The "Beautiful City"
Long before there was a North and a South, a war, and Communism, there was Hue, the golden capital of a united Vietnam. From 1802 to 1945, the ruling Nguyen lords held court here, inside the Imperial and Purple Forbidden cities. Though a portion of Hue was damaged during the Tet Offensive in 1968, there is no end of treasures in and around the city.
Built by Emperor Gia Long in 1804, the enclosure houses dozens of relics with enchanting names: Gates of Earthly Tranquility, Palace of Supreme Harmony, and Pagoda of the Heavenly Lady. There are also tombs of the royals, whose family history is as rich and sordid as any soap opera, plus pagodas and temples. Of particular note are the Temple of the Jade Cup, whose natural well turns as green as the precious stone when it fills with rainwater, and the Royal Arena, where elephants and tigers once faced off for amusement. While you're there, sample some of the region's best vegetarian meals, cooked by resident monks.
Hue can be reached from Hanoi (19 hours or 434 miles/698 km south) or Saigon (25 hours or 682 miles/1097 km north) by train, bus (local or express), or plane. The city is divided into two sections: the centuries-old Citadel that rings a complex of imperial buildings and temples, and the newer commercial center across the Perfume River, where most of the hotels and restaurants reside. Tickets are required to enter the Citadel, and most of the temples have entrance fees. For a different perspective, hail a water taxi or hire a dragon boat to take you to the sites upstream.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication