July 1, 2020
The city of Hue is referred to as the intellectual, cultural and spiritual heart of Vietnam. Palaces and pagodas, tombs and temples, culture and history are just a few things that describe this town, another Vietnamese UNESCO World Heritage Site. It functioned as the capital of the country until 1945. During the Vietnam War, it was repeatedly destroyed by both sides, as it was on the border between the north and the south. The city is very extensive. The Perfume River flows through it. Our first goal for today is located on its other bank. We rent bikes, which give us yet another perspective and dimension on travelling.
The Citadel dominates over the city - palace, which owes its fame to its magnificent royal past. Construction started in 1804 and was completed around 1833, making it one of the largest imperial mansions in Asia. The Citadel was protected by a number of fortifications. The headquarter of the imperial family was located behind the ramparts forming the heart of the Citadel, also known as the Forbidden City. Only members of the family and the service of the Emperor could dwell here. Today it is open to the public. Unfortunately, a large part of the building was destroyed during the Vietnam War. However, palaces and buildings that have been restored are making a great impression on us. You can also see a video, an animation showing the reconstruction of the Forbidden City. It shows how beautiful and impressive it once was.
There is also a corner dedicated to Polish architects led by Kazimierz Kwiatkowski, who had a very large contribution to the reconstruction and maintenance work of the monuments. It is worth mentioning that this project was co-financed by the Polish government.
Our next goal is the Thien Mu Pagoda, 4 kilometers along the river. At the entrance to the pagoda stands a 21-meter tower consisting of seven floors. The surroundings are equally impressive: beautiful gardens and a temple where prayers are held. Also you can see monks absorbed in their daily chores in the garden. The pagoda itself is situated right by the river, with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
Even though we come back to the hotel during rush hour, cycling is safe and very enjoyable. After a quick shower we go to the city to find some more specialties. We find the Mandarin Cafe. Mr. Cu, the owner, welcomes guests in the doorway. He is a photographer with a passion and decorates the restaurant’s walls with his work. While waiting for the meal, he shows us an album with his pictures. They depict life and nature of Vietnam. They are really beautiful. The food in the restaurant is equally good and at affordable prices. We highly recommend this place. When leaving, the host makes sure that everything was OK and he hands us his photograph converted into a postcard.
The next day. We start slowly. On our list is only one place to visit, another pagoda. Today we also leave Hue. The bus is at 4:30 pm, which means we have plenty of time to relax.
After breakfast, we check out the room, leave the backpacks at the front desk and head to discover another pagoda. This walk takes us about an hour. Dieu De Pagoda National is not as astonishing. I do not think it is set to be visited by tourists. The interior one could only see through the glass door, but hey – not all have to be for show.
On the way back we observe how local life goes on. We pass the market, on which probably you can buy everything 😉 We get a few small things and go back to the hotel. After 4:00 pm, the bus takes us to another bus stop, from where we will travel to the town of Dong Hoi. The bus arrives about an hour late and after considerable confusion during loading luggage, we finally take seats.
Travelling passes calmly, although it seems the driver forgot to let us get off in the city center. We are forced to take a taxi, as we have no idea where we are, and it is late too. We pull up to the hotel and luckily get a space in an 8-person room. We exchange information with our roommates and slowly go to sleep. We are very excited, as tomorrow we are going to visit a very spectacular place!
“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” – Freya Stark