The drive from Da Nang to Huế takes about four hours if you opt for the more scenic route of Hải Vân Pass, which we did. It was a very pleasant drive, although we were happy to reach our hotel and stretch our legs. Ryan chose the Charming Hotel for our one night stay and I was very happy with the accommodations. We were each given a freshly made banana smoothie when we checked in and the scrumptious crepes we enjoyed the following morning were included in the cost of our room. We even had fancy towels and all for $13.16 USD!
We spent the afternoon and evening exploring the city by foot and trying some of the local food. Even the more standard Vietnamese dishes are a little different everywhere you go and we found this to be the case in Huế as well. My go-to bún thịt nướng (rice noodles with pork) was accompanied by an interesting peanut sauce, rather than the expected fish sauce we’ve grown accustomed to in Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. Bún bò Huế is a popular Vietnamese soup that can easily be found throughout the country so we were sure to try some when we were actually in the city of its origin. We also tried bún hen (baby clam with rice noodles). There was a little too much going on in this dish for me, but Ryan enjoyed it.
Huế is the former capital of Vietnam and is now a World Heritage Site. It has a population of roughly 350,000 people. One of its major attractions is the grand, crumbling Citadel surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. The Citadel was built in the 19th century between 1804 and 1833. According to Wikipedia, a total of 13 Nguyễn emperors lived in Huế between 1802 to 1945. The Nguyễn dynasty was the last ruling family of Vietnam.
Inside the vast Citadel lies the Imperial Enclosure and the Purple Forbidden City, which we were very happy to explore the following morning. These formed the epicenter of Vietnamese royal life for 143 years and it was interesting to imagine what their daily lives might have been like as we made our way around the grounds. The sun was hot but luckily there were a lot of palaces and temples to wander in and out of, as long as we left our shoes outside.
I especially enjoyed finding a quiet shady corner in the formal royal garden. This was a great place to just sit and relax. There was not another soul to be seen, aside from Ryan. We stayed here until we felt up to venturing back out into the morning heat. We took our time and when we’d seen all we wanted to see, we said goodbye to the Citadel and returned to our scooter. We had a four hour drive ahead of us that was sure to cool us off. Thank you Huế for sharing your wonders!