The old Imperial Citadel​

As Hue was the city of the Vietnamese royal Nguyen dynasty, we just had to visit the place where they actually lived. In case you are also wondering, Nguyen seems to be the most common surname in Vietnam nowadays, perhaps due to the royal heritage? There is a big Imperial compound in the middle of the city just North of the perfume river. The compound consists of several museums and touristy restaurants and the old imperial citadel where the emperors used to live. We didn’t visit any of the museums as the imperial citadel was plenty for one day. But as I stated in my previous post, I kind of don’t mind having unfinished business in Hue. Although now that I say it, it does sound like a crappy Chuck Norris Vietnam movie a la “Missing In Action “. The main citadel area used to be a “forbidden city” which is a walled compound where only the old emperors and those closest to him were allowed to enter.

But before we could even enter we were stopped by a class of teenagers. This is a phenomenon quite common in Southeast Asia outside of the most tourist-dense areas. Students or even whole classes will go to places where they know they will find some tourists, and politely ask them if they can converse with you for a little while practising their language skills. On this trip, this was the first time it happened to us, but during previous travels, this has happened to me a number of times. If you are comfortable speaking English (or whatever language they want to speak) just go for it. There really are only good things that will come of it, the local students will improve their foreign language skills, and you will have the chance to learn about the lives of local’s. We had about a half an hour conversation with them, both asking and answering questions. They were quite shy but with a little bit of curiosity shining through. They all came from a small village about 40 kilometres outside of Hue, and they were still off school due to Tet, and they came into town, both to enjoy themselves a bit in the big city, but also to practice their English.

To enter the citadel was 150,000 dong per person which is around 5 and a half euros or slightly more in dollars. It turned out to be pretty good value in my opinion, as the whole complex required at least half a day to properly explore. Inside it was also pretty calm and quiet, especially if you explored some of the more non-central locations. There were places where you could literally explore old imperial houses and small pagodas all by yourself. A lot of the buildings were damaged or simply just rubble, which I understand is mostly due to the pretty intense fighting and bombardment in Hue during the war. While this is a bit sad, there are still a lot of intact buildings that you can explore. Some restorations seemed to be ongoing, but who knows? Apparently, the Vietnamese government has not considered restoring the old imperial remnants in Hue a top priority. I’m not going speculate on the reasons for this here, but at least this seems to have changed in the latest decade or so.

In case you haven’t guessed we quite enjoyed our time in the citadel. It was really nice to calmly wander among the old crumbling buildings and to explore them. Or you could just sit down and take a little break surrounded by history. The whole area is also liberally dotted with bathrooms and small (but expensive) cafés where you can buy small snacks and drinks. I would probably recommend bringing something to eat due to the time required to properly explore the whole area, as you don’t want to subside on crisps or candy during this. But you definitely wouldn’t suffer immensely if you didn’t bring something either. After visiting we had a nice evening walk back to our hotel. All in all, a very nice day!

4 Replies to “The old Imperial Citadel​”

    1. Thanks for the kind comment, we’ve been offline a while now due too some planned jungle trekking and unplanned faulty internet on Perhentian islands. Updates will resume at a normal pace soon.

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