When my husband and I travelled to Vietnam earlier this year, we were surprised to find that the country had its own version of the Forbidden City. Unlike Beijing’s, which is crawling with tour groups, soldiers and simply too many people, the Forbidden City in Hue was charmingly untouched.
Left to explore on our own, we marvelled at the lack of tourists and lack of spots where visitors were “not allowed”. In fact, we found an old library or reading house in the compound made out of the most beautiful tiles and coloured glass, and simply sat there for while, feeling like we were part of the Imperial court. Yes, much of it was in ruins, but we imagined what it would be like in 10 years – like Beijing no doubt.
Hue was the capitol of Vietnam, the feudal sovereignty, from 1744 when the Nguyen lords controlled all of southern Vietnam from the city. The dynasty of the Nguyen family lasted (in theory) from 1802, when Nguyen Anh defeated rebels to control the city, until 1945, when the last emperor abdicated.
The city was severely damaged in the 1968 Tet offensive during the American war, when house-to-house fighting lasted for weeks, but many architectural gems remain and are well worth a visit.
After a brief soujorn in Ho Chi Minh then Hoi An (which was a major disappointment), Hue was exactly what we were looking for. A laid-back Vietnamese atmosphere and a fabulous hotel – the Pilgrimage Village Hotel – but more on that in another post.