It isn’t often an entire city makes it on to UNESCO’s World Heritage list, but Hue is one such exception. UNESCO’s mission is to encourage international cooperation for the conservation of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. Hue made the list in 1993 and has since brought an endless flow of tourists to the small city where history buffs and curious tourists can see pieces of what imperial Vietnam used to look like.
Hue was established as the capital of unified Vietnam back in 1802 and acted as the political, cultural and religious centre until 1945. Located on the shore of the Perfume River, Hue has a number of attractions that prove the city’s historical importance and offer visitors a rare look into the past. Cover-More has compiled a guide to help point out some of the more popular UNESCO spots along with one or two that you may have otherwise overlooked.
Today, the Thai Hoa Palace is used for official receptions and other important court ceremonies, but back in the day, this area and the surrounding gardens were reserved for the emperor’s private use. The palace is a spacious hall where the emperor would sit during state occasions. He sat on an elevated throne that faced visitors as they entered his Imperial City via the Ngo Mon Gate. While you can’t take photos while visiting, there is an impressive display that will give you an overview of the entire Citadel and its grounds.
The best way to see the city is from perhaps its most important geographic contribution—the Perfume River. By creating the city here, Hue could easily access the open seas and conduct business via the waterways. Today, it doesn’t offer as much in the way of military strategy and protection, but it does remain beautiful. Regardless of the weather, this body of water will inspire you. Sunny days see colourful boats constantly navigating the waters for people, while overcast or rainy days still have their merit as the crowds of travellers drop off a bit and you can get a different view of the Perfume River.
The Imperial Enclosure
The Imperial Enclosure is essentially a citadel within another citadel. It’s where the emperor had his residences, temples and palaces, as well as some of the main state buildings. Today, there isn’t much to see as it’s mostly in ruins—it was bombed extensively during the Vietnam War and a mere 20 of the original 150 buildings are still standing. Expect plenty of broken masonry and cracked tiling as you work your way around the enclosure.
This is the main entrance to the Imperial Enclosure. The central passageway was marked by bright yellow doors and only the emperor was allowed to use this entrance. If you were a visitor, you would have had to use the gates to either side of Ngo Mon Gate and take the paths around the ponds inside to visit with the emperor. Located on the top of the gate is Ngu Phung or, the “Belvedere of the Five Phoenixes.” This was the site of many important occasions, when the emperor would appear to the crowds. It is also the spot where the Nguyen dynasty ended in 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated the throne to a delegation that had been sent from Ho Chi Minh City.
If your head is spinning with all the things you’ll see when visiting the complex of Hue monuments, then waste no time! Book your tickets now, and choose an international travel insurance policy that will back up your investments and keep you going while in Vietnam.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Francisco Anzola