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Hue

Located on the bank of Song Huong- Perfume River; Hue, the capital of Thua Thien Hue province in Central of Vietnam is 700 km southern Hanoi, 1100km northern Ho Chi Minh City, and only a few miles from the sea. Not until 1945 was Hue the national capital, the political, cultural and religious center of Vietnam under the control of Nguyen Dynasty. Most well-known for its historic values; Hue had been recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

If you are a history buff, or simply love discovering exotic cultures, Hue- Vietnam’s former Royal Capital is definitely on the top list of your travel plan. The city represents the outstanding demonstration of the power of the vanished Vietnamese feudal empire, including a complex of monuments, tombs and pagodas that attract tourists coming from all over the world.

Besides visiting ancient monuments and tombs, coming to Hue, you can also have a chance to bath and lying under the sun on the most wildly beautiful beaches in Vietnam. Thuan An and Lang Co beach are among the most wonderful ones, twinkling in sunshine with limpidly blue ocean and white silky sand. Moreover, there are some mineral hot springs available like Thanh Tan in Phong An, Phong Dien; where tourists can totally be relaxed after a long walking day.

Hue is the place where dining is not to satisfy human basic needs, but a form of art. Hue’s gastronomy is elegant, light and noble, different from other regions’ of Vietnam. Spices, especially chili, play an important role in Hue’s cooking and cuisine decorating art. Nowadays, consuming Hue dishes, it will be extremely interesting for everyone to know that they are trying what mostly were served to the Emperor in the past.

One of the dishes that you cannot miss in Hue is “com hen”- rice with baby clams- a very simple and low-priced specialty. A bowl of “com hen” will bring you the sweet-smelling flavor of rice and herbs, mixed with the buttery, sour, bitter taste of spices, grease, baby clams.

Other flour-based dishes are worth trying: banh bot loc (rice pastry with meat and shrimp), banh la cha tom (soft pastry wrapped in leaves with meat, shrimp, and egg), banh hot thit quay (roast pork pastry), banh la (sweet sticky rice wrapped in leaves)… Bun thit nuong (rice vermicelli with grilled meat), Bun bo gio heo (rice vermicelli with beef and pork) are loved by many tourists.

Hue is also famous for its extraordinary special “che”- sweet soups. There are nearly 50 kinds of “che”, from the simple, common to elaborate ones. Four typical kinds of “che” that Hue citizens most proud of are: che khoai tia (purple sweet potatoes sweet soup), che long nhan boc hat sen (longan wrapped in lotus seed sweet soup), che troi nuoc nhan tom thit (floating sticky rice cake with shrimp sweet soup) and che dau van bot loc (bean and rice pastry sweet soup).

Citadel of Hue

Famously being one of Vietnam’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Imperial City of Hue has long been a must-see attraction for tourists visiting a hidden charm of Vietnam. The Imperial City of Hue was actually a walled fortress and palace belonged to the ancient city of Hue which was a capital city of the Nguyen Dynasty for 140 years date back from 1805 until 1945.

The grandeur architecture was planned to be built in 1803 by Gia Long – an emperor who founded the Nguyen Dynasty. During 27 years from 1805 to 1832, the Imperial City of Hue was finally completed under the reign of Minh Mang, making it the most massive structure being built in the history of modern Vietnam involving thousands of workers, millions cubic meters of rock and huge volume of burden workload. It locates on the northern bank of Huong River, turning South with total land area of 520 ha. The place was made UNESCO Site in 1993 with the remained buildings being actively restored and preserved after the destruction from the Vietnam War.

The Imperial City of Hue has a circumference of 10 kilometers with the height of 6.6 meters and 21 meters thick with forts being meanderingly arranged, accompanied by cannons, artilleries and ammunitions. Initially the fortress was built solely by soil, only to be replaced by bricks afterward. Surrounding the city is the complicated canal system served not only as a protection but also as a waterway with nearly seven kilometers.

There are total of ten main majestic gates leading to the Imperial City of Hue, which can be divided into two main parts excluding houses and mansions: The Citadel and The Forbidden City. The former served to protect the important palaces inside while the latter was where the emperor and the royal family stayed as well as the court’s workplace. All the typically traditional Eastern architectures including majestic palaces, tombs and museums stand accordantly together to make an utmost amusing attraction right in the heart of Vietnam.

Thien Mu Pagoda

The pagoda is located at the end of Kim Long Road, in Huong Long Ward, on the northern bank of the Perfume River.

There are many legends about Thien Mu Pagoda (also known as Linh Mu Pagoda). Once upon a time, local residents saw an old lady in red appear every night on top of the hill. She foretold that: one day, the Lord would pass by and build something of great importance. From then on, the hill was named Thien Mu Son (Mountain of Lady from Heaven). When Lord Nguyen Hoang actually went pass the hill, he heard the legend and decided to build a pagoda and named it Thien Mu. Having gone through a lot of eventful phase, damages as well as renovations, today the pagoda still exists and remains the unofficial symbol of the ancient city Hue.

