First, a clarification – I loved both Hue and Hoi An – but neither was what I had expected. Many travelers we’ve met on our trip praised Hoi An, but described Hue as a “one-night town.” So we were pleasantly surprised when we pulled into Hue.
Our first day found us on a 25 km bike ride around the outskirts of the city. Chandler wanted to visit the royal tombs, but neither of us was keen on joining a large tour – and neither of us have any business driving a motorbike after two years in Ethiopia – so we thought our best option was bicycles.
With a heat index of 40C and more hills than we had anticipated, it turned out to be an ungodly hot day – much like every other day we’ve experienced in Vietnam. Someone once told me it rains every day in Vietnam – they lied.
So after thoroughly sweating through our clothes (and Chandler’s backpack! Gross), we were able to see Khai Dinh Tomb & Tu Duc Tomb. The first was definitely more impressive, structurally, but Tu Duc Tomb is surrounded by a picturesque garden, making it a lovely place to spend the day.
My only recommendation, if you ever do this trek yourself: Rent motorbikes, not bicycles, or pay someone to take you.
That evening (after the world’s longest cold shower and a restful afternoon), we decided to take in the night market. It was pretty much what you’d expect – delicious smelling food that you hope won’t give you food poisoning (although the presence of flies makes you mighty suspicious), more trinkets than could ever be purchased, and bundles of clothes that people somehow know will fit them.
But the true spectacle of the night was the Truong Tien Bridge, built by none other than Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel Tower & Statue of Liberty). The bridge spans the Perfume River and is spectacularly lit up at night.
The next morning was spent inside the citadel at the Purple Forbidden City. It was hard to get a grasp on just how majestic this city once was – we bombed large portions of it during the war and they were never rebuilt. But what was still standing was impressive. The main gate was under construction (as well as numerous other buildings), but the side gate was still gape-worthy.
The rest of our time in Hue was spent wandering the streets, gorging ourselves on food (so much better than our previous few cities), a pool day (Hong Thien Ruby Hotel was great!), and taking in the full moon celebration. Every night of our stay, a handful of locals dressed up in dragon costumes and roamed the city streets with drums and other instruments.
Easy to say, we were sad to leave Hue. But everyone had talked up Hoi An, so we knew we were in for something great. Our first night we weaved our way through Hoi An’s Ancient Town (named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999). During the week, no motorized vehicles are allowed in the protected area, giving the town a more medieval feel.