Walking through The Citadel of Hue, Vietnam is like stepping back in time. Well manicured trees line the walkways and old buildings look as if they were built in that condition. Like many places in Vietnam, we’ve seen restoration taking place to improve the foundation of these ancient buildings to preserve history and improve the tourist experience.
The Citadel is a 2km by 2km fortress surrounded by moats filled with coy fish and lilly pads. Inside the Citadel is the Imperial City and inside the Imperial City is the Purple Forbidden City. However, the innermost enclosure can only be visited by the Nguyen Imperial family.
Nguyen Anh took control of Vietnam in 1802 and chose Hue, Vietnam (central coast) to be the location of his palace – thus creating The Citadel. In 1968, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army took control of Hue and the fighting caused damage to this historic site. With over 100 buildings, about 10 remained after the battles. The Citadel is recognized as a UNESCO site as of 1993 and brings in thousands of tourists every year.
We decided to walk from our quaint hotel neighborhood to the Citadel right after breakfast. It was a hot morning and the clouds were rolling in – talk about humid! Lucky for us, it started pouring (not an exaggeration!) as we were in the middle of the bridge without anywhere to hide for cover. Being in a tourist town worked to our advantage though – a sweet Vietnamese woman stopped her motorbike and climbed over the railing to sell us ponchos. Three ponchos for $5! What a deal 😉
Although the rain was an unfortunate start to our morning adventure, it didn’t rain on our parade. It was all part of the experience and out of our control. I guess we could’ve controlled the timing of our trip and opted to visit when monsoon season wasn’t in full throttle, but where’s the fun in that?!
After the rain clouds lifted, it was painfully hot. The shade didn’t even cool us down. But we continued to walk through the hallways and check out the different buildings. Throughout the hallways were boards with historic information specifically about the different Emperor’s who ruled Vietnam over the years. One Emperor was 10 years old when he started his reign and focused on education for Vietnam. At 10 years old I’m pretty sure my main focus was how to be a Spice Girl.
We decided to take individual xich lo’s back to our hotel. A xich lo is a pedal bike with a chair on the front for a passenger. They only move a little bit faster than your walking speed, but after a long day on your feet, it is a nice way to kick back and relax.
Seeing the Citadel was the primary reason for our stop in Central Vietnam and we’re glad we did. Hue is less busy than Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, but parts of Hue have the big city feel. If you’re in the central region of Vietnam, I recommend checking out the Citadel but 1 or 2 days in Hue is plenty.