As tourists approach the pagoda, what seizes their attention first is the seven-storey octagonal tower named Phuoc Duyen Tower (formerly Tu Nhan Tower). Built in mid-19th century by King Thieu Tri, the tower was to commemorate the 80th birthday anniversary of his grandmother.

Passing the 3-door gate are 12 huge wooden sculptures of fearsome temple guardians and then in the middle of the area is where Dai Hung Palace – the main sanctuary of Thien Mu Pagoda, is located. Here, Buddha is worshipped with impressive sculptures and a giant bell, measuring 2.5m in height and 2 tons in weight, created since early 18th century. Fragrant incense smoke fills the air there all day long, making the praying for blessings calm and peaceful.

A building near the rear of the complex houses a national relic: the car which carried the monk Thich Quang Duc to the intersection of Phan Dinh Phung and Le Van Duyet streets in Saigon on June 11th 1963, where he burned himself to death in opposition to the anti-religion policy of Saigon’s regime at that time.

Coming to this prestigious sightseeing, visitors can enjoy both the scenery landscape and the typical traditional architecture of Hue pagodas. Thanks to its high position upward a charming curve of Perfume River, the pagoda offers a mind-boggling view of both the flow and the surrounding areas. Covered with pine trees, bonsai and delicate manmade pond, this religious site brings about a peaceful feeling which is hard to find anywhere else.

Thien Mu Pagoda is about 4km from Hue City Center, thus you can get here by: motorbike, bike, as well as boat. A boat trip can also include visiting Hon Chen Temple and Minh Mang Tomb. A bike-trip is recommended, since the road is very scenic and rather short. Travelers can also combine a trip to Thien Mu Pagoda with Hue Temple of Literature and Huyen Khong Pagoda, which are just a few km away. One remind for those who are fond of bike: a perfect ride should be in early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of Hue.

Tu Duc's Tomb

Located in a narrow valley in Duong Xuan Thuong Village, 8km from Hue City, Tu Duc’s Tomb is considered as one of the most beautiful and picturesque and largest works of architecture of Nguyen Dynasty’s royal palaces and tombs. People say that Tu Duc Tomb is a must in every tour to Hue City.

The tomb was constructed between 1864 and 1867. The construction of Tu Duc’s tomb requires an incredible amount of money and labor, thus resulted in a rebellion of workers. Therefore, the tomb was renamed as Khiem Lang, in comparison with the former name: Van Nien Co (expresses the wish to be permanent). In addition, all the constructions’ names were changed to bear the word Khiem (Modesty) in their names, as the king wanted to express his humility.

It was the place where he could retreat from the Citadel to compose poetry or go hunting because the monument was finished when the king was still in reign. The design of the tomb is said to clearly reflect the profound knowledge and romance of the king’s characteristics.

A glance at the tomb can create the illusion of a scenic park, packed with lakes, hills, pavilions amidst the lushness of frangipani trees and grove of pines. It’s surrounded by a solid octagonal wall. A few notable sites in the temple area inside the tomb can be listed as Luu Khiem Lake, Tinh Khiem Island, Xung Khiem Pavilion, Hoa Khiem Temple (which commemorated the King and the Queen). Hoa Khiem Temple is a small museum of the King’s life: a mirror used by the King’s concubines; a lock gifted by the French; the funerary tablets of the emperor and empress. As the tomb also functions as a home away from home, there is even a royal theatre inside the complex, named Minh Khiem Duong. The theatre is a reflection of Tu Duc’s poetic soul, with the ceiling carved with stars, clouds, crescent moon and sky. Today, performances are not shown in this theatre but in Xung Khiem Ta (near Luu Khiem Lake).

The remaining part is the tomb area, consisting of the Honor Courtyard, the Stele Pavilion and the seplucre. The Stele Pavilion of this tomb is known as the biggest one in Vietnam, in which the king has inscribed about his life by himself.

Coming to Tu Duc Tomb, tourists may feel like they’re lost in a huge scenery park, where the old monuments of old feudal time are harmoniously in tune with the natural atmosphere.

Minh Mang's Tomb

Minh Mang’s Tomb is in Huong Tho Commune, Huong Tra District, on the west bank of Perfume River and about 12km south of Hue City center. This place is where 2 tributaries join to form the picturesque Perfume River.

The tomb was started constructing in 1840 under the order of King Minh Mang. After his death in 1841, King Thieu Tri continued the task, according to his father’s plan. The monument was finally completed 2 years later.

Touted as the most majestic of all Nguyen Dynasty royal tombs, Minh Mang Tomb is a complex of 40 constructions: palaces, temples, pavilions, etc. Many said that it’s a perfect combination of manmade and natural beauty of Hue, where architecture fits harmoniously into the surrounding landscape.

