36 hours in Hue

36 hours in Hue

36 Hours in Hue

Hue has been a combat zone in both the war with the French (1833) and the Vietnam War with the Americans (1968 Tet Offensive), yet what still stands of the Imperial City is worth visiting.  This delightful city on the banks of the Perfume River is worth a visit to enjoy the architecture, art and culture of central Vietnam.


5 p.m.

For a city that has a restaurant at each store front it can be difficult to determine where to eat.  Instead of relying on the menu to tell you what’s good in town, follow your nose to Thanh Na (28 Vo Thi Sau, Than Pho, Hue, Vietnam) for the juiciest, most tender meat you’ve ever had.  When you sit down amongst the crowd of locals and take your first bite you will have no doubt while they all flock to this local joint.

The most delicious BBQ you have ever had

7:15 p.m.

Head to the boardwalk along the Perfume River to admire the sculptures and the colorfully illuminated bridge at night.  This stretch of sidewalk is worth a walk during the day as well, but with the sculptures lit up and the street stalls out in full force the ambiance is perfect for a night stroll.

One example of the abundant public sculptures along the boardwalk on the banks of the Perfume River

9 p.m.

Before calling it a night grab an after dinner treat from one of the many street vendors pedaling their goods.  I would recommend the fried bananas the crunchy sweetness is the perfect accompaniment to your art stroll along the river.  After you have seen the bridge change from electrifying yellow to hot pink and back to a cooling blue you’ll be ready to call it a night.

The perfect sweet treat with just a little crunch, fried bananas


9 a.m.

The architecture in Hue is unbeatable, take your pick from pagodas, ruins, temples and gardens or rent a bike and see them all.  Be a guest at a local monastery or visit the tombs on the outskirts of town, whatever you would like to see the best way to get there is pedal power.  An easy route, about 10 miles round trip, will take you to these sights:

  • Bao Quoc Pagoda this serene pagoda houses 21 monks and the grounds seem to be their pride as they are luscious and green, clearly well tended.  The grounds also house tombs and a large statue of lady Buddha.
  • Tu Dam Pagoda the history of this pagoda is more impressive than the architecture as it harbored the Buddhist movement against the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem (the first president of South Vietnam) from 1960-1963.
  • Altar of Nam Giao the altar, which is a giant open-air monument, is far less impressive than the expansive park it is housed in.  The tree lined park is quiet and provides a place of calm from surrounding traffic.  On closer examination you can see a bronze mark on some of the park’s trees, which signifies trees that were planted by Emperor Minh Mang.
  • Tu Hieu Pagoda my favorite stop of the trip, this pagoda is hidden from the road and is only discovered after passing under the large front gate guarded by two ominous stone statues.  Once inside the Pagoda grounds monks and visitors mingle in the forest and along the walking paths that encircle the lotus ponds.  The grounds also have a school for young monks to be.
  • Thien Mu Pagoda sits on a hill overlooking the Perfume River and boasts a seven story pagoda and active monastery that houses 70 monks.

2:30 p.m.

After biking all day, take a break and have someone else bike you around in a Cyclo.  A cyclo is a carriage attached to a bicycle that is pedal powered, the hour long ride should cost no more than $5.  Not only will you get see the 47 meter high Flagpole of Hue and the Pavilion of Edicts built in 1810, but you can chat up your “driver” and get some insight into life in Hue.

4:30 p.m.

With many of Hue’s architectural treasures behing you take some time to peruse the beautiful paintings, sculpture and drawings of a couple art galleries in Hue.  The unique wood carvings of Vietnamese artist Le Ba Dang are definitely worth a visit to the Lebadang Art Foundation (So 15 Le Loi, TP Hue, Vietnam).  The mixed media art of Le Ngoc Thanh and Le Duc Hai is also worth your time by paying a visit next door to New Space Arts Foundation (15 Le Loi, Hue, Vietnam).  We shared a bottle of wine with Thanh and Hai enjoying both their company and perspective.

One of Le Ba Dang's unique wood sculptures

9 p.m.

Hue tends to head to bed early, but you won’t have any trouble staying awake at Brown Eyes with their pulsating music and bright lasers.  All your favorite American dance music hits and sing-along songs will be playing until the last one passes out.

The bar to drink your night away at in Hue.


10:30 a.m.

Sleep in this morning, just in case you were the last one that passed out last night and then grab some coffee on your way to the Imperial City.  The city was modeled after China’s much larger Forbidden City in Beijing.  Enter through the red and saffron Noon Gate and take in the Five-Phoenix Pavilion, where the emperor could observe ceremonies.  Once inside the gate visit the Palace of Supreme Harmony, which housed the emperor’s throne.  You will also find the remnants of the Forbidden Purple City, the formerly walled in residence of the royal family on the grounds.  You might even opt to have your picture taken in royal garb for only $5.

The Palace of Supreme Harmony in the Imperial City


The quiet alley off Le Loi houses several guesthouses, but for only $8 you can’t beat Bao Minh Hotel (8/66 Le Loi Street, Hue, Vietnam)

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» dad :
Feb 2, 2011

it was great fun talking this morning and hearing more details of your adventure……your n.y. times fromat is great and provides a perfect written snapshot to accompany your “snapshots”…….am looking forward to the “mud shots” and “tet” stories……will distribute the cards when they arrive, making sure matt’s parents get them as well…..some days i envy you and some days it all sounds like work…….we remain in awe……be safe……love you guys…..peace……dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, it is always fun to chat and hopefully in Thailand we can skype again with better internet. I enjoy the NY Times format too, I hope to get 36 hours in Hanoi up soon as well as the mud shots from Sapa even though they won’t do it justice. Some days it feels like a lot of work to us too, but we’re enjoying it.

» Cindy :
Feb 2, 2011

Lovely article. Will definitely put Hue on my bucket list. You both are amazing.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Cindy, Hue was great, we would definitely recommend it and hopefully if we ever go back it won’t be so rainy.

» Noodles :
Aug 15, 2013

We visited the above mentioned BBQ spot a week ago after stumbling across this blog. It was possibly the worst meal we had the misfortune to eat. (this from two well travelled food loving adventurers) our ‘meal’ consisted of a couple of pieces of scrawny meat and shrimp which so off and clearly a health hazard to the point we promptly left and threw up.

Don’t dispute the author of this may have had a different experience however what has transpired in the intervening time is a restaurant with a tourist menu designed to rip off and worse, potentially cause serious food poisoning. Avoid.

thinkCHUA Reply:

Noodles, thanks for the heads up and I’m sorry to hear about your negative experience. As you can see from the blog we had quite the opposite experience. Places change and it’s possible it’s not even owned by the same management anymore. Again, I apologize you had a bad experience. Hope you are enjoying the rest of your travels.

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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