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24 hours in Hue

Hue, pronounced as ‘hway’, once the Capital city of Vietnam and home to the Nguyen ancestry is located centrally on the bank of the Huong River. Hue’s unique history is resonated through its complex of temples and pagodas but most influential, the Imperial City. Although many historic structures were destroyed during the Vietnam war, the city’s charm still remains.

Our story

Personally we only stayed a short time in Hue and could have potentially stayed another night but we were keen to move on South after spending more time in the North than predicted.

Whilst staying in Hue for 24 hours Tom was witness to the football final of the Vietnam U23’s vs Uzbekistan U23’s in January 2018. It was a surreal atmosphere and even though Vietnam lost 2-1 in extra time the celebrations were amazing. Sharing beers with the locals in a truly immersive experience was unforgettable. Imagine a highway being completely filled with motorcycles waving flags, singing and chanting supporting their home country. It was something you could never forget. Hundreds of people riding the streets of Hue. I (Tom) actually rode on the back of one of the motorcycles with the locals weaving the streets, attempting to sing their national anthem. In hindsight not the most sensible thing to do, but it was in the moment right?!

hue football

Mandy’s stay in Hue also acted as a pitstop staying less than 24 hours. We 100 percent did not experience Hue the way it is meant to. Although this is the case Vietnam is covered in remarkable destinations and you have to sacrifice some in order to finish the country in a month long visa.

Top 5 things to do in Hue:

1) Hue Imperial City

If you’re looking to immerse yourself into the history of Vietnam and learn about the Nguyen Emperors that once ruled the country then look no further. The Imperial Citadel today is just a shadow of what it once was with parts being destroyed during 1947, when the French army shelled the buildings, removing or destroying nearly all treasures it contained. Most of the buildings in the Forbidden City were destroyed by fire during this time and later the Tet Offensive in 1968 (a major escalation and one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War) created more destruction. This is worth remembering when walking around the 6km space of the Citadel, as less than a third of the structures inside still remain. 

hue imperial city

Although not the most impressive photo at all, Hue’s Imperial City is still spectacular secured inside huge brick walls, ten metres thick in places. Renovation work has restored several of its UNESCO World Heritage Site buildings to their previous glory. The massive complex features a huge number of monuments and ruins, some of the most fascinating, the Forbidden Purple City, royal tombs and the Noon Gate entrance.

Opening Hours: Daily 07:00 – 17:00

Location: Hue City Centre, Hue

Price Range: 150,000 VND (approximately 5 GBP & Euros) 

The price combines visits to both Hue Imperial City and the Museum of Royal Antiquities. The Imperial Citadel also hosts daily cultural performances at 09:00, 10:00, 14:30 and 15:30. 

2) Abandoned Water Park

The Ho Thuy Thien abandoned waterpark is an eerie discovery to be made by exploration. Looking like it could be the set for the next American Horror Story TV series, the abandoned waterpark is a popular photography spot with disused waterslides and empty pools overgrown with jungle flora. 2 years after its original plans were drawn up in 2004 estimating a cost of 70 billion dong ($30m) the tourist destination closed its doors for good. What was once tipped as the region’s go-to tourist attraction was never opened. Now, supposedly a cursed waterpark it has become a crumbling playground for the more adventurous backpackers. Please be aware your travel insurance will definitely not cover any accidents in this region! Off the beaten track galore. 

hue waterpark

When hunting down the abandoned waterpark you will find a security guard at the front gate who will not admit entrance because it is a health and safety risk. Although this is the case his allegiance as a health and safety officer can be dissuaded by a small sum of Vietnamese Dong, around 10,000 should do (around 33 pence or 36 cents).

Is it just me or is this security guard going to be a Vietnamese millionaire soon? It strikes me as the story much like Bristol Zoo’s (UK) parking steward who organised all parking outside the zoo grounds and suddenly retired. As the parking at the zoo fell into disarray the local government and zoo argued at who was in charge of replacing the steward. It was later found that neither had given this steward a job and he went there off his own back every day, taking all parking money as pure profit. Genius!

Covered in graffiti and overgrown flora and fauna the waterpark’s eerie existence may soon be unable to explore. If you’re into off the beaten track exploring this is a must for you! 

hue waterpark 2

3) Hải Vân Pass

The Hải Vân Pass is a 20 kilometre strip of road that links Hue to the Southern city of Da Nang. Ride further south and you will hit Hoi An. The scenic mountain pass is popular with motorcycle riders for its panoramic views & ruins at the summit. This is the perfect opportunity to ride your motorcycle or jump on the back of one as a tour which can be taken from Hue. We highly recommend this tour option if you are not confident riding your own motorcycle as it offers local knowledge and stops at places you would never think of. This can be booked once again from your hostel/hotel reception, a wonderful integration that Vietnam provides across the country. Read more about the Hải Vân Pass in our blog, Hải Vân Pass – One of the most scenic mountain passes in Vietnam.

hai van pass

4) DMZ and the Vinh Moc Tunnels

DMZ stands for the Vietnamese Demilitarised Zone established as a dividing line between North and South Vietnam from 1954 to 1976. During the Vietnam War the DMZ was in fact where some of the most brutal battles of the war took place. Hue was home to some of the fiercest fighting during the 1968 Tet offensive campaign. If wartime history is what fascinates you then you must discover the battleground demarcation line between the Communist North and free South. 

To put into perspective how brutal the war was, the Quang Tri province located alongside the DMZ was one of the most heavily bombed areas in military history. More bombs were dropped here than all of Germany during World War 2. This still remains as a huge problem to date, as many of these bombs landed without exploding and therefore detonate when locals approach.

The Vinh Moc Tunnels were developed by the villagers of Vinh Moc as protection against the intense bombing from the American forces. The villagers eventually moved to a depth of 30 metres where no bombs could affect them. The complex eventually grew to include kitchens, rooms for each family and spaces for healthcare. 

The tunnels were home to approximately sixty families, one with as many as 17 children were born inside these tunnels. It is hard to fathom how the villagers dug these tunnels and recommend having a guide telling the stories of the villagers that once lived here.

5) Perfume River

The Huong River gets its name the ‘Perfume River’ after flowing through many forests of aromatic plants before reaching the city of Hue. It brings what is said to be a pure and fresh aroma. The Huong River is the perfect place to take a boat ride and admire its poetic beauty. It is the pride of Hue citizens often compared to as a gift from nature.
With a total length of 80km, the river originates as hundreds of streams in the Truong Son mountains. Eventually the river embraces the Imperial Citadel and then meanders further through Hue. A must see when visiting, as recommended mostly by the citizens of Hue. 



Finally, let’s talk about accommodation. It is estimated that a 3 star hotel would set you back £12 and a 5 star upwards to £50. If you do your searching around you are bound to find a bargain!

We chose to stay in a hostel as we were backpacking making it far easier to meet new people and hear travel stories impacting our next destination.

Travelling Translated

Travelling Translated

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