It’s designed as a symmetric axis (called Than Dao) running from the Great Red Gate to the foot of the Surrounding Wall behind the King’s tomb. Apart from this gate at the center, there are 2 other gates: the Left Rad Gate and the Right Red Gate, which led to the Honor Courtyard – where two rows of mandarins, elephants and horse’s stone statues are standing. At the other side of the 3 gates, on Mount Phung Than is the square Stele Pavilion, where the stele “Thanh Duc Than Cong” inscribed with the King’s biography and merits written by his son, is placed. Sung An Temple, where King Minh Mang and his wife are worshipped, can be accessed through Hien Duc Gate. There are 3 stones bridges on the other side of this temple, with the marble one reserved only for the king. Finally, the Hoang Trach Gate heads to the Minh Lau Pavilion. It is placed on top of three terraces representing heaven, earth and water. Closer to the tomb area, the New Moon Lake (Ho Tan Nguyet) is crescent-shaped and embraces the circular wall surrounding the grave (Buu Thanh)

Looking from afar, the complex looks like a human being with the hill as his pillow and his hands and feet reaching to the river. From the front gate to the back door is almost 700m. The fence is high but does not block the view to mountains and Cam Ke Hill nearby.

Thanh Toan Bridge

The Thanh Toan tile-roofed Bridge crosses a canal flowing from the beginning to the end of Thanh Toan village, Thuy Thanh Commune, Huong Thuy district at present. The village is about 8 km from Hue city on the eastward.

Thanh Thuy village was established in the 16th century. Among the emigrants from Thanh Hoa following Lord Nguyen Hoang to Thuan Hoa, there were 12 family heads who settled down there to be the 12 initial families of the village. One niece of the sixth generation of the Tran family – Mrs. Tran Thi Dao - offered the fund to the village to build a wooden bridge so that the villagers on both sides of the canal could transport conveniently and benighted travelers could rest on their way. Mrs. Tran Thi Dao was a childless wife of a high-rank mandarin in Le Hien Tong reign. She wanted to use her money for charity. In Canh Hung 37th year, Emperor Le Hien Tong granted the village a document to praise Mrs. Tran Thi Dao and exempted the villagers from many taxes for them to remember her and to live after her example. In 1925, Emperor Khai Dinh also granted a document to bestow her "Duc Bao, Trung Hung Linh Pho" and to order the villagers to set up an altar on the bridge to worship her

The tile-roofed Thanh Toan is an arched wooden bridge, 17m long and 4m wide. On both sides of the bridge length are 2 rows of wooden flat forms and parapets for people to lean their backs. The bridge is roofed with tubes. A researcher into Vietnamese ancient aesthetics - Louis Bezacier - classified Thanh Toan a rare and the most aesthetically valuable bridge among those of Vietnam. In the first half of the 20th century, there were the two most famous bridges of this style Phuc Toai and Phu Khe in the north, Thanh Toan in Hue and Nhat Ban (i.e. Lai Vien Kieu, also called Chua Cau) in Hoi An. The roofs of the bridges in the north are made of flat tiles, in the centre are made of tube tiles.

The tile-roofed Thanh Toan Bridge is not only an ancient architectural remain with highly historic and cultural values but also a tourist attraction. The bridge was built over 2 centuries ago and damaged many times by storms, floods and wars. However, after the bridge was destroyed, the villagers always contributed to repair, renovate and preserve it. The Thanh Toan bridge with its tile-roof has entered into the moods and aspirations of many generations as well as inspired the poetic souls of the local people and travelers, their contents are still handed down among the people or engraved right on the bridge.

In September 1991, the bridge was greatly renovated according to the old design and officially accepted by the Cultural Ministry as a national remains, a rare and appreciated beauty-spot of the whole country.

TRAVEL BROUCHURE 2013
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  • Phung and our guides responded perfectly to our needs. We were tired after the train journey and so the only part of the itinerary we would change would have been to just spend the afternoon by the pool at the resort rather than taking a tour of the Hoi An sites
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  • Mr Liem was a wonderful guide he was professional but still showed a good sense of humour. We would never have been able to cross the roads without his help. Your design and management of our trip were excellent. I just realised that I hadn’t given feedback on the meal in the Mekong on the first day – this was at the house on the Mekong river, this was very remiss of me as although all meals were excellent this one was exceptional and the best we had for the entire trip, I should also have mentioned that the guide (a lady) we had on the Mekong cruise was excellent.
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  • A very well designed tour. We were very thankful to have contacted you and felt that your arrangements for us made everything a lot easier. Mr. Trang He was a fabulous guide who was quite knowledgeable about everything. We really felt like he made our trip even more enjoyable. His English is also extremely good and he tries hard to accommodate. Our favorite was Phu Quoc but we also really enjoyed our tour of the Mekong Delta though didn’t need two nights in Can Tho because there isn’t much to do in the city. Maybe should have done one night on a boat in hindsight but wasn’t sure we would like that.
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