With just one day to see what we wanted in Hue, so we didn’t want to waste time trying to figure it out ourselves. Grace Hotel recommended their private city day tour at just $15 USD pp.
I find real value in day tours especially in Vietnam for families. They are jam packed full of things to see and do and usually provide beautiful meals.
There were two tours we could take. A more budget focused tour on a large bus for 10 USD pp or for an extra $5 each we could upgrade to a private tour with a new van style bus.
We chose the private tour as we knew we had to get back to our hotel by 4.30 pm to catch our overnight bus to Hanoi at 5.15 pm
Our day started with a visit to the oldest town in the province of Hue that hosts the oldest bridge in the region. Here we got to wander (very quickly sadly) through the local market where women visit daily to buy the family food.
A quick stroll later we were looking at this beautiful ancient bridge that has allowed many to walk over the river with ease. Over the years it’s been renovated and restored, but it’s a lovely cool spot for locals to sit and take time out from the summer’s biting sun.
This day would be the hottest we had on our travels with a whopping 39 degrees that hit just after lunch.
Second stop was the third Emperors home and place of burial. The Emperor constructed several buildings within his compound for his 500 wives, (yes you read it right) and passed away before its completion.
His servants buried the emperor secretly within the compound fear that locals would rob his grave. Even though today modern equipment can locate the secret burial site, details of his location remain a secret out of high respect for their emperor.
Twenty-one of his servants died with him to keep this precious secret. It’s good to know they didn’t die in vain.
The second Palace would be the second last Emperors dwelling. He was a gay man that had a love for French and Italian architecture. With a country that was not able to afford his high expenses, The Emperor increased taxes to 30% to cover the costs of the new construction and place of burial. It’s fair to say he wasn’t the most respected of Emperors in the history of Vietnam.
The Emperor’s burial location is 30 metres within the depths of the palace building.
With the heat setting in now to “extreme” lunch would be next giving us a chance to cool down and relax.
The lunch provided was a crispy pancake with chicken and greens that we wrapped in rice paper and dipped in a sweet chili sauce. Pork Lemon Grass Grill sticks with peanut satay sauce & Fresh Spring Rolls was also provide and some of our favourites.
With tummies full, we headed off to the official “Emperors Palace” and spent over an hour wandering around his former living quarters, financial quarters, official quarters, and the list goes on.
Sadly in the war, the bombing of the area destroyed many of the buildings but with extensive restorations happening, within ten years they will have rebuilt the old city to its former glory. I was last here in 2014 and noticed many changes.
It’s quite amazing that they can rebuild such old buildings to show the incredible former dynasty.
A short drive later and we were at a Thien Mu Pagoda.
An active monastery where Monks live, worship and educate young children who have been chosen to walk the same path. If you are lucky, enough you may get to hear the children and monk chanting in the main hall. I witnessed this in 2014 and sat in awe.
This Pagoda houses the infamous Austin Martin vehicle in which Thich Quang Duc drove to Saigon in 1963 to burn himself alive while sitting without movement in a lotus position to protest the Diem Regime. He would be the first of a series of self-burnings by members of the Buddhist community in protests that would bring light on the issues they faced to the international community.
Finally, our day ended with a boat ride up the Perfume River which runs through Hue.
We finished up our tour at approximately 3.45 roughly 45 mins before expected. I may or may not have been the culprit of that as we had to head back and get ready for our overnight bus to Hanoi and I may or may not have kept everyone moving by asking “Whats next?”
But in all honestly, the day was a scorcher and the poms on our tour were not coping at all in the heat and were glad to be heading back early also.
We needed food packed for our trip on the bus, and the tour guides kindly dropped us off at a restaurant around the corner from our hotel. We purchased some good local food (fried rice and some noodle dishes) and had them packed up ready for our long overnight trip.
By the time we got to the hotel (only a 5 min walk), all the juices from the noodles dishes were leaking all through the plastic bags. Our hotel was simply fantastic, they rushed and got us towels and toiletries to use in their shower/toilet room downstairs.
Most guesthouses/cheap hotels have these rooms. Prepare yourself for them. Some are great, and some are just down right dirty, but when you have been sweating like a pig in 39-degree heat, are about to catch an overnight bus and be close to complete strangers, you shower where ever you can.
We all rushed around like mad men and took it in turns to use the room. By the time I got out of the shower, it was 4.55pm. We had just five mins to get to the bus stop which was a 10 min walk away, and be ready for our 5.15 pm departure.
Our hotel had repacked our food in clean plastic bags (all done while I was showering) and had our bags and belongings ready for us to load up and rush off. Hooray for them and ten big brownie points, THANK YOU GRACE HOTEL.
We arrived just in time for a chance to catch our breath and then we were on our way to Hanoi on an overnight 12-hour sleeper bus.
Yes, we rushed our day in Hue. We choose to stay in Hoi An longer and sacrificed a couple of days in Hue which suited us. If we had our time over again, we would settle in Hue for a few days and indulge in the amazing food the city is famous for.