Vietnam, Hue: Imperial City
Our journey continued to Hue (Huế), the former capital of Vietnamese emperors situated in the central Vietnam.
Tired of heat and train we were really grateful for the hostel owner to pick us up at the train station. He even offered us a bike to rent for an affordable price. Breakfast was included in the price for the accommodation. We quickly also found out that there was a restaurant just around the corner and they made the best pho (phở) soup. A bit further there was a stand selling outstanding ice cream. The paradise on earth.
Some couple of minutes later I doubted by thoughts on paradise. It was during our walk in the city. In 1993 the city became UNESCO protected sight (among the first sights in Vietnam). There is really a lot to see. First, we were heading to the Imperial City.
Since 19th century until the end of the WII Hue had been home to emperors. The last Vietnamese dynasty Nguyen ruled from there. The city’s construction began in 1805. Tens of thousands had worked on it for thirty years. Three hundred palaces, temples, and other buildings that cover 500 hectares were built beyond its 7-meter wall.
An unsuccessful attempt to enter the city break our thoughts on history. The system of entering the city was far from simple. But it is hardly a new thing – Ngọ Môn entrance gate has five entrances. Only emperor could enter through the middle one which is the largest. The other two on the sides were used by officials and the two entrances on the edges were used for soldiers, horses, and elephants.
We were heading toward the imperial throne right away. It is in the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Thái Hòa). The most important ceremonies were held there. Diplomats were received here. Emperor’s birthday was celebrated. The emperor met his dignitaries in other place – the Left and Right houses. The Imperial Theater is also an interesting building.
Huge bronze pots caught our attention. They were placed on a huge yard (just in front of the Eternal Purity pavillion ). They are no longer used today. Before, however, these pots were used for ceremonies. The largest of them is truly heavy – 2.5 tons. Despite the pots are empty today, we can still observe how thoughtfully they were made.
Many tourists roam inside the former imperial city. Therefore, you can hardly enjoy atmosphere of the past. Should you have some time to spare for a walk in the evening then go outside the wall surrounding the city for there are many locals enjoying cool breeze on velvet-smooth grass. They talk, eat and realax.
However, we did not intend to idle. Emperors’ tombs around Hue was our plan for the following day.
GPS: 16°28'11.9"N 107°34'36.4"E
Text and photos: Hana Bašová
Nha Trang is practically the most famous tourist resort in Vietnam, not so much for some landmarks, this coastal city of Khanh Hoa province is famous for its seven kilometers long sandy beach with adjacent islands. The city of approximately 392,000 inhabitants and this number is growing steadily.
I have always longed to see a large desert with sand dunes. However, neither in Europe nor in Southeast Asia (the places where I spend most of my time) is one. Once I first saw pictures of Mui Ne, Vietnam I knew for sure that I want to go there. Okay, it is not a desert per se but sand dunes there are huge.
The end of my stay in Vietnam was neigh. There was one more place to see, a must-see place. The Caodaistic temple. Caodaismus (Đạo Cao Đài) is a young, syncretic religion established by a bureaucrat from South Vietnam in the 1920s.
Da Nang (a city almost in the geographic center of Vietnam) is largely unknown. Which is unfortunate. An average tourist usually passes by there in a taxi on his way from the airport to his favorite Hoi An hotel…. I spent three weeks in Da Nang. And the city got on the list of my favorite places in Southeast Asia (right next to Chiang Mai). In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson called the old road to Hue as the “abandoned fragment of perfection.” I absolutely agree.
Omnipresent honking, grandmas pulling bikes with flowers, Vietnamese sitting on small chairs, food, bikes, wires, bikes, French cafes, bikes with food, bikes with chairs, bike transporting part of another bike… Welcome to Hanoi! It is a city crazy beyond believe. You either love it or you hate it eternally.
Last year already, we brought you a video of the "wedding" town of Dat Lat, Vietnam. Our reporteur made a return there to ride down one of the best roads in Vietnam for a road trip on motorbike.
Vietnam is no destination where climbers would travel intentionally. Yet once you are there you should try its climbing areas. We travelled to Cat Ba island which I highly recommend to any climber.
