Along the Perfume River
Like Da Lat, our visit to Hue in Vietnam was fleeting—we had only 1 full day here. We stayed in the aptly named Charming Riverside Hotel and upon their recommendation we booked a private dragon boat tour of Hue. At approximately 460,000vnd/ $20 USD each I thought this tour was affordable considering everything was organised for us. A taxi picked us up from the hotel at 9am and drove us to the boat. We were met by a husband and wife who were to take us to three tourist attractions along the Perfume River—first the Minh Mang Royal tombs, next the Tu Duc royal tombs and finally the Thien Mu Pagoda. Although they didn’t speak any English they were kind, generous and made us feel welcome on their boat.
One thing I will say about this trip is that the timings of the day weren’t made clear to us. So it came as quite a surprise when an hour and a half later we were still on our way to the Minh Mang tombs! It’s fair distance up the river so takes a little while to get to. We passed the time enjoying the scenic Hue countryside and watching people work on their boats. Apart from a pesky dragonfly that wouldn’t leave us alone it was a peaceful journey to our first stop. Upon arrival we were helped out of the boat onto dry land and directed to the site’s entrance. The Minh Mang tomb was my favourite of the two—the buildings were more colourful and symmetrical. We walked through at a fairly rapid pace, taking photos of the bright orange red Royal Tomb and Dai Hong Mon Gate. There’s a lot of ground to cover so I recommend wearing comfortable footwear and having a bottle of water to hand in the hotter months.
Back on the boat we travelled upstream to the Tu Duc Royal Tombs and were given 1 hour to take it in. Personally this was enough time given that it was 35 degrees and rising—we saw as much as we wanted and then escaped to the shade with an ice cream. However on cooler days you may need longer than this. The Vietnamese architecture was very different to that of Thailand and Cambodia so I enjoyed exploring the numerous temples and courtyards on site. If you’re interested in the history behind the different parts of the site then I would recommend hiring a tour guide to take you around.
Our final stop on the trip was the Thien Mu Pagoda, and undoubtedly the star of the show. It was also the busiest attraction that we saw that day. Known as the ‘Pagoda of the Celestial Lady’, it is the unofficial symbol of Hue. Stop to take photos on the stairs leading up to the monument and then walk around the temple to take in all its angles. I found that the back is equally as aesthetically pleasing as the front, and it was a lot quieter! The Pagoda also offers wonderful views of the Perfume River. After 40 minutes we were pagoda-ed out and headed back to the boat to return to Hue, sneaking in a little nap too. It was a really special day in Hue and was made even better by having our own boat for the trip. I would highly recommend doing it this way with the addition of booking a tour guide to take you around the sites!