Hue – Tomb of Minh Mang
Situated about half way between Hanoi and Saigon lies the old Imperial Capital of Hue, this was the seat of the Nguyễn Dynasty, between 1802 to 1945.
The centre piece of the town is the Citadel/ Imperial city, and despite extensive damage from the American War, its well worth a visit. Reconstruction is well underway, but its easy to imagine how life there must have been.
Also on the north bank of the river is the Thien Mu Pagoda, with a main pagoda facing the river, there are further buildings to the back and some pleasant courtyards.
Hue is also noted for the tombs of the Emperors, which lie outside of town – scattered to the south. One of the easiest to visit, and the most spectacular, is the Tomb of Minh Mang; this tomb can be reached via river from the centre of Hue, the journey takes about 2 hours each way and is bout $24 for 2 people on a boat. There is a massive oversupply of riverboats so negotiate your rate and where you want to stop – you can easily incorporate Thien Mu Pagoda on the way back.
‘Tomb’ doesn’t really do the place justice; its a series of buildings and courtyards leading through landscaped gardens with lakes and bridges to the eventual resting place: an underground city, with the Emperor at the centre. Its a very peaceful and beautiful location and should not be missed.
There seem to be a lot of tombs across Vietnam – tho not on this scale – everywhere we went there seemed to be graves, some quite elaborate. These were down by the beach area in Hue, but they seemed to be placed almost anywhere: rice fields, side of roads…
The weather is Hue is notably poor – the mountains to the south trap clouds apparently. It was reasonable when we were there in March, but it was cool and always felt damp.
Hue is a very touristy place and most of the hotels and tourist restaurants are on the south side of the river, across from the citadel area. Much of the market seems to be aimed at backpackers and I found the food to be limited and tame. There is a large outdoor restaurant on the north side of the Iron Bridge that seems to be aimed at Vietnamese – this has a wider and more interesting menu selection. Some street food options are worth a risk.
Heading south from Hue is the town and lagoon of Lang Co, the main industry here is seafood and there are many restaurants built over the lagoon. Well worth a stop if you can. Lang Co is at the foot of the Hai Van Pass and tunnel. The tunnel connects to Danang – one of the fastest growing cities in Vietnam – so Lang Co is now a viable lunch destination for Danang dwellers.
Through the tunnel or over the Hai Van Pass you enter southern Vietnam and the weather improves. The coast from Danang to Hoi An (some 40km) is undergoing massive development; with most major hotel chains represented – this is going to be a huge destination in the coming years. More details on the Hoi An page.