Huế: Tombs, Temples and the Imperial City

Following Hội An (here and here for previous posts), the next stop of our Tết holiday was Huế.

The bus journey from Hội An to Huế was one to remember. For one, the seats were all deeply reclined – essentially everyone had their own bed. Ideal for an early morning bus!

Being shorter than the average person, I found this extremely comfortable and curled up immediately.

In addition to the comfort, the scenery was incredible. After driving through Da Nang we passed a multitude of dramatic and beautiful landscapes. The route is lined with imposing mountains, tranquil beaches dotted with palm trees, peaceful towns and villages, vast rice paddies with roaming buffalo, and clear blue lagoons. The sun shone bright, the sky was blue and a strip of clouds sat comfortably on top of the mountains low in the sky.

Huế is one of the most historicaly significant cities in Vietnam. It is the former imperial capital and housed the Nguyen Dynasty Emperors.

The bus journey from Hội An to Huế was about 3 hours long. On arrival, our hotel arranged for us to join a tour of some of Huế‘s major historical sites. A lot of these sites are quite a distance from each other and far from the city of Huế. The tour was definitely the best way to catch everything in the 24 hours we had in Huế.

The first stop was the tomb of Emperor Minh Mang who was the 2nd Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam. The tomb is located in breathtaking, vast grounds which the Emperor would frequent before he passed away.

It really is incredibly beautiful. No wonder this little guy chooses to chill out here amongst these vivid, red salvia flowers.

Within the grounds there is a vibrant temple.

From the temple, the path leads to a massive lake which is crossed to reach the tomb.

A beautiful spot for a selfie!

This was by far the most stunning of the tombs we visited.

Next up, we visited the Tomb of Khải Định, the 12th Emperor of Vietnam. This tomb is located on a steep hill requiring numerous flights of stairs to reach the main building.

The main building consists of both a temple and the tomb.

Since the emperor visited France on numerous occasions, the architecture of the Tomb of Khải Định has a lot more of a European influence than the others. Everything is built from blackened stone giving it a gothic feel.

The decor and styling is very ornate.

Next up we stopped off in a local village to learn about incense making.

We were given a demonstration by a lady who made the whole thing look far too easy.

The last tomb we visited was the Tomb of Tự Đức, also known as Khiêm Tomb. Tự Đức was the longest reigning monarch of the Nguyen dynasty and famously had over one hundred wives and concubines. Despite this he was unable to father a child and therefore left the throne to his adopted son.

Tự Đức began planning and constructing his tomb long before he passed away. He even used the tomb’s palace as his place of residence.

Despite his dedication to the site and the amount of time he spent here, he was actually buried in a secret location near Huế. He was buried by 200 labourers who were beheaded in order to keep the location secret. Even to this day, the true location of Tự Đức‘s burial remains a secret.

We finished the day with a boat trip along the Perfume River back to the centre of Huế.

The next morning we rejoined the tour, starting off at the Imperial City. Huế‘s Imperial City is similar to the renowned Forbidden City in China. The citadel was built to serve Vietnam’s elite as a place of business and residence for the Emperors.

You can tell that back in the day it would have been it would have been incredibly grand and lavish.

Sadly, following the bombings during the Vietnam-America War, the Imperial City suffered significant destruction.

Nevertheless, it is being restored, slowly but surely, and is still worth a visit.

The final stop of our tour of Huế was one of my favourites: the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady.

The Pagoda of the Celestial Lady is seven stories high and one of Huế‘s most iconic temples.

It sits on the bank of the Perfume River and is surrounded by the incredible Vietnamese countryside.

The grounds are also impressive and ideal for a leisurely stroll.

Exhausted after a jam-packed 24 hours of sightseeing in Huế, we left for the final destination of our Tết holiday: Da Nang. Visiting Huế‘s landmarks was fascinating and the perfect way to learn more about the history and culture of the country I currently call home.

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