Hue was the imperial capital of Vietnam (1802–1945) until the Communist government took over and moved the capital to Hanoi. The city has a sleepy feel to it and houses many ancient ruins and temples, including the overpriced and not so mind blowing citadel. We had heard from other backpackers that it was an ok destination to visit if we had time to spare.
So, why did we come here you ask?
Eight years ago, I met David (a Czech national) at the boarder crossing from Thailand to Laos. We sat together on the bus and chatted for the 8 long dusty hours of the ride. I got off the bus before him to do some trekking and he continued on. We said the typical “hope to see you again” without knowing that 5 days later we would randomly meet while I was walking in another city. We shared a hotel room, exchanged movies from our hard drives, and talked about photography and the road. I never forgot those days. David has been living in South East Asia for about 8 years, moving from country to country while he translates English books to Czech—pretty sweet gig.
So when I got a message from him telling me that he currently lives in Hue, well, it was a no-brainer.
The ancient citadel in Hue is indeed a little overpriced and, although there are renovations currently undergoing, is a little disappointing. We checked it out while we were waiting for David and that’s when the fun began.
Entrance to the citadel
One of the halls that has been renovated
“You ride motorbikes right Simon?”, David asked.
I have driven motorbikes before (scooters and semiautomatic bikes to be exact) but not since my last trip to Asia and NOT in Vietnam traffic!
“Of course” I said (gulp).
Fortunately, I quickly remembered how to operate the “heavy machinery” and Tracy and I were cruising through the streets following David. He took us to enjoy one of Hue’s local secret treats: a home made slushy packed with fresh fruit, condensed milk, and peanut butter! We talked and quickly reconnected with David and met his lovely Vietnamese wife Binh.
Hue is also known for its “royal” cuisine that was tailored to the king’s desires, really not a bad thing when it comes to food! They took us to a very local place (AKA you need a Vietnamese speaker to order anything), and enjoyed some of the most delicious treats imaginable. The cuisine is famous for its various kinds of deconstructed dumplings, filled with shrimp paste, pork rind, and/or vegetables. Binh ordered the whole array, each with its own specific dipping sauce, presentation (wrapped in banana leaf, sticky, soft) and way to eat. Needless to say, we feasted.
Deconstructed dumpling with pork rind and shrimp paste
This one comes wrapped in a banana leaf. Also, notice the clear shape of North America!
To perfectly finish the night, they brought us to a lovely tea house where we relaxed and talked for a few hours.
Next day, with my biker confidence boosted up, we rented our own motorbike and headed to see some of the ancient royal tombs that Hue is also famous for. There are many different ones, spread across many kilometers, and so we chose to only visit the main one. It was fantastic. A whole complex of perfectly maintained buildings, lakes, and temples serve as the mausoleum for only one person. That’s passing away in style!
We enjoyed Hue, its local secrets, and the company of David and Binh but it was time to move on to our next destination.