April 29th 2019
Here’s to another spectacular day of sightseeing and exploring Hue, central Vietnam, care of Intrepid tours! We progressed from adventure to adventure throughout the Hue area on the back of a 125 cc motorcycle driven by a local guide.
Some of the highlights included: 18th century covered bridge, local markets, 17th century active Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda, a dragon boat cruise down the Perfume River, lunch at a nunnery, the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, and a dinner together in the home of a local Vietnamese family who were close friends of our guide.
All these experiences were magnified by the fact we had been lucky enough to be in Vietnam during their Re-unification National Holiday! Let the adventure unfold…
After admiring the view of Hue “Hway ” from our hotel window in the early morning, we met our “Tiger Team” in the lobby of the Gold I Hotel 28 Ba Trieu St . Just at the base of the staircase, we met our local motorcycle drivers for our day of adventure!
Yesterday was Cyclos… Today we had more speed on our whooping 125cc motorcycles! Before we commenced, Jay led us through a safety lesson 😉. As the day progressed, I discovered my driver spoke some English… “Hello” and “quack quack” (each time we passed duck farms!) I practiced my survival Vietnamese, “Xin chao” (Hello) and “Cam on” (thank you). We mutually recited “quack quack” whenever we passed flocks of ducks!
After a quick tour through Hue a city of over 455,000, we were off heading towards Thanh Toan.
Hue is in central Vietnam and was the national capital from 1802–1945. It’s history includes the Nguyen Dynasty Emperors. A major attraction from this era is the 19th Century Dai Noi Citadel (built between 1804–1833) which was heavily fortified including a moat and 2m thick stone walls. Inside the Citadel is the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Imperial city with palaces, shrines, and memories of a past existence and royal history in spite of extensive damage due to several horrific wars.
Here is a video showing highlights of our day exploring Hue on the backs of 12 motorcycles!
We took our first stretch break by the rice fields and duck ponds dodging a tractor which happened to cross the narrow back road as we were chatting together. We continued on our adventure to Thanh Toan where many local Vietnamese were visiting the 18th century famous bridge, the market, and the neighboring village.
Thanh Toan Bridge is situated at Thuy Thanh commune, Huong Thuy district. It is 8km east of Hue. We enjoyed observing fishing boats, lanterns and decorations, and the Vietnamese version of BINGO which was very upbeat and energetic with its chanting and drumming excitement. The market was fairly small.. but very diverse and traditional..
People dressed in traditional clothing were being photographed beside the famous covered bridge.
The bridge was built in the time of Emperor Le Hien Tong from the mid 18th century. Tran Thi Dao, the wife of one of the emperor’s high ranking courtiers, who grew up in the area, provided the money to build it. The tiled roof makes it quite unique for its age and it spans an irrigation channel.
Although this site was included in our tour the entrance fee is normally 30,000 Vietnamese Dong/person.
Our next stop was the Buddhist monastery of Thien Mu Pagoda. 4 km southwest of the Citadel on a hill overlooking the Perfume (Huong) River you can locate this Pagoda.
Thien Mu Pagoda was constructed in 1844 under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri and is known for its unique 21m high octagonal tower. It is also renowned as the location which houses the car of a former monk who drove to Saigon in 1963 to set himself alight to protest the poor treatment of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese regime.
As you can tell from the slow movements of the people and the multiple sun umbrellas and hand fans in the video, the temperature was oppressive–hitting nearly 40 degrees while we were walking around the grounds.
Happily, our next adventure was a dragon boat cruise down the Perfume River before eating a vegetarian lunch at a nunnery.
As a previous member of a dragon boating team in Canada….this was a fun excursion (although we weren’t paddling and getting soaked in the process!). There were merchants on board promoting the sale of intricate pop up cards, wooden toothpick bookmarks, and other souvenirs.
Time for a break from the sun while eating a delicious vegetarian lunch at the Nunnery.
Back on the motorcycles for our final destination of this tour–the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc located 5 km south of Hue. This elaborate, beautiful and expansive tomb was constructed between 1864–1867 and designed by the benefactor himself.
Tu Duc is the longest-reigning Nguyen Emperor on record. Although he had over a hundred wives and concubines, he was unable to father a son (some information indicates it is possible he became sterile after contracting smallpox).
This mausoleum also known as Khiêm Tomb, was built with the intention that Emperor Tu Duc would use it both before and after his death.
In addition to the extravagance of his mausoleum, the Emperor is remembered because he demanded forced labor during its construction.
It’s so disheartening and surreal seeing bullet holes and damage from bombs intertwined with such magnetic detail and artistic beauty.
Back on the motorcycles…It’s time to return to Hue and air conditioning in our Hotel!
Tonight we have another special event planned…Our amazing guide, Jay, has organized an authentic home visit with a family in the Hue area. We all assisted with money to buy the groceries and the family will be cooking an authentic Vietnamese dinner hosted in their own home.
Here is a short video of our host family and our lovely meal sharing and learning about different cultures.
We are all so grateful for this wonderful experience. Another full and amazing day! I loved Hue! Tomorrow we travel through mountains and beaches to our next destination Hoi An, Central Vietnam.