***This post is part 11 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***
We only had one full day in Hue, so we took advantage of one of the many day tours that our hotel offered us upon arrival. Pickup was at 8:00 am, and the large tour bus was already filled with people. One thing I quickly noticed about tourists in Vietnam is that almost 90% of the Westerners we met were Australians. I suppose logically that makes sense simply due to proximity, but I had expected to see a lot more Americans, which in fact turned out to be quite rare. In any case, the tour bus was mostly filled with Aussies with a couple of Germans and native Vietnamese. Our tour guide was fairly fluent in English, though heavily accented, but he was very outgoing and friendly (and extremely talkative). In the middle of the tour, he even broke out into song on the bus!
Tu Duc Tomb
We proceeded to visit 3 of the more well-known royal tombs outside of Hue: Minh Mang, Khai Dinh, and Tu Duc. Each had it's own unique style, though the Khai Dinh tomb was perhaps the most interesting. Built between 1920 and 1931, the monument is a clash of Eastern and Western influences, incorporating both French and traditional Vietnamese architecture. But perhaps most of all, it symbolizes the excess of the royal family even as the country submitted to French subjugation. Nevertheless, the Khai Dinh tomb is a lavishly constructed monument filled with beautiful mosaics of imported ceramics.
Khai Dinh Tomb
After the tombs, we went to visit the Citadel, or the Imperial Palace. I already had low expectations because I had read about the destruction the Vietnam War bombings had wrought... but even with low expectations, it was a sad sight to see. Besides the main palace gate and a few intact buildings here and there, not much remains of the sprawling complex. Restoration of the palace is currently in progress and could be seen everywhere, though there is quite a lot left to be rebuilt.
What most of the Imperial Palace looked like :(
After a quick stop to the Thien Mu Pagoda and a lazy boat ride down the Perfume River, we arrived back in central Hue in the late afternoon. Overall, this full day tour was well worth it, and gave us a chance to see all the main sights in and out of town without having to worry about transportation or time.
Thien Mu Pagoda