April 2018. I’m not much of a history buff, all those dates, names and battles tend to go in one ear and right out the other. I tend to avoid guided tours too, I just can’t seem to focus on what’s being said, invariably a flurry of facts and figures, most of which will be lost to me by the time I’ve settled down for dinner. Instead, I like to wander and explore with my own thoughts, try to breathe in the essence of the place. I’ve always loved the sense of reflective calm these historical palaces bring and knew I was going to like Hue’s Imperial City from the moment I approached Ngo Mon Gate, the palace’s main entrance.
April 2018. I’d been excited to come here ever since I’d read about how the complex had been modeled on Beijing’s amazing Forbidden City. But unlike that incredible Chinese palace, here it’s easy to get away from the crowds and uncover all those quiet, pretty corners. This is one of a dozen or so majestic gates, largely intact with a delightful combination of wonky and crumbly.
April 2018. One of the most eye-catching sections of the complex is the Halls of the Mandarins, with their bright red painted wooden doorways and ceiling beams. There are two hallways separated by a grassy courtyard and back in the day they were used to get ready for court ceremonies. Today one of the halls has a kitschy photo studio where you can dress up in traditional costumes if that tickles your fancy. It didn’t tickle my fancy.
April 2018. The Administrative Office Garden is a peaceful little spot running alongside a sleepy section of the Perfume River. Ramshackle and wild, a network of clumpy stone paths leads in and around a little temple shrine with a few mossy headstones. It’s a nice spot to sit for a bit listening to birdsong and the odd croaking frog.
April 2018. The inner road, located between the heart of the palace grounds and the main entrance gate, offers lovely views of a wide section of the river. With no idea where I was actually going, I followed the road for a bit as it wound around the walls. Eventually I found myself at the entrance to the absolutely gorgeous Bonsai Exhibition Garden.
Hue’s Imperial City is open daily from 08:00-17:30 except on Wednesdays when it enjoys extended access until 22:00. Entrance tickets are priced at 150.000 VND ( £5/ €5.60/ $6.50).
For more on this cool Vietnamese city, why not leaf through my other articles on Hue.
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