel’s central axis, The Throne Palace can be reached after walking 330 feet across a bridge known as the Trung Dao (Central Path) which crosses a pond known as the Thai Dich (Grand Liquid Lake).
Immediately after crossing the bridge, you’ll step onto the Great Rites Court, where mandarins assembled to pay homage to the emperor. The lower half, further away from the Throne Palace, was reserved for village elders and lower-ranking ministers. The upper half of the court was reserved for high-ranking mandarins. (www.tripsavvy.com)
Palace of Supreme Harmony was the nerve center for the Emperor’s court during its heyday. Built in 1805 by Emperor Gia Long, the Throne Palace was first used in 1806 for the emperor’s coronation.
Over the years, the Throne Palace became the preferred setting for the Empire’s most important ceremonies, like the Coronations of Emperors and Crown Princes, and receiving foreign ambassadors. High meetings of the state were also conducted at the Throne Palace.
The Throne Palace was built to accommodate such pomp and circumstance: the building is 144 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 38 feet tall, supported by lacquered-red columns entwined with gilded dragons. Over the throne hangs a carved board bearing Chinese characters reading “Palace of Supreme Harmony”.
The Royal Reading Room
Thai Binh Lau was first built by Emperor Thieu Tri between 1841 and 1847. The Emperor Khai Dinh later restored the temple in 1921, and civil authorities continued restoration efforts in the early 1990s. In the old days, the Emperors used to retire to Thai Binh Lau to read books and write letters.
Dien Tho Palace
It was built in 1804 as the Queen Mother’s home and audience hall, the importance of the building grew in proportion with the Queen Mother’s growing influence in Vietnamese affairs. The palace was partially damaged during the wars of the 20th century but experienced significant renovation between 1998 and 2001.
It was built in 1825, and after the fall of the monarchy, it was forgotten. In 1996 it was revived by the government and has been added to Hue College of Art. It recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage.
Tomb of Khai Dinh
This tomb is very impressive. The Emperor Khai Dinh worked with the French government and traveled to European countries. It is evident and manifested that his tomb is influenced by European architecture. The tomb was built on the side of the mountain. It is a five-tier tomb. The entrance is facing the street, you must take the stairs to reach the first-tier. Upon reaching the first-tier, honour guards greeted you, standing both sides.
I took the stairs until I reached the fifth tier, where the Khai Dinh Palace is situated. The enthroned life-sized statue of Emperor is located inside the palace. The walls and the ceilings are decorated with ceramic mosaic.
Thien Mu Pagoda
The Thien Mu Pagoda (also called the Linh Mu Pagoda) is a historical pagoda located at the banks of the Perfume River in the historic city of Hue. The pagoda’s name translates to “Heavenly Lady”, referring to a legend that an old woman had appeared on the hill, telling the locals about a Lord who would build a pagoda on that very site. http://www.tripsavvy.com
When Hue’s governor Lord Nguyen Hoang passed through and heard about the legend, he decided to fulfill the prophecy himself. In 1601, he ordered the construction of Thien Mu pagoda, at that point a rather simple structure, which was added on to and improved by his successors.
Buddhist followers wanted to see the old car where Thich Quang Duc drove to Saigon in 1963, he got out of his car and sat in the cross-legged position on the ground and meditated while his fellow monks doused him in petrol and set fire to his body. He did that as a sign of protest against the anti- Buddhist regime. This story is famous around the world because the monk’s heart was not burned.
Phuoc Duyen Tower is the most striking structure in the Thien Mu Pagoda. It is an octagonal seven-level pagoda, standing on the hill, the tower is visible from a distance. This seven-level pagoda is dedicated to Buddha who appeared in human form.