Do you think which destination is the right one for you? Where is something interesting and unusual? Where you can find beautiful landscape, excellent cuisine, and pleasant locals? Well, I know where to go. My favorite place is... Vietnam and I will try to convince you in the next few articles that even for you this is the right choice.
Upon our arrival and first impressions of Vietnam, we take a tour of Hanoi. The guide first takes us to Ba Dinh Square, which is famous especially for Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
There are many places how to travel in the country. I have prepared for you a small summary with some recommendations.
One day trip to the Bach Ma National Park, approximately 40 kilometers from Hue, was one of our best days in Vietnam. The park was founded in 1991 and its name means a white horse. It covers an area of 220 square kilometers.
Approximately 7-14 kilometers from Hue, there are 6 imperial tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty, at least some of which are worth a visit. Various excursions are organized, but even a taxi can be hiredfor a few cents.
In the region of Sa Pa, northwestern Vietnam, the best means of transport is a bike. You don’t have to worry about missing your bus, of taxi not coming, or that your taxi cab driver would be someone who drives illegally. Therefore, we rented us a bike in Sa Pa. It cost only a few crowns. Then we planned our trip.
When someone in Prague says “Sapa” everybody recalls the famous marketplace in Prague. However, once you dig into where the name originates you soon find the mysterious area of Sa Pa in Vietnam’s northwest (near the borderline with China).
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is often regarded economic heart of Vietnam. It is not as hold as Hanoi (Hà Nội) but still it has some magic.
Even though the title suggest some offensive connotations we were did not intend to disgrace royal tombs as if we were in an action movie. A rented bike, however, solved our problems. The tombs around Hue are scattered along vast area. Before relying on public transportation it is better to pay couple of crowns to rent a bike.
The last day was before us in Hue, the picturesque imperial city. In the early morning we hit the streets and just roamed around in the city. Indeed, we saw one of the most distinctive sights in the city - the Trường Tiền bridge across the Perfume River.
We reached Hanoi (Hà Nội in Vietnamese) by train, again. Friends had been waiting for us at the train station already. Hospitable as they were they took us on their bikes to their place. Founded in the 11th century, Hanoi’s original name was Thăng Long – Soaring Dragon. The legend says the emperor saw a dragon soaring at this place so he founded the city there.
Someone loves it. Someone swears to not to come again. There is nothing in between. I am with the first group. From the first day on in Saigon, a hectic city, and I turned into a side street. We are about to introduce you to a new series where we tell you about interesting places in the city and the country. First of all, let’s talk some important facts about the country.
Upon an hour of waiting for a visa I was free to explore the capital of the country I really looked forward to exploring. First of all, I somehow let a cab driver to make a 300 crown rip off. Sometimes things like this happen. But honestly – this happens in Prague as well. Aboard the airplane I could see streets where millions of bikes stream in all directions. And “down” here the traffic is even more crazy. If I compare Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok, a city of comparable size, in the former there are much less traffic jams. One must add that there is no subway, or rail that would go above the ground. It seems that high taxes on car is working.
Upon we explore Hanoi a bit we planned to see other places which are must see in the capital. The first one was the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh).
As much as I hate to travel by bus, I would repeat the ride from Nha Trang and Da Lat. The former is the city of two hundred thousand. It is the most popular spot to spend honeymoon at in Vietnam. It is situated at 1500 meters in the Central Highlands. You can enjoy a number of great views while on the road. And it gets even better on bike …
On the following day we set off to Hoi An (Hội An . It was during the daylight and also it didn’t rain. The sun was pleasantly shining and warm. We reached the historical center by foot and were ready for some great sightseeing (even the one in the night had its atmosphere).
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.
I was feeling like travelling in China when I was on my way to Hoi An – “there is going to be this yellow bus. It will take you there“.
Recently was thru internet voting selected the new seven natural wonders of the world. Most information on these remarkable localities in the Czech Internet dismissed several photographs, but we will in our “Do you know that” – serial will try to say something more about the places that you did not receive his reputation by accident.
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