The peaceful, attractive Perfume River runs playfully along one side of the city of Hue (pronounced as “hway”), but frequent drizzles of melancholy rain betray its role in the country’s history of wars. Being located in the centre of Vietnam, it served as a battleground between the North Vietnamese government and the American forces who ruled the South, resulting in ruins. Still, many structures and monuments live on, and their endurance has gained for them the honour of being a UNESCO heritage site.
One thing you should not miss is a trip through the Vinh Moc tunnels, constructed by the Northern guerilla as deep as 70 feet underground. No ordinary hideout, they actually contained homes for the soldiers and their families, hospitals and even a small cinema. In the heat of war, American forces tried in vain to destroy this sophisticated network.
Take note, though, that a tour means getting your clothes soiled. The Imperial City or the Citadel was built under the Nguyen Dynasty in 1804. It is a huge complex of pavilions, temples, museums, moats, gardens, galleries and palaces. It features elaborately decorated gates. Inside this complex is the Thai Hoa Palace, where the throne upon which the emperor sat to receive guests still exists. The Forbidden Purple City is where the emperor’s concubines lived. A tour through Hue would not be complete without visiting the lavish, imposing tombs of former emperors. They are best experienced through a whole-day river cruise. Thuan An Beach, to the North, is a popular spot among locals and tourists. All in all, it is worth spending at least three days to get the best of all the stories that Hue has to tell.