I don’t know if we were just on a bit of a comedown after the high of having our best pals visit, but Hue was a little subdued for us, despite offering a lot of great day trips to surrounding ancient temples and citadels. It didn’t help that it was pretty rainy and grey during our time there, and we spent a fair whack of time comfort-eating in our hotel room and having long hot baths to try and make ourselves feel better!
Town itself wasn’t exactly the ‘beautiful Imperial town’ that the Lonely Planet describes, and we found it pretty industrial and overdeveloped after pretty Hoi An, but there is pretty Perfume River that runs through town, which we walked along and visited a pretty underwhelming pagoda.
The real star attraction for us was the Citadel, which is a stunning city-within-a-city, and – although heavily bombed by the US – still retains many of its original features, including palaces, ‘private houses’, an old theatre, some crumbling temples and ornate manicured gardens.
It was interesting reading about the many ancient kings that have lived there, and their weird lifestyles of mandarins, concubines, wives and feasts, and the ‘forbidden purple city’ where they conducted their… ahem.. private affairs with aforementioned concubines! There are beautiful original mahogany wooden doors/shutters from the 1800s that encircle the building, and lots of intricate carvings/relief everywhere.
Food in town was pretty average/touristy overall but we managed to find a nice local restaurant serving spicy ‘Bun Bo Hue’ which is like a beef pho but with lots of chili oil! And we ate many more delicious bahn mis/fried pancakes and other Vietnamese classics!
After a rather ‘meh’ couple of days, we boarded our first night bus up North, to Halong Bay….!